USS Connecticut at high speed

Haze Gray Photo Feature

The Great White Fleet

"Big Stick" Diplomacy Afloat

From 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909 the US Altantic Fleet steamed around the world on a mission of "Gunboat Diplomacy". The ships, commonly known as the "Great White Fleet" due to their white-painted hulls, called in ports the world over, impressing foreign dignitaries with the appearance of great power. The entire affair was designed to impress, and everything was done to make sure the fleet's appearance was perfect.

The ships, however, were not all they appeared to be. HMS Dreadnought had been in commission for a year, effectively rendering all the US ships obsolete. Two of the ships had such severe mechanical problems that they could not complete the cruise, and two more were obsolete and unfit for battle. It was great show, but the military value of the fleet was questionable.

This was the last great hurrah for the age of white ships, buff masts and high diplomacy on the high seas. As soon as the ships returned from the cruise they were stripped of their fancywork and much of their bridgework, painted gray, and had their pole masts replaced by functional but unsightly cage masts. The buildup towards WWI had begun.

For more information about the cruise of the Great White Fleet, see the Naval Historical Center FAQ on the Great White Fleet. Technical information and service histories of the battleships can be found in the World Battleship Lists.

U.S. Atlantic Fleet
Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, Commanding
Relieved by Rear Admiral Charles S. Sperry, 1908

 [THUMBNAIL] President Roosevelt reviews the Fleet prior to departure. Roosevelt, aboard the Presidential yacht Mayflower, steams past the fleet in Hampton Roads on 16 December 1907, as the warships lie at anchor. Mayflower is just ahead of and beyond the dark-hulled sidewheel steamer in the foreground.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the President reviewing the fleet prior to departure. Ohio is the closest battleship.

 [THUMBNAIL] The fleet steams out of Hampton Roads, 16 December 1907. Connecticut leads the column as the fleet turns to starboard to head out to sea.

 [THUMBNAIL] The last ships of the fleet clear the anchorage. The fleet is steaming line-ahead, with Connecticut, at the far right edge of the photo, leading. The two ships shown in the foreground (Kearsarge and Kentucky) will soon turn to starboard, away from the camera.

 [THUMBNAIL] The fleet at sea off the Virginia coast.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Great White Fleet entering Rio De Janeiro, 12 January 1908.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Fleet enters San Francisco, 6 May 1908. This photo illustrates the huge cloud of smoke that followed a coal-fueled fleet wherever it went.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Fleet at San Francisco, summer 1908. Virginia is closest, bow-on.

 [THUMBNAIL] Another view of the Fleet at San Francisco, summer 1908.

 [THUMBNAIL] The Fleet at Sydney, August 1908. Connecticut, Fleet flagship, is closest. The local populance has turned out in great numbers.

Ships of the Great White Fleet


Torpedo Flotilla


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