The US Navy’s past and present is on display in Detroit this week.
Detroit is just one “Navy Week” stop on a Great Lakes tour commemorating the War of 1812.
The war pitting the newly-independent US against Great Britain was more or less a draw—though it’s seen very differently just across the border in Windsor, Ontario.
But everyone agrees that the war gave birth to the modern US Navy.
Lieutenant Commander Ron Flesvig said this tour is the first time the Navy has brought ships to the Great Lakes in 12 years, and doesn’t have much of a presence in the Midwest.
He said the often-overlooked war shaped the modern Navy--and highlighting its continuing mission is a major purpose of the bicentennial tour.
“We’re always forward-deployed,” Flesvig said. “We’re going to deter aggression, and keep the sea lanes open, to have a prosperous economy.
“We’re continuing to do the same thing 200 years later.”
David Goldman is third mate on the US Brig Niagara, a historic ship that helped the Americans win the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. He called that “one of the most significant naval battles you’ve probably never heard of.”
“It also opened up the lakes to the US. At that time the Great Lakes were kind of the major highway inland,” Goldman said. “So it really gave [the US] control of the lakes, and stopped the British line from moving more west.”
The Niagara and other modern Navy ships will be docked on Detroit’s downtown waterfront through September 10th. Ship tours and other Navy Week events are free and open to the public.