Naval History and Heritage Command

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Chiefs of Naval Operations

The U.S. Navy has made amazing progress throughout its history. From coal power to nuclear power and hybrid electric drive; from weapons like basic guns and artillery to precision laser-guided munitions, lasers, and developmental electromagnetic railguns; from paper maps and charts to real-time satellite navigation—the Navy has come a long way.

 

While credit for the operational success of the Navy lies squarely on the shoulders of our Sailors, it’s important to know that the tools they use, many of them technological marvels, didn’t just happen. Putting those tools in the hands of Sailors, making it possible for them to sail into harm’s way and emerge victorious, takes a complex structure of setting requirements, development, evaluation, acquisition, and distribution on the front end and detailed plans for manning, training, equipping, and maintaining it all on the backend. The dedicated military and civilian personnel of the OPNAV staff have performed the vital functions of resource allocation, risk assessment, and balancing.

 

For more than 100 years, the person leading that effort has been the Chief of Naval Operations. The office has changed quite a bit since May 11, 1915, when Adm. William S. Benson took office as the first CNO, but the importance of the office’s mission remains the same: to ensure our globally deployed Sailors have all the tools and training necessary to successfully achieve their missions and return home safely.

 

In 2015, the Navy commemorated the establishment of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Download the Commemorative Program. Also available is the Centennial Monograph that includes biographies of the CNOs who served during the first 100 years of the office.