Arrival of the “Great White Fleet” in Sydney On this day, 20th August 1908, the “Great White Fleet” (popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet) arrived in Sydney Harbour.
The ‘Great White Fleet’, which consisted of 16 new battleships of the Atlantic Fleet, was sent around the world by US President Theodore Roosevelt. .
On 20 August 1908 well over half a million Sydneysiders turned out to watch the arrival of the United States (US) Navy’s ‘Great White Fleet’. For a city population of around 600,000 this was quite an achievement.
The largest gathering yet seen in Australia, it far exceeded the numbers that had celebrated the foundation of the Commonwealth just seven years before. Indeed, the warm reception accorded the crews of the 16 white-painted battleships during ‘Fleet Week’, was generally regarded as the most overwhelming of any of the ports visited during the 14 month and 45,000 mile global circumnavigation. The NSW Government declared two public holidays, business came to a standstill and the unbroken succession of civic events and all pervading carnival spirit encountered tested the endurance of the American sailors. More than a few decided to take their chances and stay behind when the fleet sailed! Read more
The State Library of New South Wales holds a large collection of photographs and souvenir publications depicting the visit, including the many celebrations and the street decorations in Sydney.