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Navy History

The history of the Venezuelan Navy began in 1811 with the formation of training of future generations of guardamarinas, today's lieutenants, under the establishment of the first naval school in Venezuela. Situated at Puerto Guaira, the Nautical School, as it was known, was placed under the direction of Lieutenant Vicente Parrado.

The emergence of the independence movement was the chief cause, among others, for the creation of a Republican Squadron for the defense of seperatist ideals. Nevertheless, between 1811 and 1813, the Venezuelan Squadron consisted mainly of simple cannoneers and shallow draft vessels which were adapted to naval use.

In 1813, General Juan Bautista Arismendi, governor of Margarita, reorganized the naval forces and accquired three smaller schooners and other ships to form a squadron of 14 patrol ships.

In the second semester of 1813, a squadron formed of the brigate "Arrogante Guayanes," and the schooners "Colombiana," "Perla Carlota," and "Marino," the canteen "Independencia," and the Jabeque "General Piar," entered into battle on November 13th at Puerto Frances and Chuspa against the Royalist brigates "Alerta" and "Celoso." The Republican fleet emerged victorious. The defeated Royalists retreated to Puerto Cabello and the Republicans returned to Guaira, where the naval schooners "Atrevida" and "La Juana," and the boats "Venturosa" and "Ligera" were added to the squadron.

A year later, on the 25th of August, a squadron was formed with the schooners, the "Jove," the "Intrepido Bolivar," the "La Colombiana," the "El Centauro," the "Carlota," the "Culebra" and the "Arrogante Maturines," and sailed to Pampatar (Isla de Maragrita) where the Republican personel were defeated by Morales.

In March of 1816, Boliviar organized a new squadron at Los Cayos de San Luís (Haiti) which was composed of by the following ships: the schooner, "Bolivar" (the flag ship with six canons under the command of Renato Beluche); the schooner "Marino" (Formerly "Diana," with a pivot mounted gun under the command of Thomas Dubouille); the schooner "Piar" (Formerly the "Decatur" with 18 canon and two small mounted canon was under the command of John Parnell); the schooner "Brion" (formerly the "Bent" with four canon and ten carronades under the command of Jean Monier); the schooner "Feliz" (formerly the "Jupiter," commanded by Charles Lomine); and fainlly, the schooner "Conejo" (with 18 canon under the command of Bernado Ferrero). With this squadron, the Liberator began his first expedition from Los Cayos de San Luis and went to Isla de Margarita. There, in the area near los Islotes Los Frailes, Bolivar attacked and captured the brigate "El Intrepido" and the schooner "Rita," royalist ships which patroled the area. Filled with victory, the Republican Squadron sailed into Puerto Juan Griego (Isla de Margarita).

In 1822, the Vice-president of Gran Colmbia, General Francisco de Paula Santander, created by decree the First Naval Infantry battalion from forces from battalions of the Army. A year later in the months that preceded the greatest naval action in the history of Venezuela, the newly created Marines demonstrated the necessity of their existence when their forces landed and captured the fort la Bara de Maracaibo (Edo. Zulia) on June 16th, 1823. On the 24th of the following month, the significant naval battle of Lake Maracaibo would occur, where both forces of the Navy: the fleet and the Marines demonstrated their skill and value. It was this battle which consolidated the independence won two years earlier on the Fields of Carabobo.

The Republican Squadron was formed by three brigates, seven schooners equipped with guns, three flecheras (shallow drafted vessels), three boats, three canoes, several more boats and faluchos of the lake. In total, there were 1,073 Marines and 124 crewmen under the command of Admiral Jose Prudencio Padilla.
The Royalist Squadron, under the command of Captain Angel Laborde, who in that year was the second in command of the North American fleet, was composed of three brigates, ten schooners, two pailebot, two flecheras, three faluchos, three guairos and eight piraguas. Laborde divided his squadron into three groups: one in Zapara, one in El Mojan and the last one at Maracaibo. The total number of men of the squadron numbered 1,645 between crewmen and Marines.

The bloody battle was the final action that assured Venezuelan independence. The Republican Squadron, though smaller than the Spanish, emerged triumphant with men who shouted,"TO DIE OR TO BE FREE." They bequeathed onto Venezuelans the most sacred right of men: Freedom.

The political instability that followed independence, along with the military costs of achieving it, created a ruinous situation for the National Treasury. Due to the insufficient funds in the State Treasury, the Congress had to take measures such as in 1832 to reduce the size of the Naval forces and to beach those ships unable to be maintained. Maintenance caused numerous expenses which the National Treasury could not pay for, the deterioration of the fleet was imminent.

In 1845, the government authorized the change from ships of the sail to steam ships and the construction of two steam ships for maritime defense. In the same year, the following brigates were acquired, "Presidente," "Avila," and "Congreso," the schooners "Fama," "Democracia," "Trimer," "Eclipse," "Intrepida," "Estrella," "Forzosa," "Bolivariana," the brigate "Manzanares," and the small steam warship, "Libertador."

In 1863, the Venezuelan Navy began to preoccupy itself with the acquisition of steam ships and cannoneers. Under Navy Minister Manuel Ezequiel Bruzual, the ships added were: "Bolivar," "Maparari," "Mariscal Sucre," and "Monagas."

With the arrival of Guzman Blanco to power, the Navy began a new increase in its ships. In 1880, the navy added the following steamships: "Republica," "Reivindicador," and "Remolcador;" the schooners "Ricaurte," "Sucre," and "3 De Agosto." Towards the end of the 19th Century, the steampships "Libertador," "Guzman Blanco," and Lola," were added. As well as the schooners: "Bolivariana," "Carabobo," "Washington," and "Ana Jacinta." It should be emphacized that within the period of 1845 - 1890, the changes in the political conditions of the country led to the ships of the Navy to be distributed indifferently between the government and its opponents with the numbers rising and falling as the threat of the opponents ceased.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, the Navy integrated the following ships: the cruiser "Restaurador," the torpedo boat "Bolivar," the transport "Zamora," the steamship "Veintitrés de Mayo," "Totumo," "Mariscal Sucre," the gun boats "Miranda" and "General Crespo," and the schooner "Carabobo," among others.

In 1909, production was begun in Venezuelan docks and shipyards with the positiong of the keel of a steam powered coastguard vessel that received the name of "29 de Enero," first of a series of three ships, (Cristobal Columbis and Ciudad Caracas.)

In 1912, the National Government purchased for the Navy its first true military vessel (previous ships had been armed for combat). The new ship took the name, "Mariscal Sucre" (antiguo Isla de Cuba).

Between 1920 and 1935, ships were purchases for the Navy that had been in good service for years in other navies. This ships were: the cruiser, "General Salom," the gunboats, "Maracay," "Miranda," and "Aragua," the tugboats "Brion," "Jose Felix Ribas," and the brigate "Antonio Diaz."

In 1937, officials from the Naval school were sent to take courses abroad. In 1938, by Resolution No. 28 of the 1st of July, the infantry was rebuilt in the Navy under the name of "Company of Coastal Defense." On the 8th of December, 1939, the School of Classes and Sailors at de La Grita (Edo. Tachira) 34 graduates were promoted to become instructors for a branch of the Marines. In the same year, the National Government acquired from Italy two warships for the Navy. They were the gunboats "General Soublette" and "General Urdaneta." Four years later, on the 9th of September, 1943, the First Marine company was created within the National Navy. In 1944, four submarine hunters were acquired from the United States under the Lease-Lend program. These ships were named: "Antonio Diaz," "Brion," "Brienco Mendez," and "Arismendi," and arrived at Guaira in January, 1945.

Between 1945 and 1950, the Venezuelan Navy was enlarged with the acquistion of seven ships built in Canada and used during the Second World War. They were the corvettes: "Carabobo," "Constituticion," "Federacion," "Independencia," "Libertad," "Patria," and "Victoria." In the same time period, the transport LST "Capana" was acquired from the United States, and served as a freighter for the Navy and Ship school. On par with these acquisitions, was the creation of Marine Battalion No.1 (11-12-1945) and No. 2 (04-02-1946). Battalion No. 1 was originally headquartered at Puerto Cabello (Edo. Carabobo) in el Faro de Punta Brava until Battalion No. 2 was moved to that location, and Battalion No. 1 was transfered to Maiquetia (Vargas Municipality D.F.). The Marines were then dispersed throughout the national territory, beginning in 1946 with a Marine company being stationed in Vela de Coro (Edo. Falcon), and in 1947, a company being stationed in Ciudad Cumana (Edo. Sucre), where two detatchments left to go to the city of Guiria and the other to Margarita (Edo. Nueva Esparta).

In this same period, the navy was generally directed by an official of the Army, but began to move towards autonomy under naval officials in the command structure of the Naval Forces.

The decade of the 1950's opened the door to the new manufacturing of ships. A much celebrated contract of June 29th, 1950, between the National Government and the shipyard directors of the Vickers-Armstrogs Company Limited of Barrow-in-Furness, located in Great Britain, began the construction of modern battleships. The were three heavy destroyers: "Nueva Esparta" (D-11), "Zulia" (D-21), and "Aragua" (D-31), which arrived in Venezuela between 1953 and 1954. In the latter year, the government celebrated a contract on the 25th of January, with Cantieri Navale Ansaldo (Luigi Orlando of Livorino), of Italy for the construction of six light destroyers: "Alimirante Clemente" (D-12), "General Moran" (D-22), "General Austria" (D-32), "General Flores" (D-13), "Brion" (D-23), and "Alimirante Garcia" (D-33). Together with the previous ships, these formed three destroyer divisions.

Also in 1954, the government established a contract for the construction of transport ships with Societe Anonime Desanchiens Chantiers Dubigeon of Nantes, Chantenay (France) on the 13th of January of that year. As a result, two ships were built, "Los Aves," and the "2 de Deciembre" which became known as the Presidential Ship.

In 1958, by Decree 288, of the 27th of June, the governing body decided that different forces should not have their own administrative independence. However, the command of the Naval forces was directed to a seperate military command of the Navy in an organic structure of personnel, material, engineering, and administration, as well as Inspector of the Navy. Later, the Command of the Fleet and of the Marines occured with the modernization of new ships and armaments, through adaptation of technology to existing ships or the purchase of new vessels.
In the decade following 1960, Venezuela acquired its first submarine "Carite" (S-11) from the United States. From this submarine came the pioneers of the fleet and the Ship School of later generations of submariners. Also in this period the transport LMS ships "Los Monjes," "El Roques," "Los Frailes," and "Los Testigos;" the hydrographic ships "Puerto Santo," "Puerto Nutrias," and "Puerto Miranda;" and the tugboats "Felipe Larrazabal" and "Fernando Gomez", in addition to ten patrol craft, were all purchased from the United States.

The Navy by this time had taken a definitive roll within the political-economic development of the country. For that reason, the navy expanded its operational range, created new posts stations, and modernized its naval bases.

The decade following 1970, was characterized by "Marine Reaffirmation" by the Venezuelan Navy with the creation of the Sea and Air squadron, and the acquistion of new ships (submarine, frigates, sailboats, etc.) to reinforce the already strong national fleet.

The Sea and air fleet, created on November 28th, 1974, opened new horizons of work in equipment and specific tasks within the Navy. The fleet was complimented in the decade by 70 transport planes (Cessna, DC-3, Avro, etc) and military anti-submarine plane (Tracker S2-3). The fleet was later formed into three squadrons; Anti-submarine, helicopters, and transports. On the other hand, four submarines were given their respective squadron and were named "Tiburon" (S-12) and "Picua" (S-13) both from the United States, and the "Sabalo" (S-31) and the "Caribe" (S-32) were newly constructed. The last two were built by the National Executive office in shipyards in Kiel, Germany. Among other ships purchased in the 1970's were: river tugboats, destroyers, patrol crafts, and coastal transports and boats.

The decade following 1980 began with the arrival to Venezuela of the missle frigate class, "Mariscal Sucre," ships with more sophisticated technology than previous ones, received the illustrious names of the Proceres of Independence: "Mariscal Sucre" (F-21), "Alimirante Brion" (F-22), "General Urdaneta" (F-23), "General Soublette" (F-24), "General Salom" (F-25), and "Alimirante Garcia" (F-26).

Also procured at this time was a ship for the Navy School, "Simon Bolivar" (BE-11) on which the future officers of the Navy were trained in the practice of seacraft and taught the habits and knowledged required of the sea.

In 1982, construction began on two utility ships by the American company Swiftships, of a type L.C.U. These were then assigned to the Navy with the names "Margarita" (T-71) and "La Orchila" (T-72), and arrived in 1984 and were incorporated into the River Command.

In South Korea, four transport LSTs were built for the Venezuelan Navy of the Class "Capana" at the Sangyong Shipyards Corporation and the names assigned to them were: "Capana" (T-61), "Esequibo" (T-62), "Goajira" (T-63) and "Los LLanos" (T-64).

A new organization reconstruction of the Navy raises the reclassification of some of the departments as as a categorical level and the creation of others for a better fulfillment of the Navy's alloted mission.

The naval base at Turismo became a Naval Post station since its mission and objectives were more in line with the category of Post station. The River Command "Gral. de BGDA. Franz Risquez Irribaren" River Post station were established in Ciudad Bolivar, and are all departments of the Navy in the river basin of the Orinoco. The new command department became necessary due to the River Command Post station position.

Presently, the Venezuelan Navy has five operational commands. They are: Squadron Command, Marine Command, Naval Aviation Command, Coastguard Command, and River Command.

Each command is equipped with modern ships and men prepared with the purpose of accomplishing their missions at any required time.

The Navy also counts on the oceanographic ship "Punta Brava" (BO-11), which is equipped with the most high tech scientific equipment for the study of Venezuela's territorial sea, which constitutes a large part of the fulfillment of the Navy's mission.




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