Faced with little public understanding of its modern mission, the U.S. Navy is reaching back 200 years to the War of 1812 in the hopes of bolstering its standing with the American people.
This week it launches an ambitious, three-year commemoration to mark the bicentennial of the often overlooked war. Beginning Tuesday in New Orleans, and continuing through the summer in New York, Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston, tall ships and warships from around the world will parade through American ports.
But unlike previous commemorations, the Navy wants to reap lasting benefits from the War of 1812 and plans to immerse the public in a flood of information and events, including educational outreach, Web sites, social media, online games, books and museum displays.
Polling for the Navy by Gallup has shown that less than 9 percent of Americans understand its mission. Equally worrisome, the public ranks the Navy ahead of only the Coast Guard in its importance to national defense, and well behind the Army, Marines and Air Force....