In this paper we study a finite‐depth layer of viscous incompressible fluid in dimension , modeled by the Navier‐Stokes equations. The fluid is assumed to be bounded below by a flat rigid surface and above by a free, moving interface. A uniform gravitational field acts perpendicularly to the flat surface, and we consider the cases with and without surface tension acting on the free interface. In addition to these gravity‐capillary effects, we allow for a second force field in the bulk and an external stress tensor on the free interface, both of which are posited to be in traveling wave form, i.e., time‐independent when viewed in a coordinate system moving at a constant velocity parallel to the rigid lower boundary. We prove that, with surface tension in dimension and without surface tension in dimension , for every nontrivial traveling velocity there exists a nonempty open set of force and stress data that give rise to traveling wave solutions. While the existence of inviscid traveling waves is well‐known, to the best of our knowledge this is the first construction of viscous traveling wave solutions.

Our proof involves a number of novel analytic ingredients, including: the study of an overdetermined Stokes problem and its underdetermined adjoint problem, a delicate asymptotic development of the symbol for a normal‐stress to normal‐Dirichlet map defined via the Stokes operator, a new scale of specialized anisotropic Sobolev spaces, and the study of a pseudodifferential operator that synthesizes the various operators acting on the free surface functions. © 2022 The Authors.