Formation and Organization of the Eastern Sea Frontier

Following World War I, proposals for the careful defensive integration of the forces of the United States Army and Navy led to the concept of coastal frontiers as geographical areas within which specified commands of the two forces would plan and execute joint operations. Although the idea was progressively developed, various details were sufficiently complicated to require many changes before they reached final form. The corps areas of the Army rarely coincide with the Naval Districts of the Navy. Furthermore, the situation was somewhat complicated by the need for combining certain Army and Navy functions with those of the Canadian and British forces, following the joint conversations in the winter and spring of 1941. In the following pages, certain details of the organization of coastal frontiers are considered chronologically, to furnish an understanding of the organization background against which joint operations were subsequently developed.

Perhaps the earliest formulation of the concept of coastal frontiers was made during those discussions which followed the establishment of joint Army-Navy staff planning committees in 1923, and led to the detailed official statement entitled, Joint Action of the Army and the Navy, published April 23, 1927. The subsequent publication of this document in revised form on September 11, 1935, with the short title, "FTP-155", contains specific definitions and directives for coordinating operations of Army and Navy.

In FTP-155, the Joint Board defined a coastal frontier as a geographical division of our coastal area established for organization and command purposes, in order to insure the effective coordination of Army


and Navy forces employed in coastal frontier defense. The specific purpose of coastal frontier defense was therein stated to include the protection of shipping in coastal waters, the protection of military, commercial and industrial installations or facilities, and the prevention of invasion of United States territories from overseas.

In this early statement, coordinated Army-Navy defenses for the United States were formulated in broad outlines within four coastal frontiers: North Atlantic, Southern, Great Lakes and Pacific. Within each coastal frontier, specified Army commands were directed to formulate the integration of war plans with specified Navy commands. For purposes of planning and defense, each coastal frontier was divided into sectors and sub-sectors. For example, the North Atlantic Coastal Frontier originally included the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Naval Districts, with coastal boundaries extending from the International Boundary to the southern extreme of Hatteras Inlet. This area was also divided into three sectors: New England sector, New York sector, Delaware-Chesapeake sector. These sectors were further subdivided into the Portland sub-sector, Boston sub-sector, Newport sub-sector, Long Island sub-sector, New Jersey sub-sector, Delaware sub-sector and the Chesapeake sub-sector.

FTP-155 contained further general directives as to the intended command relations, when orders should establish them formally. Defense plans for the North Atlantic Coastal Frontier were to be prepared by means of collaboration between the Commandant, Third Naval District, and the Commanding General, First Army. These collaborative plans were to set the general pattern for lower sequences of plans which would be drawn up in Naval Districts, Corps Areas, sectors and sub-sectors by designated command


officers. For the Army, it was directed that the district commander of the First Coast Artillery would prepare joint plans for the New England sector with the Commandant, First Naval District --- and analogous joint-plan relationships throughout the other sectors were outlined. Further definitions were included to furnish definite understanding as to the respective functions of the two Services in coordinating operations for national defense.

From 1935 to 1940, only preliminary steps were taken to transform this theoretical structure of coastal frontiers to a formally organized status. In June, 1940, when the appointed members of Army and Navy staffs issued the Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan, RAINBOW Number 1, the document contained directives for the preparation of subordinate joint coastal frontier defense plans. Carrying out the intention, the Chief of Naval Operations drew up general plans for that section of "RAINBOW Number 1" which represented the immediate responsibility of the Navy. To differentiate between the two elements involved in coastal frontier planning, Navy Basic War Plan, RAINBOW Number 1 (WPL-42) used for the first time the designation, "Naval Coastal Frontier." At this time, however, the coastal frontier agencies of the Army and Navy were merely advisory, and still lacked specific orders which gave them a clear-cut executive basis for existence. Plans drawn up by subordinate commands, under the Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan became effective only after such plans had received the approval of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy Department. Although WPL-42 repeated the designation of specific Naval District commandants who were to act as commanders of specified naval coastal frontiers, these commandants functioned as frontier commanders


in a somewhat tentative capacity. For example, Rear Admiral C. H. Woodward continued his function as Commandant, Third Naval District., while he directed certain numbers of his district staff to plan the organization of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier; but up to this time there was no order directing that Admiral Woodward be given the additional command.

In September 1940, the securing of certain defensive base-rights from Great Britain, in exchange for fifty destroyers, raised new problems as to the need for extending coastal frontiers in such a manner that they might include these new bases together with United States territorial waters, defensive sea areas and maritime control areas. Under date of December 11, 1940, the Chief of Naval Operations supplemented existing data in a letter which designated the commanders of naval coastal frontiers not only for the North Atlantic, Southern, Pacific and Great Lakes but also for the Puerto Rican, Panama, Hawaiian and Philippine areas. It was also stated in the final sentence of this letter: "Instructions regarding Naval Coastal Frontiers and the duties of the Commanders, Naval Coastal Frontiers, will be issued shortly in Change No. 1 to WPL-42."

Change No. 1 to WPL-42 was issued in December, 1940, and contained directives that the Commanders of three naval coastal frontiers (North Atlantic, Southern and Pacific) should prepare "Naval Coastal Frontier Operating Plans" based on obligations assigned them in WPL-42. This Change added, "The plans thus prepared will contain, as an Annex, the plans for execution of the tasks relating to routing of shipping."


Change No. 1 not only reiterated the boundaries of the coastal frontiers as laid down in FTP-155 but also included in the Appendix the designation of geographical limits for the territorial frontiers. As a further amplification of boundaries, this Change included a statement that the offshore waters would be considered as under the cognizance of the commandants of the Naval Districts and Naval Stations concerned; that these waters extended seaward so far as was necessary to include the coastwise sea lanes and the focal points of shipping routes. This was an elaboration of that paragraph in FTP-155 which had defined a coastal zone as the whole area of navigable waters adjacent to the seacoast and extending seaward to cover coastwise sea lanes.

Change No. 1 to WPL-42 also permitted the extension of naval coastal frontier boundaries far enough seaward to include all coastal islands. For example, the extended areas of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier were stipulated by directing that the First Naval District coastal waters should include all waters lying north and east of the line drawn from the Rhode Island-Connecticut New York boundary (Fishers Island Sound) through Southwest Ledge off Block Island, thence through, but excluding, Nantucket Shoal Lightship, thence due east. Again for example, the southern boundary of the Fifth Naval District was extended to include Hatteras Inlet, thence through and including Diamond Shoal Lightship; thence bearing 110° true.

Probably the rapid turn of events in Europe, together with United States collaboration with England and Canada, stimulated the need for more specific development of that naval coastal frontier which would be most concerned with the protection and control of merchant shipping from Atlantic ports to the British Isles and the control and protection of


military supplies and troops soon to be transported to bases in Newfoundland, Iceland, Greenland and Ireland. On January 14, 1941, orders were issued to transfer Rear Admiral Andrews from his command as Commander, Scouting Force, United States Fleet to a new command as Commandant, Third Naval District. These orders were modified under date of March 1, 1941, giving Admiral Andrews additional duties as Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier. When he relieved Rear Admiral C. H. Woodward on March 10, 1941 for the first time the Commandant, Third Naval District was also designated as Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier.

The preparation of operation plans, which had been laid down in WPL-42 and in Navy Basic War Plan, RAINBOW No. 3 (PL-44), the latter having been promulgated in December, 1940 was continued and on March 16, 1941 the first Operation Plan: North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier Plan 0-4 (RAINBOW 3), with the short title, NA-NCF-44 was issued. This Plan set up the proposed Staff of the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, which consisted of the following: Chief of Staff, Operations Officer, Shipping Control Officer, Air Officer, First Army Liaison Officer Intelligence Officer and Communication Officer. It also provided for the Command Relations and the plans for coordination with the Army Commander. Nevertheless, at this time, no officers were immediately available to fill these commands.

On April 3, 1941, a second plan was issued to modify NA-NCF-44 in such a way as to make it applicable to the concept of war outlined in "RAINBOW No. 1." This modification was entitled, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier Plan O-4 (RAINBOW No. 1), with the short title, NA-NCF-42.

On April 22, 1941, a third plan was issued: the original Operation Plan for the Forces of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier. This


plan was designated, "Operation Plan, NA-NCF-1-41." Because of the restricted nature of problems concerned with the organization of task forces and task groups within a naval coastal frontier, this aspect is considered in a separate section. It may suffice to state briefly, here, that at this time, task forces were not created. When the Navy Basic War Plan, RAINBOW No. 2 (WPL-46) was issued in May, 1941, important directives were contained therein as to the eventual organization of task forces and command relations in the naval coastal frontiers; nevertheless, these directives merely outline the structure of an organization which would not be created until a later order was issued.

WPL-46 had incorporated the structure of task forces as they had been ordered by General Order No. 143, issued February 3, 1941. On July 1, 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations formally ordered the establishment of naval coastal frontiers, thus transforming them from their theoretical status; but added in the same dispatch, "For the present, Naval Coastal Frontier Forces, as prescribed in General Order No. 143, will not be formed."

Another limited aspect of task force organization may be considered briefly here because it has to do with a more general matter of command relations which must be considered in regard to the organization of the coastal frontiers. General Order No. 143, issued on February 3, 1941, stated that Commandants of Naval Districts and Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have administrative responsibility direct to the Navy Department for local and coastal forces; but Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have task responsibility to the Chief of Naval Operations for


Naval Coastal Frontier Forces. This matter of dual command was further elaborated in Navy Basic War Plan, RAINBOW No. 5 (WPL-46), when it was issued on May 26, 1941. Therein the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier Forces, was assigned a dual status: as a Commander of the Naval Coastal Frontier Forces operating under the orders of the Chief of Naval Operations; as an officer of the U. S. Atlantic Fleet, operating under the orders of the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, in command of task groups of that fleet., when and as directed by the Commander in Chief thereof. Thus, it may be seen that the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, had to prepare operation plans which should constantly differentiate between his administrative responsibility to the Navy Department, his command responsibility to the Chief of Naval Operations,, and his command responsibility to the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet.

These separate obligations were carefully considered in the preparation of North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier Plan 0-4. RAINBOW, No. 5 (NA-NCF-46), promulgated on July 3, 1941. Certain definitions contained in the plan were of particular importance. The boundaries of the coastal frontier remained unchanged, although they were soon to undergo specific modifications. Coastal Force Areas, Air Patrol Areas, Focal Areas, were carefully and thoroughly defined. NA-NCF-46 was submitted to the Chief of Naval Operations, who accepted the plan; then gave it painstaking analysis because it was the first of its kind, and therefore provided a model for the formulation of similar plans. In transmitting the results of his analysis to the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, on September 22, 1941, the Chief of Naval Operations wrote,


"This review, the first made of a Plan 0-4, has been of high interest and value to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. The plan, in general, indicates excellent appreciation and effective development of the intentions of the Chief of Naval Operations with respect to the 1-Jew Naval Coastal Frontier Commands. The following comments,, while in considerable detail, are furnished solely with a view to assisting toward possible improvements in the course of future changes to this plan . . ."

One problem elaborated in the analysis made by the Chief of Naval Operations was the relationship between Commanders of Coastal Frontiers and Commandants of Naval Districts. Until this time, there had been no clear statement as to this command relationship. The spirit of early directives concerning the establishment of coastal frontier defense had indicated that the primary function of commands within a coastal frontier would be the operation of Army and Navy forces to provide security for coastal areas; that the naval districts, originally established to decentralize various Navy Department functions, would continue to carry out such assigned capacities independent of naval coastal frontier commands. Commandants of Naval Districts would be responsible to Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontier, however., to provide logistic support, to provide units of naval local defense forces, to fulfill assigned district functions as group commanders within naval coastal frontier forces. In his analysis of NA-NCF O-4, the Chief of Naval Operations clarified this particular problem:

"Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, should not ... assume full and exclusive jurisdiction over the Services in the Districts.


They receive their tasks through the District Commandants direct from the Chief of Naval Operations, each Commandant in these capacities appearing in the task organizations of the respective Services Operating Plans directly under the Chief of Naval Operations. While WPL-46, paragraph 3133, assigns a limited, coordinating jurisdiction over the District Commandants with respect to the Services, it is not intended to impose upon him responsibility for the execution of Service tasks in the districts which embrace many duties well outside the assigned tasks of an Operating Force Commander such as Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier. His command comprises Naval Coastal Force and Naval Local Defense Forces only. Such coordination as he exercises under the above reference should be restricted to that necessary to assigned North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier tasks and with due regard for the broader Service tasks assigned direct to Districts. .."

Another problem raised by Plan O-4 had been caused by the establishment of Naval Operating Bases in Newfoundland and Bermuda. In the original plans, the Newfoundland base had been conceived as a land base under the Commandant, First Naval District, the Bermuda base under the Commandant, Fifth Naval District. Therefore it might seem that these two bases should be considered as sectors within the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier. This anomaly was clarified in the late fall of 1941, when these Naval Operating Bases were assigned as task groups of the United States Atlantic Fleet, for both task and administration purposes, except for the administration of those matters concerning naval reservations and local naval activities, which continued to be administered through the Commandants of the First and Fifth Naval Districts, respectively. Thus,


after considerable discussion between the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier, and various Army and Navy commands, it was determined that neither of these bases was the direct responsibility of the Commander, North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier.

During these months of organization, certain boundary problems were discussed and settled. For administrative and defense purposes, the boundary of the Fifth Naval District (and thus of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier) was extended to intersect the coastline at the Southern extreme of Onslow County, below Cape Lookout, thus transferring several counties from the Sixth Naval District. This change, made effective on September 1, 1941, resulted in subsequent modifications to FTP-155 and WPL-46.

As even more important extension of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier was made on February 4, 1942, when the Sixth Naval District was formally transferred from the Southern Naval Coastal Frontier to the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier. A few days prior to this, the counties of Duval and Nassau, in the State of Florida, had been transferred from the Seventh Naval District to the Sixth. Thus the southern boundary of the North Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier was extended from Maine to Florida, while the seaward boundary was established from the southern coastal extreme of Duval County southeasterly to a point, 25° North, 72° West. From this point, the offshore water boundaries, as subsequently defined, continued northerly to 40° North, 69° West; thence to 43° North, 69° West; thence to Lurcher Shoal Lightship; thence to land along the International Boundary Line between the United States and Canada.

On February 6, 1942, the Secretary of the Navy formally changed the names of the coastal frontiers to sea frontiers; thereafter, the North


Atlantic Naval Coastal Frontier was designated the Eastern Sea Frontier. Such a change in name did not modify the former structure, purpose or command already established. With this final modification of title, the basic period of formation and development came to an end. During the months which followed, the Eastern Sea Frontier expanded along the lines already laid down. By agreement with the Army, however, one important addition was made to the command power of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier. On March 26, 1942, a joint dispatch from the Chief of Staff, United States Army, and the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, directed that unity of command, exercised for purposes of coastal frontier and sea frontier defenses, was thereafter vested in Sea Frontier Commanders; over all Navy forces duly allocated thereto and over all Army Air units allocated by Defense Commanders for operations over the sea, for the protection of shipping and for protection against enemy seaborne activities. When this dispatch increased the responsibility and obligations of the Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier, he had just completed his duties as Commandant, Third Naval District. On that day, March 26, 1942, Rear Admiral Marquart assumed duty as Commandant, Third Naval District, and Admiral Andrews' sole duty became that of Commander, Eastern Sea Frontier. He continued in this duty until his retirement from active duty on November 1, 1943, when he was relieved by Vice Admiral H. F. Leary, U.S.N.


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Transcribed and formatted by Rick Pitz for the HyperWar Foundation