Chapter IV
Fleet Organization

In the overall survey in Chapter I, the organization and distribution of the naval forces of the United States at the outbreak and at the end of World War II was given in broad outline. In this chapter a more detailed account of this sector of Navy Department administration will be undertaken, as the distribution of the forces required continuous attention throughout the war, due to almost daily changes in the war situation.


Prior to the Civil War, the Navy rarely had a sufficient number of vessels operating together in a single organized group to warrant dignifying the aggregation by the name of "Fleet," even though that term appears occasionally in the records of that period.

The squadron, when there was an assemblage of U.S. naval vessels, was the largest group, and was composed of a heterogeneous mixture of vessels, never large in numbers. The squadron was almost invariably commanded by the senior officer of the ships assigned to the squadron. The senior officer went under the courtesy title of Commodore.1 Due to the very slow communications of that day, Squadron Commodores were given only broad directives for carrying out their missions. Abroad, the missions in peacetimes were primarily flag-showing for the protection of American citizens, property, and commerce. Little effort was made to train squadrons as a whole; individual ship training being considered adequate.

There were, however, exceptions to the general practice. The small squadron under Commodore Edward Preble, which is 1804 resisted the depredations of Tripoli on American commerce, was well organized, and


was handled as a unit. Comparable groups in the War of 1812 were those on Lakes Champlain, Ontario, and Erie. The squadron in the Gulf of Mexico in the Mexican War consisted of a considerable number of ships including a sprinkling of steamers. The absence of any hostile naval force and the fact that the Navy's principal task was one of supporting military operations ashore rendered unnecessary a Fleet organization in the modern sense.

The introduction of steam, armor,and increased fire power on a large scale came in the Civil War and brought about changes in ideas on fleet organization. Increased speed and maneuverability of warships coupled with their independence of the wind presented a new picture to naval commanders. Ships would be able to maintain station in formation with far greater precision, and they would be able to duplicate each other's maneuvers more rapidly and more closely. The need for skill in team operation rather than as individual vessels only, became important.

The Civil War also saw a large increase in the number of vessels comprising squadrons. As to numbers, they might have been called "Fleets." The Mississippi Squadron under Acting Rear Admiral David D. Porter grew to more than 100 craft of river type, but only seldom was a large part of them employed closely together in a single group.2 There were comparable numbers in other squadrons on the James River, and elsewhere from time to time.

Admiral Farragut had nineteen seagoing combat ships and twenty-two gunboats in his attack up the Mississippi River to capture New Orleans. At Mobile Bay his squadron numbered only eighteen combat vessels. The largest group as to numbers that was handled as a unit in the Civil War was the one with which Porter bombarded Fort Fisher. About 50 ships were used in this operation. It should be noted, however, that here Porter fought only against stationary land targets. No opposing hostile fleet was present to require maneuvering on his part. The same was true in principle of virtually all other large combat concentrations by Federal naval forces. The main strength of the Confederate opposition lay in land artillery except at Mobile Bay where a Confederate naval force contested the entrance to Mobile Bay.3

A further step toward emphasizing the employment of groups of ships in naval warfare came in the eighteen eighties with the creation of the Squadron of Evolution. The squadron carried out schedules of exercises and fleet maneuvers, including gunnery practices, landing drills, and torpedo attacks. Ships were assigned to the Squadron of Evolution for training


and then sent to the other squadrons, where the practices learned during maneuvers were continued. Gradually, the squadrons developed unity and coordination of action.

The Spanish-American War put these principles to the test, albeit against a greatly outclassed foe. The squadron actions at Manila Bay and off Santiago, Cuba, fought between all-steam vessels, gave the Navy its first experience in modern naval warfare. These complete naval victories and the naval expansion programs and underway raised the United States to the status of a major naval power, and geared Navy thinking to the fleet concept in organization.

Vessels of the Atlantic Station, looked upon as the most important, became the Atlantic Fleet on New Year's Day in 1906.4 A year later, all the naval forces in Pacific and Asiatic waters were combined and designated the Pacific Fleet.5 Under this new organization, squadrons continued to exist as large components of the fleets, made up of different types of vessels and assigned to a specific station or duty. Another step in the growth of the fleet concept was the designation, by General Order No. 55 of 28 January 1910 of the Third Squadron of the Pacific Fleet as the Asiatic Fleet.

Modern Fleet Concepts

The year 1913 marks the beginning of the direct line of descent that culminated in the fleet organization with which the Navy entered World War II. That year the Navy Regulations stated:

The word "Fleet" shall demote the aggregation of forces of various classes of vessels in one organization under one commander.

A Force is the major subdivision of a fleet. It is composed of all the vessels of the fleet that are of the same type or class or that are assigned to the same duty.7

This article goes on to name the various forces and then lists the general composition of a fleet (numerical strength of a fleet was unspecified, though smaller units--division, etc.,--were given). Submarines joined the fleets for the first time, along with the destroyers, which were replacing the torpedo vessels.

Each of the two provisions of the definition given to the word "force" was used in the overall fleet organization. Use of the first meaning was more common; there were listed the Battleship Force, the Cruiser Force,


the Destroyer Force, etc. The second meaning was implied in the inclusion of battle cruisers (proposed but never built), armored cruisers, and scouts into a single organization called the Scouting Force.8 Despite this dual usage, no actual confusion existed, the only conflict occurring on paper.

Organization by Types. General Order No. 218 of 5 June 1916 reworked the definition of a fleet but left it substantially unchanged.The new directive read thus:

A Fleet is an organized body of ship under the command of a Commander-in-Chief.

A Force is the major subdivision of a Fleet.

A Squadron is the major subdivision of a Force.

This would seem to have eliminated one meaning of the term "force," as all vessels of the fleet of the same type or class,but such was not the case. The application of the word to all ships of a given type within a fleet prevailed throughout World War I and the subsequent years immediately thereafter.

On 5 January 1921, new fleet organization instructions were issued by General Order No. 30. They were more specific than previously, and resolved the apparent inconsistency in the use of the word "force." The new definition was worded as follows:

A force is a command composed of a number of vessels or larger units, organized for a specific task. In the peace organization of the fleets, vessels of the same type with the additional flagships and tenders assigned thereto, in each fleet, constitute a fore; the specific task of such force being the training of similar type units for war. During war operations, forces will be organized to perform tasks assigned by their immediate superior.

The distinction between the administrative or "Type Commands" and the tactical commands should be noted. Type Commanders prescribed or recommended standard shipboard organization, training requirements, inspection standards, personnel complements, matériel allowances, and many other administrative matters for their particular ship types. A ship remained in a given type command regardless of the force to which it was attached or the operations in which it was engaged. This system proved effective and remained in use during World War II.

Origin of United States Fleet. This order also named the three fleets (Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic) and the various forces; it provided for forces "rendered advisable by future developments" and delineated the chains of both administrative and tactical command. Along with the concurrently issued General Order No. 22 of 5 January 1921, giving command


of any and all combinations of the three fleets to the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet, a comprehensive organization of the United States naval forces was now in existence.

Less than two years later, further changes were made by General Order No. 94 of 6 December 1922. The Atlantic and Pacific Fleets as such were abolished and the United States Fleet came into being. Defined as "the principal naval force of the United States," the new fleet was composed of four elements: (a) the Battle Fleet, (b) the Scouting Fleet, (c) the Control Force, and (d) the Fleet Base Force.

The organization of each of these elements foreshadowed that of the World War II task force. The Battle Fleet, for example, was composed of units of various types (battleships, cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and aircraft squadrons) necessary to carry out its task of engaging, defeating, and destroying the main body of an enemy fleet. Similarly, the Scouting Fleet (comprising the same types as the Battle Fleet) was organized to conduct reconnaissance in force. The Control Force was assigned the mission of protecting lines of communication and holding the fleet's advance bases; to accomplish this it was given light cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and minecraft. A combination of mine squadrons, destroyers squadrons, aircraft, and the fleet train (auxiliaries such as supply and repair ships, oilers, tugs, etc.) was designated the Base Force and given the task of providing logistic support for the other groups. At the time this grouping was considered as an appropriate foundation for fighting any major naval war that could be anticipated.9

Under the general heading of "Forces Not Assigned to the United States Fleet" came six categories: (a) Asiatic Fleet; (b) Naval Forces, Europe; (c) Special Service Squadrons; (d) Submarine Divisions, Atlantic; (e) Submarine Divisions, Pacific; and (f) Naval District Forces.

Another reorganization was put into effect by General Order 211 of 10 December 1930. The United States and Asiatic fleets were retained as was the Special Service Squadron, but the few auxiliary-types which had been engaged in transport of material or personnel were organized as the Naval Transportation Service and placed under the Chief of Naval Operations. The remaining vessels and small craft were divided into the categories "special duty ships" and "naval district craft." Within the United States Fleet, new titles were assigned and some units were shuffled around, with the result that the fleet was now composed of a Battle Force, a Scouting Force, a Submarine Force, and a Base Force. A chain of command was established whereby Commander, Battle Force, United States Fleet, was second in command of the fleet; and Commander, Scouting


Force, United States Fleet, was third in command.10 In 1937b this organization was amended by modifying the composition of the Scouting nand Base Forces and adding a training detachment to the United States Fleet.11

During the 1930's, the Fleet, with the exception of a small training detachment, was based on the west coast. This mover was in part an underlining of the United States policy of not recognizing any situation, treaty, or agreement obtained by force, which Secretary of State Stimson had announced in January 1932 after Japan had started her policy of aggression in China.12 Another reason was, however, to simplify the concentration of large naval forces for training purposes. The Secretary of the Navy phrased it thus:

It is considered especially important at this time, due to the many changes in the composition of the fleet and the necessity for gaining early experience in the tactical uses of the newer types of ships, that the major units of the United States Fleet be based in the same general operating areas. The annual fleet concentrations, fleet problems, and periodic tactical exercises should be continued, as they are of the utmost value in training the personnel of the fleet.13

This same statement, with only minor changes in verbiage, appears in succeeding reports through the year 1939. In the 1940 report, however, a significant phrase is prefixed: "Subject to considerations of national policy . . ."

Amphibious Forces. Amphibious operations were visualized in the War Plans as inescapable in the next war, although the British failure at Gallipoli in 1915 during World War I left considerable doubt in the minds of many as to the practicability of making successful landings on stubbornly defended hostile beaches.Studies were made by the Navy Department, in conjunction with the Marine Corps, of the many problems that would have to be solved to insure the success of such operations, particularly with respect to the ship-to-shore phases of the actual landings. The Marine Corps adopted amphibious warfare as one of its specialties.

A Fleet Marine Force was established on 7 December 1933 by General Order No. 241 and integrated with the Fleet as a complete combat force. In the words of the Major General Commandant, the Fleet Marine Force was "the Force of Marines maintained by the Major General Commandant in a state of readiness for operations with the Fleet. . . ."

Amphibious techniques, training facilities, weapons, and landing craft were developed during the late 30's, and landing exercises were conducted


jointly with the Army during that period. On 20 February 19423, the Amphibious Forces in the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets were reorganized to consist of three groups in each: (a) Transports and AMphibious Forces; (b) an Amphibious Corps; and (c) Supporting Units. The Amphibious Forces remained as part of the Fleets, their Commanders reporting to the Fleet Commanders. During World War II the assault landings of the Amphibious Forces of the United States Fleet opened up Northwest Africa, Europe, and the islands of the Pacific without suffering a single repulse.

Short-of-War Fleet Organization and Distribution

While in the 1930's prospects for the continuance of peace in the Far East slowly worsened, a far more rapid political deterioration was taking place in the Atlantic-European area. The civil war in Spain necessitated sending a small force called Squadron 40-T to the Mediterranean to evacuate American nationals and remained in Europe during the following short of war years.14 The increasing tension in Europe resulted in establishing the Atlantic Squadron, United States Fleet, in January 1939. This force absorbed the former training detachment. It was used to train Naval Reserves and midshipmen, and also participated in the fleet problem and landing exercises held that year.15 By the outbreak of the great war in Europe, on 1 September 1939, the Atlantic Squadron had grown to four old battleships, four heavy cruisers, a destroyer squadron, a carrier (with an additional air group from a carrier not yet in commission), and all the train, patrol squadrons, and patrol craft in the Atlantic. Two days after Great Britain and France entered the war--the day after a U-boat sank the passenger ship Athenia--President Roosevelt directed the Navy Department to organize a Neutrality Patrol.16 TO meet the demands of this duty without excessive interference with the normal employment of the Atlantic Squadron, 77 destroyers and light minelayers of the "red-lead fleet" were put back into commission.17

Spring of 1940 saw the United States Fleet move to Hawaii for the annual battle problem. It remained based there upon completion of the maneuvers, in the hope that its presence would prove a deterrent to further Japanese aggression in the Pacific.18 For the remainder of that year it continued its training under an unaltered organization. But elsewhere the picture continued to change. First, the Special Service Squadron was disbanded; a month later, Squadron 40-T came home from the Mediterranean


"due to the conditions prevailing in certain parts of Europe . . ."; and on 1 November1940 the Atlantic Squadron was renamed, "Patrol Force, United States Fleet," a designation more in keeping with its employment. Around this time, also, Coast Guard vessels began reporting to the Navy for duty.19

The most sweeping changes since 1922 were brought about by General Order No. 143 of 3 February 1941. The order prescribes and describes the overall organization of the Naval Forces of the United States put into effect during the ensuing months. It introduced new terms and defined them along with older ones. As it presents the organization of the Naval Forces with clarity and brevity, the order is quoted below in its entirety.

General Order No. 143 3 February 1941


1. General Orders Nos. 68 and 102 are hereby canceled.

2. Effective February 1, 1941, the Naval Forces of the United States are by this order organized into:

The assignment and administrative organization of units pertaining to the foregoing will be as prescribed by the Chief of Naval Operations either in special orders or in the "Assignment of Units to Naval Districts and Naval Stations."

3. The United States Atlantic Fleet, the United States Pacific Fleet, and the United States Asiatic Fleet are administrative and task organizations, and normally operate under the instructions or orders of the Navy Department. Each is under the command of a flag officer having the title "Commander-in-Chief, United States Atlantic (or Pacific, or Asiatic) Fleet." The geographical limits of command of the Commander-in-Chief, United States Asiatic Fleet, shall include the Western Pacific and the Indian Oceans and tributary waters. The eastern limit shall be the 180th meridian south of latitude 50° north and the 100th meridian east of Greenwich, north of latitude 50° north. The western limit shall be Asia, Africa, and, south of Africa, the 20th meridian east of Greenwich.

4. The United States Atlantic Fleet, the United States Pacific Fleet, and the United States Asiatic Fleet together comprise the United States Fleet, whose commander-in-chief is appointed from among the commanders-in-chief of the component fleets. The United States Fleet is an administrative organization for training purposes only, and


Admiral Thomas C. Hart
Admiral Thomas C. Hart
Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet, April 1939-July 1942;
General Board, 1942-1945.

is a task organization only when two or more fleets are concentrated, or are operating in conjunction with each other.

5. Under the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet will, through Type Commanders, prescribe standards and methods of training for all of the seagoing forces and aircraft of the Navy. Type Commanders will be designated in the "Assignment of Units in the Organization of the Seagoing Forces of the U.S. Navy," and customarily, so far as possible, the type commanders will be in the same fleet as the Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.

6. The Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, is senior to the other Commanders-in-Chief. When two or more fleets are concentrated,or are operating in conjunction with each other,the senior Commander-in-Chief is responsible to the Chief of Naval Operations for joint operations.


7. The Naval Coastal Frontier Forces, when formed, are administrative and task organizations, and operate under the Naval Coastal Frontier Commanders. Where Naval Coastal Frontiers have more than one Naval District in them, Naval Coastal Frontier Forces are subdivided into "Naval Coastal Forces" and "Naval Local Defense Forces," operating under the Naval Coastal Frontier Commanders and the Naval District Commandants of Naval Districts and Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have administrative responsibility direct to the Navy Department for Naval Local Defense Forces and Naval Coastal Forces, respectively. Commanders of Naval Coastal Frontiers have task responsibility to the Chief of Naval Operations for Naval Coastal Frontier Forces.

8. Special Task Forces may be formed from time to time under the Chief of Naval Operations for the accomplishment of particular tasks.

9. Special Duty Ships are those assigned to outlying naval stations, to survey duty, and to such other special details as may be designated. They operated under orders of the commandants of the stations to which they are assigned or under the Chief of Naval Operations, depending on the type of duty they are performing.

10. The Naval Transportation Service is composed of such units as may be assigned to it by the Chief of Naval Operations. This service operates directly under the Chief of Naval Operations.

11. Naval District Craft are under the command of the commandant of the naval district or station to which assigned. They consist of such naval craft and floating equipment of the district as are not in the "Naval Local Defense Force."

When Japan struck at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the organization and distribution of United States Naval Forces was practically as described in General Order No. 143. The General Order did not,however, settle such matters once and for all. Although the general pattern remained the same, changes in internal organization and especially in the distribution of the forces had to be made constantly to meet the ever changing war situation. The new ships of many different types, that were added to the fleet during the war, also made changes in organization necessary from time to time.

Sea Frontier Forces

A situation that demanded immediate attention after Pearl Harbor was the influx of U-Boats into Atlantic coastal waters and the Caribbean as soon as war was declared. The damage inflicted to shipping in these areas, together with the well-founded belief that attacks would increase in violence, led to the establishment on 6 February 1942 of Sea Frontier Forces.

The duties and the organization of the predecessor Naval Coastal Frontier forces is given in paragraph eight [ seven] of General Order No. 143 quoted above. On 6 February 1942, Naval Coastal Frontiers became Sea Frontiers and Commanders of Sea Frontiers were made responsible to the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet for that portion of their commands, comprising ships and aircraft duly allocated as Sea Frontier forces. For the


portion comprising ships and aircraft allocated by the Chief of Naval Operations as local defense forces, they were made responsible to the CNO. Admiral King made the point that Naval Coastal Frontiers were not to be confused with the designation "Coastal Frontier." The latter, of which Sea Frontiers formed a part, were coastal divisions with geographical coterminus boundaries within which an Army officer and a naval officer exercised command over their respective forces and activities. Four Sea Frontiers were set up in the Continental United States: The Eastern, covering the Atlantic seaboard; the Gulf covering the Gulf of Mexico; the Western which took in the southern part of the pacific Coast; and the Northwestern which covered the northern part of the Pacific coast.20

To the Commanders of the Eastern and Gulf Sea Frontiers fell the task of providing escorts for Atlantic coastwise and Caribbean shipping, and of making war on the U-Boats entering these areas. The ships comprising the forces were of many kinds, but mostly of the smaller sizes such as patrol craft (PCs), sub-chasers of the 110-foot type, yachts, fishing boats, in fact, any seaworthy vessel that could carry weapons and detection gear.

Although the sea frontier forces had a negligible record as to U-Boat sinkings, they played an important psychological role as a deterrent to the entrance of U-Boats into these areas and as schools for training personnel. The attacks of U-boats on coastwise and Caribbean shipping became less frequent and easier to repel, but the most important role was training and indoctrinating personnel in anti-submarine techniques. the personnel so trained became available for duty on destroyers and destroyer escorts.

Internal Reorganization and Reallocation

Major steps in internal reorganization of the fleets took place on 6 April 1942, when the Atlantic Fleet's air arm was reorganized, and on 10 April 1942,when the Pacific Fleet's entire administrative organization was brought into agreement with that of the Atlantic Fleet. This last change established the same type commanders in each fleet:

            Service Force
Amphibious Force
Submarine Force
Patrol Wings

In June of 1942, command of the United States Naval Forces was reallocated as follows:

  1. Directly under Cominch

    1. United States Atlantic Fleet
    2. United States Pacific Fleet


Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
Become Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean areas on 31 Dec. 1941;
Chief of Naval Operations, Dec. 1945-Dec. 1947.

    1. Sea Frontier Forces
    2. Special Task Forces

  1. Under the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO)

    1. Naval Local Defense Forces
    2. Naval Transportation Service
    3. Special Duty Ships
    4. Naval District Craft

This arrangement removed the noncombatant forces form the immediate


Admiral Royal E.Ingersoll
Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, Jan. 1942-No. 1944;
Commander Western Sea Frontier and Deputy CNO for remainder of war.

concern of Cominch and left him freer to concentrate on the shooting war.21

Up to this point it has been possible to outline developments and changes in fleet organization on a chronological basis, but because the wartime situation in the Atlantic differed so widely from that in the Pacific, each area will now be treated separately.

The Atlantic Naval Deployment had begun nearly two years before Pearl


Harbor when the Neutrality Patrol commenced its tedious and well-nigh impossible task of keeping belligerent action out of western hemisphere waters. The units of this patrol operated on a geographical basis and comprised nearly all of the Atlantic Squadron, organized in January, 1939. While technically under the orders of Commander Atlantic Squadron, the Neutrality Patrol was operated in large part under orders from the White House itself.22

As American sentiment swung more and more toward aid to the Allies, the Atlantic Squadron--called the Patrol Force from November 1940--found itself faced with greater responsibilities. In the summer of 1940, "exploratory conversations" were begun between American and british military and naval leaders. Early the next year a series of secret staff conversations took place, in which Anglo-American cooperation was agreed upon. Of cardinal importance was the decision that the principal task of the United States Navy in the Atlantic at that time would be to protect shipping and sea communications between the Western Hemisphere and the United Kingdom. Even before these conferences, the Navy Department had determined that by April 1941 the Navy would be able to take over the protection of transatlantic shipping in the Western Atlantic and the approaches to Scotland.23

A change in command of the Atlantic Fleet affecting its organization took place at the end of 1941 when, as described in the previous chapter, Admiral King was appointed Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, on 20 December 1941. Rear Admiral R.E. Ingersoll was designated, with the rank of Voce Admiral, to relieve him as Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. He took command on 1 January 1942, and was advanced to the rank of Admiral on 1 July 1942. No better choice than Admiral Ingersoll could have been made for carrying out the arduous mission of protecting shipping and sea communications and making war on submarines in the Atlantic. After the battle of the Atlantic was won, he was transferred to the Western Sea Frontier as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations.

To carry out this mission and other tasks in CinCLant had in the meantime time been reorganized, as of 1 March 1941, into ten task forces (commanded by flag officers) numbered from one to ten and named according to their intended employment.24


The fleet's primary function (escort) was to be handled by TF1 and TF4. The Ocean Escort Force, based on Narragansett Bay and Boston, escorted convoys to Iceland where the United Kingdom-based Support Force took over. Since this latter group would face the most perilous part of the voyage, it began intensive antisubmarine warfare (ASW) training (aided by the British who had nearly two years of experience) immediately upon its organization. This training stood it in good stead even when the plan for American escort through the Northwest Approaches was changed, because the Support Force was then assigned the Argentia (Newfoundland) to Iceland sector of the ocean crossing.

The other task forces in the Atlantic Fleet operated in support of TF's 1 and 4 in training for war. The war developed primarily into an antisubmarine war for the Atlantic Fleet. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, much of the heavy ship strength was sent to bolster the stricken Pacific Fleet. The remaining forces were reorganized to devote the major part of their attention to escort and ASW duties. S Training Command was established and taught the fundamentals to the new crews of the new ships built on the east coast. In this respect the Atlantic Fleet contributed directly and importantly to all operating forces regardless of their location.

Newly organized commands in the Atlantic theater were United States Naval Forces, Europe; and the South Atlantic Force. The first was strictly an administrative command, charged with the maintenance and training of all United States Naval Forces assigned to British waters and the Atlantic coastal waters of Europe. Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, allocated operational control of these forces as requested or required by the operating commands in that area.

Whereas Naval Forces, Europe, came directly under Cominch, the South Atlantic Force was a part of the Atlantic Fleet. This group, with headquarters in Brazil, operated in close cooperation with the Brazilian Navy to maintain control of the South Atlantic area.

The Atlantic Fleet contributed a large task force ("Western Naval Task Force" or "Task Force 34") to the invasion of Northwest Africa in November 1942. After the successful assault and land campaigns, a substantial number of American naval vessels were assigned to the Mediterranean area to support the British Mediterranean Fleet. These were organized


as United States Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters, and placed under the British Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean (CinCMed) for operations.25

In March of 1943, Cominch instituted the system of numbering all fleets, assigning the even numbers to the Atlantic and the odd to the Pacific. This resulted in adding fleet designations to the titles of the various forces in the theater: Naval Forces, Europe, became the Twelfth Fleet; South Atlantic Force the Fourth Fleet; and Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters, the Eight Fleet. The Atlantic Fleet, itself, was designated the Second Fleet.26

Early in 1943 the increasing scope of the submarine menace caused growing concern and bespoke more effective countermeasures with available forces. In May, Cominch established the Tenth Fleet, as described in Chapter III, with headquarters in the Navy Department, and under his own immediate command. Tenth Fleet took over all antisubmarine forces in the Atlantic for the purpose of allocation, but Cominch left actual details of operations to CinCLant and the Sea Frontier commanders (who acted as task force commanders in that respect.)27

By this means several important advantages were gained. The Navy Department being a worldwide communication center for spotting the location of submarines through High Frequency Stations could readily shift its forces from one area to another as needed. Formerly also, local directives had varied in method and were often not based on sound doctrine. This could be readily corrected by centralized control. From a central headquarters in Washington the necessary liaison could also more easily than formerly be maintained with the British Admiralty, Canadian ASW headquarters, U.S. Army Air Corps, Convoy officials, War Shipping Administration, and the group of scientists engaged in operations research, known as the ASWORG.

Pacific Fleet general organization in effect on 7 December 1941 was mentioned above. That Fleet had spent the tense summer and autumn months of 1941 in preparing for war. By a directive of CinCPac issued in April 1941, task forces had been established, effective 1 June, consisting of Task Forces No. 1 (Covering Force), No. 2 (Reconnoitering and Raiding Force), and No. 3 (Amphibious Force) to take over training "for


probable war operations and for inter-type training."28 Additional task forces were formed during the remainder of the year. Included among them was one (Task Force No. 4) of a type which became not uncommon during the war--a task force composed not of ships but of activities.29

General Order No. 143 of 3 February 1941 (quoted above) had required that the United States Fleet type commanders be in the same fleet as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet. Since these type commanders--as line flag officers--had been given command of various task forces, they were burdened with the dual responsibility of operating a force4 at sea and administering a type command whose units were scattered throughout the fleet. Even in peacetime the movements of the type commanders and the volume of communications necessary to proper administration of their commands made the double function extremely difficult. When war imposed radio silence and secrecy of movement, the type commanders were faced with virtually impossible tasks.

In the summer of 1941, Admiral H.E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, had moved his flag and staff ashore at Pearl Harbor, because he had come to the conclusion that "in order to successfully prosecute a campaign in the Pacific, ashore headquarters at the principal base must be available.30

For reasons already covered in some detail in a former chapter, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz took command of the Pacific Fleet on 31 December 1941. One of his first steps in the direction of reorganization was to set up the Commander Battleship Force, Commander Scouting Force, and each type commander with ships in the Pearl Harbor area in administrative offices ashore. These officers were to attend to personnel matters, handling of mail, and to look after the administration of the material upkeep of the ships in their commands.31

This last function proved of such magnitude that CinCPac proposed and Cominch directed the establishment of an agency "to deal with all matters affecting the maintenance of battleships, carriers, and cruisers . . ." in the Pacific Fleet.32 The final development in this line came on 29 May 1942 with the organization of the Fleet Maintenance Office. From the new type commands (formed in compliance with the general reorganization of 10 April 1942), the Fleet Maintenance Office was assigned the material officers of the staffs of Commander Battleships, Commander Carriers,


Commander Cruisers, and Commander Service Force. The Fleet Maintenance Office came under the general supervision of Commander Service Force, but in practice it operated as a more or less autonomous part of the Service Force Staff.33

The arrangement of type commands in the Pacific Fleet underwent additional changes during the course of the war, the first of which combined Carriers and patrol Wings into Air Force, Pacific Fleet. The remainder of the changes saw new type commands established as the situation changed; the Fleet Operational Training Command (analogous to the Atlantic Fleet command) early in 1943; Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron early in 1944; and Minecraft, Pacific Fleet (actually a reestablishment) in October 1944.34

Except on occasions of matters of policy, which were referred to CinCPac, the various type commanders were responsible for all the details of fleet administration; additionally, they advised CinCPac on tactical matters concerning their respective types.

To keep in close contact with events as the war moved farther into the western Pacific, CinCPac established an Advance Headquarters on GUam in January, 1945. This was primarily an operational headquarters; many administrative functions, including logistics, remained at Pearl Harbor. The dual-headquarters arrangement was inevitably less efficient administratively than a single office, but its existence was fully justified on operational grounds, the more important consideration at the time.35

Task Forces and Numbered Fleets. The operational grouping of Pacific Fleet ships into task forces has already been mentioned. With the type commanders handling the administration of the different ships. CinCPac and his task force commanders were free to shift operational control to wherever demanded by the current situation. The flexibility of the task force was one of its cardinal virtues. When a certain operational need arose, a task force could be organized quickly to satisfy that need; when its mission was completed, that particular task force could be retained for other use or could be dissolved. In no case would the task force commander be involved in ship or type administrative matters. That this system was well adapted to operational needs of any size is illustrated by comparing Task Force 8 of January 1942 consisting of a single carrier, two cruisers, and eight destroyers, with Task Force 58 of January 1945, consisting of practically all of the combatant ships of the entire Fifth Fleet. The organizational structure of the two was identical in everything except size.


Battleship firing salvos into beach at Okinawa just before H-Hour. Amtracks in foreground
Battleship firing salvos into beach at OKINAWA just before H-Hour. Amtracks in foreground.


Fifth Fleet during invasion of Iwo Jima. Mount Suribachi in background
FIFTH FLEET during invasion of IWO JIMA. Mount Suribachi in background.


When Cominch assigned the odd-numbered fleet designations to the Pacific, the First and Third Fleets came into being; the Fifth and Ninth being added to the CinCPac command later. Like the Atlantic's Twelfth Fleet, the First and Ninth Fleets, as aggregations of ships, did not exist. They were administrative groupings under CinCPac's direct command, used in extension of the task force principle to facilitate organization and communications. The Third Fleet originated as the South pacific Force in June of 1942 and acquired its new title in March 1943.36 The Fifth Fleet was formed in th elate summer of 1943 when major offensive operations began in the Central Pacific Area. As activity increased in that area and diminished in the South Pacific Area, the Third and Fifth Fleets were welded into a single fleet, but their titles were retained to identify the Admiral and his staff actually exercising operational command. While one was afloat in command of an operation, the other was ashore planning the next major move.

The organization called the Seventh Fleet presented a special set of circumstances in the Pacific. It was an operating force composed largely of United States ships, but including Australian elements assigned to it by allied agreement when it was the Southwest Pacific Force.37 It was commanded from 26 November 1943 for the rest of the war by Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid. Until April of 1945 it came under General MacArthur, the Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific Area, for both administration and operations. In April 1945 administrative control was transferred to CinCPac, but CinCSWPA retained operational control for the remainder of the war.38 In internal organization, Seventh Fleet conformed with the fleets which were under CinCPac throughout the war.

Area Commanders

Existence of a United States fleet under the ultimate command of an Army officer, and Army forces under ultimate command of a Naval officer was due to a system of overall command responsibility adopted in the Pacific in April 1942.39 Behind this system was the agreement among the nations concerned (Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States) that the United States should have strategic responsibility for the Pacific Theater. Two areas were established and supreme commanders designated: the Southwest Pacific Area under General Douglas MacArthur, a United States Army general; and the Pacific


Ocean Areas (a single command embracing three areas--the North Pacific, the Central Pacific, and the South Pacific) under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, a United States Navy admiral.* Each Commander-in-Chief had command of all the armed forces assigned to his own area by the nations signing the agreement. Thus, not only mixed Army and Navy commands came into being, but multi-national forces appeared from time to time, both at sea and on land.

Though technically not a part of any United States fleet, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA) should be mentioned because the office was held by CinCPac, implemented by the Pacific Fleet staff, which when rounded out by Army personnel, functioned as the Pacific Ocean Areas staff. Theoretically, however, the two posts were separate; command of the Pacific Fleet was strictly a naval function, while command of the Pacific Ocean Areas entailed strategic control over all the Allied Armed Forces, regardless of service or nationality, in a geographic area.

With the Pacific Fleet the primary armed force, both offensively and defensively, for the Pacific Ocean Areas, the use of a single staff for both the fleet and the areas was logical and successful. Despite this and the fact that the Pacific war remained primarily a naval one even to the end, the use of the single staff with the consequent amalgamation of functions seemed to a few prejudiced eyes to lend too great a Navy air to the unified command. Nevertheless, due largely to the adeptness in administration and personal characteristics of Admiral Nimitz and the key members of his staff, no serious difficulties occurred that were not ironed out promptly.

New Naval Ship Types

The intense antisubmarine war on the Atlantic, the new amphibious operation techniques, and the growth of mobile support for the combat forces in the Pacific were the causes for the development of most of the new ship types that came into being during the war. The new types in turn called in most cases for reorganizations of the naval forces of which they became a part.

In the case of antisubmarine warfare, two types stand out, the DE (Destroyer Escort) and the CVE (Aircraft Carrier Escort). The design and construction of both types was undertaken after the war started, the DE's in order to provide suitable ships in greater numbers in less time and at less cost than destroyers which theretofore had carried the brunt of antisubmarine war.

The CVE was developed to provide air reconnaissance and an air offensive against U-boats in mid-Atlantic, an area which could not at that

* [This subject is treated in detail in the official Army history Strategy and Command: The First Two Years, Chapter 11, a volume in the subseries WAR IN THE PACIFIC of the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. --HyperWar]


time be reached by land-based planes. The CVE was a slower, smaller, and much less costly carrier than the CV, but had adequate characteristics for antisubmarine duty. In addition, a number of types of sub-chasers and patrol craft were developed, mostly for incorporation in the Sea Frontier Forces.

Ships and smaller craft specially designed for carrying out the ship-to-shore phase of amphibious operations had to be developed. They were of many types, the largest going by the name of Landing Ship Tank (LST). The LST was an ocean-going vessel, 328 feet long, 50-foot beam, twin screw, speed 11 knots, with a 2100-ton carrying capacity. The seagoing draft was 8 feet forward, and 14 feet 4 inches aft, including water ballast. After nosing the ship up onto the beach, a ramp at the bow was lowered, over which the tanks could be disembarked on their own power. By controlling ballast, the ship could be retracted after having discharged its cargo of tanks and personnel. As part of the deckload, an LCT was carried, having the same function as the LST.

The LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) was designed primarily to carry and land troops. The large ones, LCI(L), could accommodate 250 troops with five tons of cargo for current needs. Their radius of action was limited to about 500 miles. These craft were 158 feet long, 23-foot beam, speed 15 knots.

Many smaller types, including tracked amphibious vehicles and the smaller landing boats carried on davits provided the means for ship-to-shore transportation where the beaches were not suited for landings from LSTs.

Early in the Pacific war, the mobile support idea gained ground, as against the fixed support idea of constructing and developing large naval bases on shore, at great expense in time and money, which had to be left behind as the Fleet moved forward. Mobile support involved, however, new floating facilities, such as floating drydocks of various sizes, repair ships, cargo, and storeships of special design, administrative flag ships, involved some reorganization of the forces.


The organization of the naval forces in effect at the end of World War II was the result of evolutionary as well as revolutionary processes. The speed of movement and communications that had developed along the frontiers of science made changes in strategy and tactics possible, that would not have been attempted in earlier days. Task forces could be assembled quickly to carry out special missions.


Fleet and Task Force Commanders were relieved of distracting details, leaving them free to conduct operations, by turning over many of their former functions to type commanders based ashore, who handled the administrative details involved in manning, training, equipping and keeping the ships of the fleet in a state of readiness.

In the past, the weapons used in wars were those conceived during the previous war, but developed in the intervening peace period, and used in the current war. However, World War II was the first war in history to employ on a large scale ships, weapons, and devices actually designed and developed after the outbreak of war. These exerted a powerful influence on the organization and administration of the World War II naval forces.

Area Commanders, such as CinCPOA and CinCSWPA were innovations. Actually, operational command of the great fleets from shore-based headquarters was a still more revolutionary change. Organization of the naval forces called for bold and unorthodox concepts. History, while revealing some shortcomings in the measures adopted, proved them to have been mainly sound.


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1. Bolander, H.L., "Commodore," U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, March 1926. The grade and title of Commodore was not established by law until July 16, 1862, during the Civil War. It was retained until abolished by the Naval Personnel Act of March 3, 1899. The Commodores then on the Active List were advanced to the grade of Rear Admiral. The title "Commodore" was revived as a grade during World War II, but again abolished after the war.

2. Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy 1863. (Hereafter referred to as SecNav.)

3. For data on the composition of Federal Naval Forces during the Civil War, see A History of the United States Navy by Dudley W. Knox, Commodore, U.S.N. (Ret.), G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York.

4. SecNav, 1906.

5. SecNav, 1907; p. 7.

6. With the "automobile torpedo" still a comparatively novel weapon, U.S. Navy torpedo vessels were not included in the organization of the fleets. The same was true of submarines. These two types operated as separate and practically independent groups. General Order 46 of 14 December 1909.

7. U.S. Navy Regulations, 1913; Chapter 3, Section 1, Article 226.

8. The Scout was very nearly a small (about 3,500 tons) cruiser, with no armor,capable of high speed and maneuverability, and used for surface reconnaissance.They were later designated third-class cruisers. While the Scouting Force consisted entirely of different cruiser types, the Cruiser Force, itself, included gunboats as well as cruisers.

9. Administrative History, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, Vol. I, pp. 5-6(hereafter referenced as CinCLant); King, Ernest J., and Walter M. Whitehill; Fleet Admiral King, A Naval Record, p. 317 (hereafter referenced as King and Whitehill.

10. When a new organization was promulgated in 1935, the only noteworthy change made was the elimination of this particular chain of command. G.O. 68 of 13 May 1935.

11. G.O. 102 of 30 October 1937.

12. Morison, Samuel E.; The Rising Sun in the Pacific (History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume III); p. 29; (hereafter referenced as Morison); also, King and Whitehill, p. 317.

13. SecNav, 1934, pp. 10-11.

14. SecNav, 1937, p. 9.

15. SecNav, 1939, p. 10.

16. Morison, Vol. i; p. 14.

17. SecNav, 1940; p. 10.

18. King and Whitehill, p. 307.

19. SecNav, 1941, pp. 8-9. The entire Coast Guard was placed under the Navy by Presidential order on 1 November 1941.

20. King,Ernest J. FADM, USN, U.S. Navy At War, 1941-1945, p. 32. (Hereafter referenced as King.

21. G.O. No. 174 of 2 June 1942.

22. CinCLant, Vol. I, p. 41.

23. Morison, Vol. 1; p. 51; and CinCLant, Vol. II; p. 3.

24. CinCLant, Vol. I, pp. 127-128. Although the size of the Atlantic Fleet was rapidly increased, this organization proved sufficiently flexible to permit enlargement and with some minor changes remained in effect throughout the war.

25. Morison, Vol. II, p. 255.

26. The standardization of fleet designation led to a definite system in task force designation. A force was numbered with two digits--the first being that of the fleet from which the force was taken and the second indicating the sequence in that fleet. Task group within a force were numbered by an additional digit separated from the TF number by a decimal point. To indicate a task unit within a group, another decimal point and digit were added. Thus, the third task unit of the fifth task group of the second task force of the Sixth Fleet would be numbered 62.5.3.

27. Cominch, pp. 166-69.

28. Commander-in-Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, Command History; p. 13. (Hereafter references as CinCPac).

29. TF4 comprised the island bases in the 14th Naval District, organized for self defense and for support of fleet units on advanced operations. CinCPac, p. 14.

30. CinCPac, pp. 49-50.

31. CinCPac, p. 16.

32. CinCPac, p. 17.

33. CinCPac, p. 19.

34. The Fleet Operation Training Command was considered a type command because it exercised administrative control of the ships assigned to it for training. CinCPac, p. 22.

35. CinCPac, p. 77.

36. CinCPac, pp. 27-28.

37. The old Asiatic Fleet, greatly reduced by heavy losses at the outbreak of hostilities, together with some Australian and Dutch forces, became Southwest Pacific Forces in February 1942.

38. CinCPac, p. 44.

39. CinCPac, pp. 3-5

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