Chapter II
The Service Force
Laboring Giant of the Pacific Fleet

At the time of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, Rear Admiral W.L. Calhoun commanded the Base Force there and had his flag in the U.S.S. Argonne. Overnight his duties increased enormously. Thousands of survivors of the attack had nothing but the clothes they wore, which in many cases consisted of underwear only. These naval personnel had to be clothed, fed, quartered, re-recorded, and put on new payrolls with the utmost expedition in order to make them available for assignment anywhere. There were hundreds of requests for repairs, ammunition, and supplies of all kinds.

Calhoun expanded his staff to three times its original size, and despite the excitement, confusion, diversity of opinion, uncertainty, and shortages of everything, he brilliantly mustered order from what could easily have been chaos. Calhoun, soon promoted to vice admiral, continued as Commander of the Service Force until 1945, and the remarkable cooperation, hustle, and assistance rendered by his command are unforgettable. This was especially true in the advanced areas. Any duty to which the term "service" could be applied was instantly undertaken on demand; this contributed enormously to the fleet efficiency, and, in consequence, to the progress of the campaign. No single command contributed so much in winning the war with Japan as did the Service Force of the Pacific Fleet. It served all commands, none of which could have survived alone. Neither could all of them combined have won without the help of the Service Force. It is deserving of much higher public praise than it ever received, and, most of all, its activities should be a matter of deepest concern and study by all who aspire to high fleet commands.

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack the Base Force had a few more vessels than in 1940, but otherwise was substantially unchanged. Besides


the added vessels, it had a utility wing composed of three flight squadrons. In San Francisco it was represented by the Base Force Subordinate Command (Rear Admiral C.W. Crosse), which had been established in June of 1941 to give quicker and more direct service on the west coast and to aid in more efficient procurement and shipment for the mid-Pacific.

The early Service Force was organized around four squadrons: Two, Four, Six, and Eight. Squadron Two included hospital ships, fleet motion-picture exchange, repair ships, salvage ships, and tugs. Squadron Four had the transports and the responsibility for training. This was the tiny nucleus of what eventually became the great Amphibious Force, or Forces. Squadron Six took care of all target-practice firing and of the towing of targets, both surface and aerial. Six also controlled the Fleet Camera Party, Target Repair Base, Anti-Aircraft School, Fleet Machine Gun School, and Small Craft Disbursing. Squadron Eight had the responsibility for the supply and distribution to the fleet of all its fuels, food, and ammunition.

Growth and changes came. In March of 1942 the name was changed to Service Forces Pacific Fleet. Headquarters had already moved ashore from the U.S.S. Argonne to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, and later moved again to the new administration building of the Commander in Chief Pacific, in the Makalapa area outside the navy yard. Two years later, in July of 1944, the Service Force moved into its own building, a huge three-story, 600-foot structure adjacent to the CinCPac Headquarters. The organizational and administrative changes were dictated by the increasing requirements of the war. Squadron Four was decommissioned and its transports given to the Amphibious Force, as already noted. By the summer of 1942 the rapidly changing conditions of the war caused a further reorganization, and Service Force was realigned into four major divisions: Service Squadrons Two, Six, and Eight, and Fleet Maintenance Office. Except for some additional duties, the functions of the three numbered squadrons remained unchanged. The Fleet Maintenance Office took over all hull, machinery, alteration, and improvement problems involving battleships, carriers, cruisers, and Service Force vessels, while the Service Force Pacific Subordinate Command at San Francisco continued its original functions and expanded as the tempo of the war mounted. It became the logistic agency for supplying all South Pacific bases. By August of 1942, operations there were of such critical nature, with the campaign against the enemy in the Solomons and Guadalcanal about to begin, that the Service Force South Pacific Force was authorized to deal direct with Commander in Chief, Commander Service Force Pacific,


or Commander Service Force Subordinate Command at San Francisco.

As the war went on, the number of vessels assigned to the Service Force went steadily upward. With each new campaign our needs increased, and so did the number of ships. By September of 1943 the Service Force had 324 vessels listed, and in March no less than 990 vessels had been assigned, 290 of them still under construction or undergoing organization and training. Much of this increase was in patrol craft for Squadron Two and barges for Squadron Eight.

Barges and lighters of all types were being completed rapidly, but moving them from the United States to the areas of use was a problem. Having no means of propulsion, they had to be towed out to Pearl Harbor, and thence still farther westward, in the slowest of convoys. The departure of merchant ships and tugs hauling ungainly looking lighters and barges was not so inspiring a sight as that of a sleek man-of-war gliding swiftly under the Golden Gate Bridge and standing out to sea. Yet these barges, ugly as they were proved invaluable in support of operations at advanced anchorages.

A new Squadron Four, entirely different from its predecessor, was commissioned in October 1943 and sent to Funafuti in the Ellice Islands to furnish logistic support to the fleet. In February of 1944, Squadron Ten of a similar nature went to Majuro in the Marshalls, soon absorbed the Service Force until the end of the war. Just a year later--February 1945--Service Force had been assigned 1,432 vessels of all types, with 404 of them still to report; and by the end of July 1945, a few weeks before hostilities ended, it had no less than 2,930 ships, including those of Service Force Seventh Fleet, over which administrative control had been established in June.

By squadrons this astonishing total of ships was as follows: Squadron Two, 1,081 ships; Six (new), 107; Eight, 727; Ten, 609; Twelve, 39; Service Force Seventh Fleet, 367. There were 305 planes in the Utility Wing. The total of personnel was 30,369 officers and 425,945 enlisted men, or approximately one-sixth of the entire naval service at the peak of the war. Squadron Twelve, nicknamed "Harbor stretcher," had been commissioned in March 1944 for the primary purpose of increasing depths in channels and harbors where major fleet units would anchor, or where coral reefs and shallow water created serious navigational hazards., By far the largest operation Twelve undertook was at Guam.

Squadron Six, newly commissioned in January of 1945, bore no


relationship to the former Mine Squadron of the same numerical designation. Six was the third link in a chain of service squadrons with the duty of remaining constantly near the the striking forces or close behind them as they moved nearer Japan. Eight hauled the supplies from the west coast and the Caribbean areas to bases, anchorages, and lagoons in the forward area. Ten then took hold, but even its fine services were not as close as desired to task forces and major combat units when they wished to remain at sea for indefinite periods, and take no time between strikes to return to newly established anchorages in what had been enemy territory a short time before. So Squadron Ten in such cases passed on its supply ships to Six as ammunition, fuel, and provisions were needed, and the transfers were all made at sea. After discharging into the combat groups, the empty supply ships were passed back by Six to Ten to be refilled, or still farther back to Eight, which resupplied them from the west coast, Hawaiian, or other areas.

By spring of 1945 the organization of Service Force consisted of 12 principal sections, with the officers in charge of Force Supply, Fleet Maintenance, Over-All Pacific Naval Personnel, and Area Petroleum having additional duty of a similar nature on the staff of CinCPac also. There was a fleet chaplain who had a similar two-hat set-up.

The operating squadrons, coordinated with each other and organized as self-sufficient commands for internal regulations, were separate from these sections. Each one had its own commander, chief of staff,and appropriate administrative, communications, operations, supply, and maintenance sections. Directly under the Commander Service Force came the Deputy Commander Service Force Pacific and Chief of Staff. He in turn was supported by an Assistant Chief, two Special Assistants, and an Administrative Assistant. This latter officer controlled the usual staff functions and several special ones: Postal Officer, Legal Officer, Public Relations (later Public Information), and so on.

This rearrangement into two types of organization within the Service Force had a sound reason behind it. The earlier squadron scheme tended to narrow the use of the vessels assigned to activities of that squadron only. With the section scheme, in which vessels were all under control of the operations office, the broadest possible use of the vessels to meet special problems of any section could be more readily made. At any rate, the section scheme was gaining favor over the squadron when hostilities ended, and the functions of the various squadrons were being absorbed by the sections. The actual change-over to the final section organization was not, however, made complete until the fighting was over.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (1) * Next Chapter (3)

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation