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United States Third Fleet

Third Fleet
Third Fleet emblem
Active 15 March 1943–present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Navy
Type Fleet
Role Direct Fleet Operations
Part of U.S. Pacific Fleet (USPACFLT)
Garrison/HQ Naval Base Point Loma
Vice Admiral Kenneth E. Floyd
Fleet Admiral William F. Halsey

The Third Fleet is one of six numbered fleets in the United States Navy. Third Fleet's area of responsibility includes approximately fifty million square miles of the eastern and northern Pacific ocean areas including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and a sector of the Arctic. Major oil and trade sea lines of communication within this area are critically important to the economic health of the United States and friendly nations throughout the Pacific Rim region.[1]


  • History 1
    • World War Two 1.1
    • Post-war 1.2
  • Current operations 2
  • Component Units 3
  • Task Force Units 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Third Fleet's area of responsibility during the 1980s.

World War Two

The Third Fleet was originally formed during World War II on 15 March 1943 under the command of Admiral William F. Halsey. Its on-shore headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was established on 15 June 1944. The fleet operated in and around the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, Taiwan, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands with USS New Jersey and, from May 1945 to the end of the war, USS Missouri as its flagship. It also operated in Japanese waters launching attacks on Tokyo, the naval base at Kure and the island of Hokkaidō as well as bombardments of several Japanese coastal cities.

The ships of the Third Fleet formed the basis of the Fifth Fleet, which was the designation of the "Big Blue Fleet" when under the command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance.[N 1] Spruance and Halsey alternated command of the fleet for major operations, allowing the other admiral and his staff time to plan for subsequent operations. A secondary benefit was confusing the Japanese into thinking that there were actually two separate fleets as the fleet designation flipped back and forth.[3] Embarked aboard his flagship Missouri, Admiral Halsey led his fleet into Tokyo Bay on 29 August 1945. On 2 September, the documents of surrender of the Japanese Empire ending the war were signed on her decks. Third Fleet remained in Japanese waters until late September when its ships were directed to sail for the West Coast of the United States. On 7 October 1945 Third Fleet was designated a reserve fleet and decommissioned from active status.


On 1 February 1973, following a reorganization of the Pacific Fleet, the Third Fleet was recommissioned as an active fleet and assumed the duties of the former First Fleet and Pacific Anti-Submarine Warfare Force located at Ford Island, Hawaii. Third Fleet trains naval forces for overseas deployment and evaluates state-of-the-art technology for fleet use. Additionally, Third Fleet could deploy in the event of a major conflict.

On 26 November 1986, Commander, Third Fleet shifted his flag from his headquarters ashore to resume status as an afloat commander for the first time since World War II, aboard USS Coronado. In August 1991, Third Fleet’s commander, his staff and the command ship Coronado shifted homeports to San Diego, California. In September 2003, Commander, Third Fleet shifted his flag from the command ship Coronado to headquarters ashore at Point Loma, San Diego, California.[4]

USS Ronald Reagan and other U.S. Third Fleet ships participated in the International Fleet Review (IFR) commemorating the 100th birthday of the Royal Canadian Navy in Victoria, British Columbia.[5] Joining the Reagan for the naval review were the cruiser Chosin, the destroyer Sampson, and the frigate Ford.[6] The naval review took place 9–12 June 2010, and it involved 21 naval ships and more than 8,000 naval personnel from Canada, France, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.[7]

Current operations

The Third Fleet's area of responsibility, 2009.

The U.S. Third Fleet is assigned a number of missions and responsibilities. Third Fleet's primary mission is one of conflict deterrence, but in the event of general war, it would conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea to carry out the Pacific Fleet strategy in the theater. Such operations would be executed well forward and early in a conflict to carry out the primary wartime mission of Third Fleet—the defense of the western sea approaches to the United States, including Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. The primary means of carrying out these missions are the four Nimitz-class aircraft carriers attached to the Third Fleet:

In addition, Commander, Third Fleet is designated as a Joint Task Force (JTF) commander. In that capacity, the commander and his staff may be assigned responsibilities for command of joint U.S. forces deployed in response to a specific event or contingency. As such, the JTF commander reports via a joint chain of command to a unified commander. Commander, U.S. Pacific Command is the unified commander in the Pacific theater.

In peacetime, Third Fleet continually trains Navy and Marine Corps forces for their expeditionary warfare mission. In keeping with the Department of the Navy strategic concept "Forward... from the Sea", these forces provide the flexibility and immediate response necessary to react to any emerging crisis from humanitarian and peacekeeping missions to major regional conflicts. These forces are prepared to provide the critical first response in a transition between peacetime operations and escalating regional tensions. If required, these forces carry the power and capabilities necessary to establish and hold an initial foothold to allow larger joint operations to follow on a large scale in the event a major conflict ensues.

Finally, when the conflict is resolved, those naval expeditionary forces remain on the scene to help shape the peace and ensure compliance. Third Fleet training has been designed to ensure that deploying forces are fully prepared for joint operations. All training is conducted within a joint environment—employing joint terminology, doctrine, procedures, command and control—to ensure that forces are ready to join with other branches of the Military under a joint command structure.

Component Units

U.S. Third Fleet component units include the following:[8]

Task Force Units

Task Force Name Task Force Type Location
Battle force N/A
Task Force 31
Command and coordination force N/A
Ready force N/A
Logistics support force N/A
Theatre ASW force Pearl Harbor, HI[9]
Surface combatant force
Amphibious force
Carrier strike force
Landing force


  1. ^ The "Big Blue Fleet" was the name given to the main fleet of the US Navy in the Pacific. The term stems from pre-war planning, called the color plans because each nation included was given a color code name. In these potential plans the British navy was red, the German navy black, and so forth. The Imperial Japanese Navy was termed the "Orange Fleet". The US fleet was the "Blue Fleet". The "Big Blue Fleet" was the massive fleet that the US Navy anticipated they would win the war with. It was thought this fleet would largely come into being by late 1943, early 1944.[2]
  1. ^ "Global Third Fleet". Retrieved 10 December 2006. 
  2. ^ Potter p. 112
  3. ^ Potter p. 182
  4. ^ "United States Navy Third Fleet (Official Website)". Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  5. ^ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Torrey W. Lee, USN (3 June 2010). Begins Flight Deck Certification"Ronald Reagan". NNS100603-15. USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  6. ^ "2010 History". USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
  7. ^ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Stevens, USN (29 June 2010). Draws Excitement in Canadian Naval Centennial's Fleet Review"Ronald Reagan"USS . NNS100629-07. USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  8. ^ "Commander, U.S. Third Fleet". Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  • Taylor, Theodore (1954). The Magnificent Mitscher. Naval Institute Press.  

External links

  • Commander, United States Navy Third Fleet homepage
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