Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet was established March 15, 1943, under the command of Adm. William F. “Bull” Halsey Jr. The command was originally the “South Pacific Force,” established April 20, 1942, under Vice Adm. Robert L. Ghormley. Halsey relieved Ghormley Oct. 18, 1942.
At the end of World War II, Halsey’s U.S. 3rd Fleet flagship, the Iowa-class battleship USS Missouri (BB 63), was the location of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay Sep. 2, 1945. After Missouri’s return to home waters, a Chief of Naval Operations message dated Oct. 17, 1945, directed U.S. 3rd Fleet be re-designated as the Reserve Fleet for the Pacific, reducing its manning. The re-designation became effective Nov. 22, 1945, when Rear Adm. Howard F. Kingman (who was promoted to vice admiral Dec. 10, 1945), relieved Halsey as commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. U.S. 3rd Fleet then became an administrative organization, closing out and reassigning its remaining ships. U.S. 3rd Fleet was formally disestablished Jan. 1, 1947.
U.S. 3rd Fleet was re-established Feb. 1, 1973. Headquartered on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, the organization assumed the duties of U.S. 1st Fleet and of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Forces Pacific Fleet. Vice Adm. William T. Rapp, who previously led ASW Forces Pacific Fleet, assumed the duties of commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet. The area of operations (AOR) was defined in 1976 as, “a line halfway between Midway and Japan,” roughly 160 degrees east, and from “pole to pole.” In the late 1970s and 1980s, U.S. 3rd Fleet forces participated in exercises throughout the AOR to improve readiness and to demonstrate U.S. naval capabilities in the North Pacific Ocean.
In November 1986, U.S. 3rd Fleet headquarters shifted from Ford Island to its flagship the Austin-class amphibious transport dock USS Coronado (LPD 11), homeported in Pearl Harbor. In 1991, both U.S. 3rd Fleet and Coronado’s homeport shifted to San Diego, and subsequently moved off the flagship in 2003, settling in Point Loma, California, where it remains today.
In 2015, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift announced the “Third Fleet Forward” concept. Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of 3rd and 7th Fleets. This operational concept allows both numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Since 2018, U.S. 3rd Fleet has operated as a Maritime Operations Center preparing, providing and employing combat ready naval forces throughout the Pacific.