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,
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 flag ship 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.