Expansion and contraction
The Atlantic Fleet was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, at the same time as the Pacific Fleet, as protection for new bases in the Caribbean acquired as a result of the Spanish–American War. The Fleet was a combination of the North Atlantic Fleet and the South Atlantic Squadron.
The first commander of the fleet was Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, who hoisted his flag in the battleship USS Maine (BB-10) on 1 January 1906. The following year, he took his 16 battleships, now dubbed the Great White Fleet, on a round-the-world cruise that lasted until 1909, a goodwill tour that also served the purpose of advertising the United States' naval strength and reach to all other nations of the globe.
In January 1913 the fleet consisted of six first-line divisions, a torpedo flotilla, submarines, and fleet auxiliaries. The fleet was under the command of Rear Admiral Hugo Osterhaus.
- The First Division, under Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, consisted of USS Florida (BB-30) (flag), USS Delaware (BB-28), and USS North Dakota (BB-29).
- The Second Division, under Rear Admiral Nathaniel R. Usher with his flag aboard the USS Vermont (BB-20), consisted of USS Louisiana (BB-19), USS Michigan (BB-27), USS New Hampshire (BB-25), and USS South Carolina (BB-26).
- The Third Division, under Rear Admiral Cameron McR. Winslow, comprised USS Virginia (BB-13) (flag), USS Georgia (BB-15), USS New Jersey (BB-16), USS Rhode Island (BB-17), and USS Nebraska (BB-14).
- The Fourth Division, under Rear Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, consisted of the USS Minnesota (BB-22), USS Connecticut (BB-18), USS Ohio (BB-12), USS Idaho (BB-24), and USS Kansas (BB-21). (See United States occupation of Veracruz).
- Fifth and Sixth Divisions were made up of protected cruisers, USS St. Louis (C-20), USS Tennessee (ACR-10), USS Washington (ACR-11), and USS Cleveland (C-19), USS Denver (CL-16), USS Des Moines (CL-17), and USS Tacoma (CL-20).
The Cruiser and Transport Force, under Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves served in Atlantic waters during World War I moving the American Expeditionary Forces to Europe. United States Battleship Division Nine joined the Grand Fleet in the UK.
The Atlantic Fleet was reorganized into the Scouting Force in 1923, which was under the United States Fleet along with the Pacific Fleet. In January 1939 the Atlantic Squadron, United States Fleet, was formed. The aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) was transferred to the Atlantic Ocean, to join three battleships. Vice Admiral Alfred Wilkinson Johnson commanded the squadron.
On 1 November 1940 the Atlantic Squadron was renamed the Patrol Force. The Patrol Force was organized into type commands: Battleships, Patrol Force; Cruisers, Patrol Force; Destroyers, Patrol Force; and, Train, Patrol Force (the logistics arms).
World War II
On 1 February 1941, the Atlantic Fleet was resurrected and organized from the Patrol Force. Along with the Pacific Fleet and Asiatic Fleet, the fleet was to be under the command of a full admiral, which jumped the fleet's commander Ernest J. King from a two-star to a four-star. King's flagship was USS Texas (BB-35).
Subsequently, the headquarters was in a rather odd assortment of ships; the USS Augusta (CA-31), then the old wooden ship USS Constellation, USS Vixen (PG-53), and then USS Pocono (AGC-16). In 1948, the HQ moved into the former naval hospital at Norfolk, Virginia, and has remained there ever since.
Composition of the Atlantic Fleet in December 1941
On 7 December 1941 the Fleet comprised eight separate components:
Battleships, Atlantic Fleet was made up of three Battleship Divisions
- Battleship Division 3
- Battleship Division 5
- Battleship Division 6
Of these, Battleship Division 5 was a training unit consisting of the oldest remaining battleships in service, while Division 6 was responsible for working up the two most recently commissioned battleships, North Carolina and Washington. The other components were Aircraft, Atlantic Fleet, which included Carrier Division Three; Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet (Cruiser Divisions 2, 7 and 8), Patrol Wings, Atlantic Fleet (Patrol Wings 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9); Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet, Submarines Atlantic Fleet; Train, Atlantic Fleet, and Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet (PHIBLANT, COMPHIBLANT). During World War II "Transports, Amphibious Force, Atlantic Fleet" was part of this command (ComTransPhibLant). Smaller units included the Antisubmarine Development Detachment, Atlantic Fleet (ASDEVLANT) located at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The detachment was responsible for the study and development of antisubmarine gear during World War II. The Commander of the detachment was known as COMASDEVLANT.
In addition, the aircraft carriers USS Yorktown and USS Long Island were directly attached to Aircraft, Atlantic Fleet, as was the newly commissioned USS Hornet.
Admiral King was appointed Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, on 20 December 1941. Rear Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll was designated, with the rank of vice 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. To carry out this mission and other tasks CinCLant had in the meantime 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. Task Force One was the Ocean Escort Force, TF2—Striking Force, TF3—Scouting Force, TF4—Support Force, TF5—Submarine Force, TF6—Naval Coastal Frontier Forces, TF7—Bermuda Force, TF8—Patrol Wings, TF9—Service Force, and
Task Force 10, 1st Marine Division (commanded by a Brigadier General).
On 1 January 1946, Commander Minesweeping Forces, Atlantic Fleet (ComMinLant) was activated to command minesweepers assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. The Commander, Mine Forces, Atlantic was responsible for all Fleet minecraft operations. Units under his command were divided into Minesweeping Squadrons (MineRon)s.
Between 1947 and 1985, the fleet command was a concurrent appointment with the United States Atlantic Command. The Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) was traditionally a navy four-star admiral who also then held the positions of Commander-in-Chief United States Atlantic Command (CINCLANT) and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic (SACLANT). But after a major reorganization of the U.S. armed forces structure following the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, CINCLANFLT was separated from the two other billets. The admiral commanding the Atlantic Fleet was designated as the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Command until 1986.
Major crises the Atlantic Fleet was involved in during the Cold War included the 1965 United States occupation of the Dominican Republic and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962.
The general purpose forces of the Army, Navy, and Air Force began to be reorganized in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis on 16 October 1962. The command organization, as finally developed, called for the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (CINCLANT), Admiral Robert Dennison, to provide the unified command. He also retained control of all naval components involved in tactical operations, as the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. The responsibility for Army and Air Force components was assigned to the Continental Army Command (CONARC) and the Tactical Air Command under the designation of Army Forces, Atlantic (ARLANT), and Air Forces, Atlantic (AFLANT). The commander of the Army XVIII Airborne Corps was designated Joint Task Force Commander to plan for any joint operations that might become necessary. Over-all direction was exercised by the President and the Secretary of Defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who named the Chief of Naval Operations as their representative for the quarantine.
Major elements of the Strategic Army Corps were designated for use by ARLANT and placed in advanced alert status. Logistic support for the more than 100,000 men involved was directed by a newly established Peninsula Base Command. Preparatory steps were taken to make possible the immediate callup of high priority Army National Guard and Army Reserve units. Tactical Air Command moved hundreds of tactical fighter, reconnaissance, and troop carrier aircraft to the southeast. To make room for all these units, the bombers, tankers, and other aircraft not required for the current operations were ordered to other bases in the United States.
From the late 1960s, nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the fleet began to make thousands of deterrent patrols. The first patrol in the Atlantic Fleet area of operations was made by USS George Washington (SSBN-598).
In 1972, Commander, Anti-Submarine Warfare Force, Atlantic Fleet (Task Force 81) was headquartered at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. Under ASWFORLANTFLT was Hunter-Killer Force, Atlantic Fleet (Task Force 83), with
Carrier Divisions 14 and
16 (Wasp and Intrepid, respectively), as well as the Quonset ASW Group (TG 81.2) with
National Security Archive's document collections.
Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic was formed on 1 July 1975, incorporating a number of previously separate smaller commands – mine warfare vessels/units, service vessels, and frigates, destroyers and cruisers, along with associated destroyer squadrons and cruiser/destroyer groups.
As part of a reorganization announced in July 1995 of the Atlantic Fleet's surface combatant ships into six core battle groups, nine destroyer squadrons, and a new Western Hemisphere Group, USS John Hancock (DD-981) was reassigned to
Destroyer Squadron 24. The re-organization was to be phased in over the summer and take effect 31 August 1995, with homeport shifts occurring through 1998. In September 1995 the following ship assignments were intended to apply at the end of the transitional period:
- Western Hemisphere Group (to be homeported at Naval Station Pascagoula and Naval Station Mayport): USS Ticonderoga (CG-47), USS Yorktown (CG-48), USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) (to move to Pascagoula in FY 98), USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG-49), Conolly, Scott, DDG-993, Moosebrugger, Dewert, McInerney, Boone, Doyle, Aubrey Fitch and Stark.
- Cruiser-Destroyer Group 2/Washington Battle Group: CGN-37, CG-60
- Carrier Group 2/Stennis Joint Task Group: USS San Jacinto (CG-56), USS Monterey (CG-61)
- Carrier Group 6/Kennedy/America Joint Task Group: USS Vicksburg (CG-69), USS Hué City (CG-66), and USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) until Gates was transferred to the Western Hemisphere Group
- Cruiser-Destroyer Group 8/Eisenhower Joint Task Group: USS Anzio (CG-68), USS Cape St. George (CG-71)
- Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12/Enterprise Joint Task Group: USS Philippine Sea (CG-58), USS Gettysburg (CG-64)
In February 2000, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command was established in Puerto Rico, and the Western Hemisphere Group became
Naval Surface Group 2.
On 1 October 2001, the Chief of Naval Operations designated Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) as concurrent Commander, Fleet Forces Command (CFFC). In October–November 2002, the title of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet was amended to Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMLANTFLT).
In the CNO Guidance for 2003, Admiral Vernon Clark stipulated that the terms Carrier Battle Group and Amphibious Readiness Group would be replaced by Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs), respectively, by March 2003. Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDESGRU) and Carrier Groups (CARGRU) were also redesignated, as Carrier Strike Groups (CSG), and aligned directly under the numbered fleet commanders. CARGRU and CRUDESGRU staffs were formerly under the administrative authority of their respective air and surface U.S. Navy type commands. This realignment allowed key operational leaders authority and direct access to the personnel required to more effectively accomplish the navy’s mission.
The numbered fleet commanders are now responsible for the training and certification of the entire Strike Group. The organizational structure to support the carrier strike groups focuses more on placing Strike Group commanders under the authority of the certifying officer, or the numbered fleet commander. Under this new division of responsibility, the air-side type commander gains authority over the air wing, and the surface-side type commander gains authority over the carrier itself and the rest of the ships of the battle group.
On 23 May 2006, the Chief of Naval Operations renamed COMLANTFLT to Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM or CUSFFC), ordered to carry out the missions currently performed by COMFLTFORCOM (CFFC) and serve as primary advocate for fleet personnel, training, requirements, maintenance, and operational issues, reporting administratively directly to the CNO as an Echelon 2 command. The previous title CFFC was disestablished at the same time. CUSFFC previously served as the Naval component of US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) until the disestablishment of USJFCOM in August 2011. CFFC is also assigned as the supporting service component commander to Commander, United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) as well as to Commander, United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).
Enterprise entered an ESRA in 2008, but the refit took longer than expected. Thus on 11 September 2009, it was announced that the carrier strike group deployment schedule would be changed to accommodate the delay in the return of the Enterprise from its current overhaul. This resulted in extending both Carrier Strike Group Eleven's 2009-2010 deployment and Carrier Strike Group Ten's 2010 deployment to eight months. Enterprise returned to Naval Station Norfolk on 19 April 2010 after completing its post-overhaul sea trials, signifying the beginning of its pre-deployment training cycle.
On 24 July 2009, Admiral John C. Harvey, Jr. relieved Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert as Commander.
News reports in July 2011 said that in connection with the disestablishment of the United States Second Fleet, Fleet Forces Command would take over Second Fleet's duties on 30 September 2011. Effectively this meant Task Force 20 (TF 20), under a deputy commander of the fleet, took over that mission. Task Force 20 was succeeded by Task Force 80 effective 1 October 2012, with TF-80 being under the command of the director of the Maritime Headquarters, Fleet Forces Command.
Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC), United States Naval Observatory (USNO), Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), Naval Oceanography Operations Command, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Professional Development Center, were all realigned under U.S. Navy Information Dominance Forces on 1 October 2014.
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan will align carrier strike groups to a 36-month training and deployment cycle. All required maintenance, training, evaluations, plus a single eight-month overseas deployment, are scheduled throughout this 36-month cycle in order to reduce costs while increasing overall fleet readiness. This new plan streamlined the inspection and evaluation process while maintaining a surge capacity for emergency deployments. The ultimate objective is to reduce time at sea while increasing in-port time from 49% to 68%. While initially to be used by U.S. Navy carrier strike groups, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan will be adopted for all fleet operations.
Accordingly, the carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) will be the first carrier to deploy under this new O-FRP cycle, replacing the previously-scheduled Eisenhower in the deployment lineup. Additionally, the Carrier Strike Group Eight command staff will deploy with the Truman while the Eisenhower will serve as the new flagship for Carrier Strike Group Ten.