U.S. Navy – Three fleets to be created in emergency (1-8-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 8, 1941)

Rear Admiral Kimmel new Commander-in-Chief in sweeping changes
Washington, Jan. 8 –
President Roosevelt today created three separate American fleets, changed the Navy High Command and ordered every U.S. warship to be manned at full wartime strength.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who announced the reorganization and the addition of 40,000 more enlisted men, said that it was a “rearrangement to fit the facts.”

Effective Feb. 1, there will be an Atlantic Fleet, a Pacific Fleet and an Asiatic Fleet. Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet will be Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel. He also will become Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. The present Commander-in-Chief, Admiral James O. Richardson, will report to Secretary Knox for a new assignment. The Asiatic Fleet will continue under command of Admiral Thomas C. Hart and the new Atlantic Fleet, heretofore known as the Atlantic Patrol Force and comprising about 125 warships, will be under the command of Rear Admiral Ernest J. King.

The additional authorization of enlisted naval personnel raises that force from 192,000 to 232,000 men.

Secretary Knox expressed as his own personal opinion that the Navy should not transfer more destroyers to Great Britain.

I don’t think that any more destroyers can be detached from our fleet without seriously impairing its efficiency.

Great Britain already has received 50 U.S. destroyers in return for leases of British bases in the Atlantic.

Secretary Knox also said that he will soon ask Congress for authorization to construct 280 auxiliary vessels for the Navy.

We gradually have been enlarging our Atlantic Fleet and it has assumed the dignity which warrants setting it up as a separate fleet.

He said no change in the size of the Atlantic Fleet is contemplated now. Its force now is composed of about 125 ships.

Mr. Knox said the reorganization, so far as can be determined now, will have no effect upon plans to hold customary fleet maneuvers in the Pacific next spring.

The increase in enlisted strength also applies to reserves, Mr. Knox said that as the fleet grows, further increases will be made.

The Navy went down the line in its chief fighting units to shake up the command of each. A number of Rear Admirals were shifted.

The following changes were announced:

  • To be Commander of the Scouting Force, Pacific Fleet – Rear Admiral Wilson Brown, present superintendent of the Naval Academy, to succeed Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews, who was assigned to command the Third Naval District in New York.

Battleship Division 4

  • Commander of Battleships, Battle Force, and BatDiv 4 – Rear Admiral Walter S. Anderson, present director of Naval Intelligence, to succeed Vice Admiral William S. Pye, who will be assigned to duty with the general board.

  • Commander of Cruisers in the Battle Force – Rear Admiral Herbert F. Leary, present director of fleet training, to succeed Rear Admiral Kimmel.

  • Commander of Cruisers of the Scouting Force – Rear Admiral John H. Newton, present commander of Cruiser Division 5, to succeed Rear Admiral Gilbert J. Rowcliff, who was assigned to the general board.

  • Commander of BatDiv 1 – Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, present Chief of Staff, and aide to the Commander to Battleships, to succeed Rear Admiral Russell Willson, who becomes the new superintendent of the Naval Academy.

  • Commander of BatDiv 2 – Rear Admiral David W. Bagley, present commandant of the Mare Island, Calif., Navy Yard, to succeed Rear Admiral Walter N. Vernou, who becomes president of the Pacific Coast Board of Inspection and Survey at Long Beach, Calif. Rear Admiral Vernou will succeed Rear Admiral Sinclair Gannon, who retires April 1.

  • Commander of Cruiser Division 5 – Rear Admiral Sherwoode A. Taffinder, present Chief of Staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet, to succeed Rear Admiral Newton.

  • As the new commandant of the New York Naval District, Vice Admiral Andrews will succeed Rear Admiral Clark H. Woodward, who retires April 1.

Kimmel Becomes Admiral

Mr. Knox announced that about Jan. 18, the Command of Submarines in the Scouting Force will be given to Captain Thomas Withers, present head of the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, R.I. He will succeed Rear Admiral Wilhelm L. Friedell, who will report late in February to take over the Mare Island Navy Yard.

Mr. Knox said that in naming one of the three new Commanders-in-Chief as Commander-in-Chief of the entire fleet, he did so “in the interests of uniformity and efficiency.”

Rear Admiral Kimmel, who will assume the rank of Admiral, will “prescribe standards and methods of training, not only for all three fleets, but also for all other seagoing forces of the Navy,” Mr. Knox said.

When two or more fleets are concentrated, or when they operate in conjunction with each other, the Commander-in-Chief will be responsible for joint operations.


Berlin, Jan. 8 (UP) –
Reorganization of the United States Navy was described as “most interesting” by authorized German quarters today. Further comment was withheld pending receipt of additional information on creation of a United States Atlantic Fleet.

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I didn’t ask for the job


The Pittsburgh Press (January 9, 1941)

Echo in Congress –
Expansion of Asiatic naval unit is hinted
Washington, Jan. 9 (UP) –
Responsible Congressional sources suggested today that President Roosevelt ordered a reorganization of the United States Fleet to re-emphasize the “big stick” policy this country has adopted toward Japan.

One prominent member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, who declined to be quoted, interpreted the reorganization as “an effort to scare Japan.”

Establishment of three powerful fleets – the Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic – was described by the Navy Department as “routine.” But in other quarters it was said the move was designed to assure efficiency in setting up a two-ocean navy and let Japan know that an expansion is likely in our Asiatic unit.

50 Vessels in Far East

The Navy declined to reveal the present strength of the Far Eastern force, known in the past as the Asiatic Squadron. The fact that it now receives the title of the Atlantic Fleet indicates that its strength has been increased and that further additions will be made as new warships are commissioned. Last available figures showed that the squadron consisted of approximately 50 vessels of all types.

Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, who explained he had been directed by Mr. Roosevelt to undertake the fleet shakeup “to fit the facts,” said no increase is planned at this time in the strength of any of the three newly-organized units.

At the same time, it was disclosed that the United States and Australia, which have been conducting talks for mutual defense in the Pacific, are exchanging naval attaches.

A Singapore Base?

The U.S.-Australian exchange was interpreted as indicating that protracted conversations between the governments have resulted in agreement on a basis for mutual defense.

The Australian attaché is Commander Henry Mackay Burrell, former director of plans for the ANZAC Navy, who will arrive shortly. The name of the American representative, who is reported en route to Canberra, was not available.

The development refocused attention on recurring reports that the United States and Great Britain, in collaboration with Australia and New Zealand, are perfecting an arrangement under which the American fleet would use the great British naval base at Singapore in an emergency. The base dominates the path Japan would take if it attempted invasion of British and Dutch possessions in the Southern Pacific.

‘War Step,’ Says Wheeler

Most members of Congress regarded the new setup as a national defense move undertaken strictly between the Chief Executive and the Navy. They termed themselves “amateurs” and said they had faith in “the accuracy of judgment of the naval command.”

Senator Millard Tydings (D-MD), ranking Democratic member of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, said:

The change looks like a routine.

The decision to create an Asiatic Fleet, Senator Burton K. Wheeler (D-MT) said, could only be for the purpose of “protecting British possessions in Asia, India and the South Pacific.” He thought it was evidence of “our increasing belligerent attitude and another step toward entry into the European War.”

Rep. Colgate W. Darden Jr. (D-VA), leading member of the House Committee, said that the formation of an Atlantic Fleet, heretofore known as the Atlantic Patrol Force, was “recognition of the needs that naval units in the Atlantic and Pacific should operate as separate fleets coordinated but independently operated.” Approximately 125 vessels now make up the Atlantic unit.

Under the three-fleet system, with a Commander-in-Chief for each, the United States will be in a position to put a co-ordinated force in action in either the Atlantic or the Pacific.

Each warship will be manned at 100% wartime strength under an order by the President expanding the enlisted personnel from 192,000 to 232,000 men. Mr. Knox said that as new vessels leave shipyards, additional increases will be made in the enlisted strength.

Kimmel New Commander

The Supreme Commander of the new U.S. Fleet, answerable only to the President, Secretary Knox and the Chief of Naval Operations, will be 58-year-old Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, a hard-boiled native of Henderson, Ky. It will be his job, Mr. Knox said, to coordinate the activities of the three fleets when all are operating together. In addition, Admiral Kimmel will hold the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet, the main unit in the new organization.

Admiral Kimmel succeeds Admiral James O. Richardson – “Uncle Jo” to his friends – who was ordered to report to Secretary Knox for undisclosed duty. Admiral Richardson has been Commander-in-Chief of the entire fleet only a year – an unusually short time for the post.

Command of the Atlantic Fleet went to Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, who had been in charge of the old patrol force, and command of the Asiatic Fleet remains in the hands of Admiral Thomas C. Hart. The reorganization takes effect Feb. 1.

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The Pittsburgh Press (January 11, 1941)

New Chief Speaks –
Commander-in-Chief is able war strategist
Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 11 (UP) –
Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, 59-year-old naval strategist who will become Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Fleet Feb. 1, said today he would strive to increase the effectiveness of the fleet and make it ready to support “immediately” the national policies of the United States.

Declining to discuss specific problems of the Navy, Rear Admiral Kimmel said his appointment as CINCUS by President Roosevelt to succeed Admiral James O. Richardson came as a surprise.

He said:

The United States Fleet is being expanded rapidly to its full strength. We are getting new ships and officers and men to man them.

The creation of two fleets, one for the Atlantic Ocean and one for the Pacific recently affected by presidential order, is indicative of the growing size of the Navy.

Rear Admiral Kimmel, a native of Kentucky, automatically will become a full admiral when his appointment becomes effective. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1900 and is regarded among fellow officers as an astute strategist.

He was sent to Britain in 1917 as an observer of the British Grand Fleet, and later became a squadron gunnery officer, a position he held until the end of the war. He spent two years as commander of the Destroyer Division of the Asiatic Fleet.

Presently he is commander of heavy cruisers aboard the flagship Honolulu, which has been maneuvering with the remainder of the fleet in Hawaiian waters since last April.

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