United States Atlantic Fleet

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United States Atlantic Fleet
US Navy Ensign.gif
Ensign of the U.S. Navy
CountryUS Navy Ensign.gif United States
BranchAnimated Flag of the United States Navy.gif United States Navy
RoleOperational Naval Force
Size186 ships
118,000 personnel
1,300 aircraft
18 shore stations
Part ofUnited States Fleet (1922-46)‎
United States Atlantic Command (1947-93)
Fleet HQNaval Station Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
FirstRear-Admiral Robley D. Evans
LastAdmiral John B. Nathman

The United States Atlantic Fleet also known as the U.S. Atlantic Fleet was a fleet of the U.S. Navy formed in 1906 by combining the preceding North Atlantic Fleet and the South Atlantic Squadron. It was operational until 2006 when it was renamed to United States Fleet Forces Command.


Pre-World War I

The Atlantic Fleet was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, at the same time as the United States Pacific Fleet, as protection for new bases in the Caribbean acquired as a result of the Spanish-American War. The Fleet was formed by merging the North Atlantic Fleet and the South Atlantic Squadron into a single naval force for the entire Atlantic Ocean area.

The first commander of the fleet was Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, who hoisted his flag in the battleship USS Maine 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.

World War I

The Cruiser and Transport Force served in Atlantic waters during World War I moving the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. The United States Battleship Division Nine joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow in the UK where it was designated the 6th Battle Squadron.

Inter-War Period

In 1923 the Atlantic Fleet was reorganized and renamed as Scouting Force but now a component force of the United States Fleet along with the Pacific Fleet.

World War II

In January 1939 Scouting Force was re designated the Atlantic Squadron, United States Fleet.[1] The aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) was transferred to the Atlantic Ocean, to join three battleship's. 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).

On 1 February 1941, the Atlantic Fleet was resurrected and organized from the Patrol Force. Along with the Pacific Fleet and the United States 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 the battleship USS Texas.

Subsequently, the headquarters was in a rather odd assortment of ships; the USS Augusta, then the old wooden ship USS Constellation, USS Vixen, and then USS Pocono. In 1948, the HQ moved into the former naval hospital at Norfolk, Virginia, and has remained there ever since.

On 7 December 1941 the Fleet comprised eight separate components. Battleships, Atlantic Fleet was made up of Battleship Division Three USS New Mexico, USS Mississippi and USS Idaho and Battleship Division Five (a training division made up of the older battleships USS New York, USS Texas plus USS Arkansas. The other components were Aircraft, Atlantic Fleet, which included Carrier Division Three with USS Ranger and USS Wasp, and additionally Yorktown and USS Long Island; Cruisers, Atlantic Fleet, Patrol Wings, Atlantic Fleet Patrol Wing's 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9; Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet,[2] 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. Smaller units included the Antisubmarine Development Detachment, Atlantic Fleet 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.

"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.[3] 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)."

Post War Period

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 (MinRon)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 1985, 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.[4] and the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. From late 1960's, nuclear ballistic missile submarines of the fleet began to make thousands of deterrent patrols.Template:Citation needed The first patrol in the Atlantic Fleet area of operations was made by [USS George Washington SSBN.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic was formed on 1 July 1975, incorporating a number of previous separate smaller commands - mines, service, destroyers, etc.

2000 to abolition

On 1 October 2001, the Chief of Naval Operations designated Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) as concurrent Commander, Fleet Forces Command (COMFLTFORCOM or CFFC for short).

On 24 October 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the title of "Commander in Chief" be reserved solely for the President of the United States. In a message to Naval Commanders in Chief, the Chief of Naval Operations directed a change of title to that of "Commander." Accordingly, the title of Commander in Chief was discontinued and the title of Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMLANTFLT) was established. The title of Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet was therefore in continuous use from February 1941 through October 2002.

In the CNO Guidance for 2003, Admiral Vernon Clark stipulated that the terms Carrier Battle Groups (CVBG) and Amphibious Readiness Groups (ARG) would be replaced by Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs), respectively, by March 2003. The goal for this new initiative was to achieve more effectively produced naval capability in a more efficient organizational structure.

Under this initiative, Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDESGRU) and Carrier Groups (CARGRU) were designated 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 type commanders (TYCOM). This realignment allowed key operational leaders authority and direct access to the personnel required to more effectively accomplish the Navy’s mission. All carrier strike groups are ultimately subordinate to Fleet Forces Command.

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 the U.S. Atlantic Fleet to U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM), ordered to carry out the missions currently performed by COMFLTFORCOM 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.


On 2 December 2020 U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite announced that U.S. Fleet Forces Command will be renamed back to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, over increasing concerns about Russian Navy operating off the US East Coast, and that the new Atlantic command will “refocus” naval forces on controlling maritime approaches to United States and its allies.[5]

Fleet HQ

The title Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet was in common usage until late 1922 when the title Commander Scouting Force replaced it. Usage of the title Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, was resumed on 1 February 1941, when the United States Fleet was reorganized to form the US Atlantic, US Pacific and US Asiatic Fleets, each with a four-star commander-in-chief. The title was changed in 2002 to Commander US Atlantic Fleet.[6]

Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet (1906-23, 1941-2002)

  1. Rear-Admiral Robley Dunglison Evans, 1 January 1906 – May,1908.[6]
  2. Rear-Admiral Charles S. Sperry, May, 1908 – March, 1909.[6]
  3. Rear-Admiral Seaton Schroeder, March, 1909 – June, 1911.[6]
  4. Rear-Admiral Hugo Osterhaus, June, 1911 – January, 1913.[6]
  5. Rear-Admiral Charles J. Badger, January, 1913 – September, 1914.[6]
  6. Rear-Admiral Frank F. Fletcher, September, 1914 – June, 1916.[6]
  7. Admiral Henry T. Mayo, June, 1916 – June, 1919.[6]
  8. Admiral Henry B. Wilson, Jr., June, 1919 – June, 1921.[6]
  9. Admiral Hilary P. Jones, Jr., June, 1921 – December, 1922.[6]
  10. Admiral Ernest J. King, 1 February, 1941 – 30 December, 1941.[6]
  11. Admiral Royal E. Ingersoll, 30 December, 1941 – 15 November, 1944.[6]
  12. Admiral Jonas H. Ingram, 15 November, 1944 – 26 September, 1946.[6]
  13. Vice-Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, 26 September, 1946 – 3 February, 1947.[6]
  14. Admiral Lynde D. McCormick, August 1951 – April 1954.[6]
  15. Admiral Jerauld Wright, April 1954 – February 1960.[6]
  16. Admiral Robert L. Dennison, February 1960 – April 1963.[6]
  17. Admiral Harold P. Smith, April 1963 – April 1965.[6]
  18. Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, April 1965 – June 1967.[6]
  19. Admiral Ephraim P. Holmes, June 1967 – September 1970.[6]
  20. Admiral Charles K. Duncan, September 1970 – October 1972.[6]
  21. Admiral Ralph W. Cousins, October 1972 – May 1975.[6]
  22. Admiral Issac C. Kidd, Jr, May 1975 – September 1978.[6]
  23. Admiral Harry D. Train II, September 1978 – September 1982
  24. Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, September 1982 – October 1985.[6]
  25. Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, October 1985 – June 1986.[6]
  26. Admiral Frank B. Kelso, II, June 1986 – November 1988.[6]
  27. Admiral Powell F. Carter Jr. November 1988 – January 1991.[6]
  28. Admiral Paul David Miller, January 1991 – July 1992.[6]
  29. Admiral Henry H. Mauz Jr, July 1992 – October 1994.[6]
  30. Admiral William J. Flanagan Jr. October 1994 – December 1996.[6]
  31. Admiral J. Paul Reason, December 1996 – September 1999.[6]
  32. Admiral Vernon Clark, September 1999 – June 2000.[6]
  33. Admiral Robert J. Natter, June 2000 – 24 October 2002.[6]

Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (2002-06)

  1. Admiral Robert J. Natter, 24 October 2002 – 3 October 2003.[6]
  2. Admiral William J. Fallon, 3 October 2003 – 18 February 2005 .[6]
  3. Admiral John B. Nathman, 18 February 2005 – 22 May 2006.[6]

Components under this Command

Naval Forces (1907-22)

# Formation Period
1 1st Squadron, Pacific Fleet 1907-1911.[7]
2 2nd Squadron, Pacific Fleet 1907-1911.[7]
3 3rd Squadron, Pacific Fleet 1907-1911.[7]
4 4th Squadron, Pacific Fleet 1907-1911.[7]
5 Division 1, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1913.[7]
6 Division 2, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1913.[7]
7 Division 3, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1913.[7]
8 Division 4, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1913.[7]
9 Division 5, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1913.[7]
10 1st Division, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1917.[7]
11 2nd Division, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1917.[7]
12 3rd Division, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1917.[7]
13 4th Division, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1911.[7]
14 Atlantic Submarine Flotilla 1916.[7]
15 Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla 1914-1916.[7]
16 Battleship Squadron, Atlantic Fleet 1904-1907.[7]
17 Battleship Force, Atlantic Fleet 1917-1918.[7]
18 Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet 1915-1916.[7]
19 Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet 1917-1918.[7]
20 Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet 1917.[7]
21 Destroyer Flotilla 1, Atlantic Fleet 1919-1922.[7]
22 Destroyers Flotilla 3, Atlantic Fleet 1919-1922.[7]
23 Destroyers, Atlantic Fleet 1917.[7]
24 Mine Force, Atlantic Fleet 1917-1918.[7]
25 Reserve Fleet, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1916.[7]
26 Reserve Force, Atlantic Fleet 1917-1918.[7]
27 Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet 1914-1918.[7]
28 Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet 1911.[7]
29 Special Service Squadron, Atlantic Fleet 1911-1914.[7]

Naval Forces (1941-61)

# Formation Period
1 Amphibious Forces, Atlantic Fleet 1941-75.[8]
2 Amphibious Training Command, Atlantic Fleet 1942-58.[8]
3 Battleship Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet 1949-54.[8]
4 Battleship Division 2 1956-57.[8]
5 Cruiser Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet 1957-61.[8]
6 Cruiser Division Seven, Atlantic Fleet 1942-45.[8]
7 Cruiser Force, Atlantic Fleet 1939-44.[8]
8 Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet 1941-58.[8]
9 Fleet Air Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean 1952-55.[8]
10 Mideast Force 1951-56.[8]
11 Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet 1942-61.[8]
12 Naval Forces Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean 1942-58.[8]
13 Naval Forces Mediterranean 1943-48.[8]
14 Naval Forces Northwest African Waters 1943.[8]
15 Operational Development Force, Atlantic Fleet 1945-56.[8]
16 Service Force, Atlantic Fleet 1941-58.[8]
17 Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet 1941-42.[8]
18 Task Group 80.1 1945.[8]
19 Training Command, Atlantic Fleet 1943-59.[8]

Components Supporting this Command

The U.S. Shore Establishment is one of the three basic components of the U.S. Naval Establishment and included all of the activities of the Department of the Navy on shore. During World War II these were widely distributed throughout the United States and overseas. The mission of the Shore Establishment is to create, maintain, and support the Operating Forces. With the exception of certain facilities on land assigned to the Operating Forces that included the United States Atlantic Fleet, the responsibility for the creation and to a great extent the management control of the shore activities rested during World War II with the various Bureaus of the Navy Department, coordinated by the Chief of Naval Operations, and administered as the highest level by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

The principle of regional administration of the Navy's Shore Establishment goes back to the American Revolution. It received more explicit recognition during the Civil War when the Commandants of Navy Yards had to organize defense forces to pursue Confederate raiders appearing off the coast, and received further confirmation during the Spanish-American War in 1898. On 7 May 1905 the Naval District system was finally established, and consisted then of thirteen districts. Changes were made from time to time in the number of districts and in their boundaries. Overseas districts were added to fit into the pattern of national defense. Naval Districts would normally encompass a Naval Station these in turn would included Marine Barracks, Naval Hospital's Navy Yard's, Navy Operating Base's and so on.

Below are the Naval Districts that provided bases for and supported the United States Atlantic Fleet.

Naval Districts (1903-1980)

# Name Active
1. First Naval District 1903-76
2. Second Naval District 1903-19
3. Third Naval District 1903-76
4. Fourth Naval District 1903-80
5. Fifth Naval District 1903-80
6. Sixth Naval District 1903-80
7. Seventh Naval District 1903-76
8. Eighth Naval District 1903-19
9. Tenth Naval District 1903-80
10. Fifteenth Naval District 1903-75


  1. "U.S. Navy, Battleships, A Short History". Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  2. DesLant
  3. HyperWar, http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/Admin-Hist/USN-Admin/USN-Admin-4.html, accessed 6 June 2021
  4. Naval Historical Center, Caribbean Tempest: The Dominican Republic Intervention of 1965, accessed 6 June 2021.
  5. Ziezulewicz, Geoff (2 December 2020). "Navy bringing back US Atlantic Fleet". Navy Times. Sightline Media Group. Retrieved 6 June 2021.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 6.19 6.20 6.21 6.22 6.23 6.24 6.25 6.26 6.27 6.28 6.29 6.30 6.31 6.32 6.33 6.34 6.35 Library, The Navy Department. "Atlantic Command, Commander in Chief US". history.navy.mil/. Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 7.15 7.16 7.17 7.18 7.19 7.20 7.21 7.22 7.23 7.24 7.25 7.26 7.27 7.28 Watson, Dr Graham (7 November 2016). "THE UNITED STATES NAVY: ITS RISE TO GLOBAL PARITY 1900-1922". naval-history.net. Gordon Smith. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 8.18 Government, U.S. (15 August 2016). "Records of Naval Operating Forces:313.5 Records of Naval Operating Forces, World War II and Later 1931-63: 313.5.2 Records of the Atlantic Fleet". National Archives. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 6 June 2021.