Navy command marks 70th anniversary: Third Fleet was born during World War II

SAN DIEGO - Scores of people drive past it every day without a second look, but the scope of the Third Fleet Headquarters on Point Loma affects every sailor who goes to sea.

"Any ship that deploys to the Pacific, any aircraft that flies or submarines that submerges, is under the command of Third Fleet," said Lt. Lenaya Rotklein, a spokesperson for Third Fleet Headquarters.

The area under its control is enormous from the West Coast to the International Dateline.

Naval historian Robert Cressman said with so many ships and task forces in the Pacific during World War II, there was a need for a unified command.

"Headquarters were located in Hawaii under the command of Adm. William 'Bull' Halsey," Cressman said.

It was Halsey, along with Adm. Chester Nimitz, who greeted Gen. Douglas MacArthur on board the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the ceremony to end the war with Japan.

In the atrium of Third Fleet Headquarters is a framed picture of Halsey at the signing ceremony as well as the plaque commemorating the event on the Missouri.

After the war, Third Fleet command was put in reserve but was resurrected in 1973. In 1986, it was actually assigned to the amphibious ship USS Coronado which later was home ported to San Diego as a floating command ship.  

That concept was later scrapped as the headquarters moved to its current facility atop Point Loma. Friday will mark the official 70-year anniversary.

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