The U.S. 7th Fleet was established March 15, 1943, when the Southwest Pacific Force was renamed. Today it is the largest forward-deployed U.S. fleet and its area of responsibility includes the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Commander U.S. 7th Fleet participated in several Pacific campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines during World War II as the naval component commander under Supreme Commander Southwest Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur. The Fleet’s name was changed to Naval Forces Western Pacific Jan. 1, 1947.
Just prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the force was designated as U.S. 7th Task Fleet. Feb. 11, 1950, the force assumed the name that it holds today -- United States 7th Fleet.
U.S. 7th Fleet units participated in every major operation of the Korean War. The first Navy jet aircraft used in combat was launched from a Task Force 77 carrier July 3, 1950, and the famous landings in Inchon, Korea, were conducted by 7th Fleet amphibious ships. The battleships Missouri, New Jersey, Iowa and Wisconsin all served as flagships for Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet during the Korean War.
During the Vietnam War, 7th Fleet engaged in combat operations against enemy forces through attack carrier air strikes, naval gunfire support, amphibious operations, patrol and reconnaissance operations and mine warfare. After the 1973 cease-fire, the Fleet conducted mine countermeasures operations in the coastal waterways of North Vietnam.
In response to the Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, President George Bush directed Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet to assume additional responsibilities as Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
The Fleet Commander departed Yokosuka, Japan, immediately for the Arabian Gulf and was joined by the remainder of his staff aboard his flagship, USS Blue Ridge, Sept. 1, 1990. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, COMUSNAVCENT exercised command and control of the largest U.S. Navy armada since World War II.
After a decisive allied victory in the Gulf, Commander U.S. 7th Fleet relinquished control of COMUSNAVCENT to Commander, Middle East Force April 24, 1991, and returned to Yokosuka, Japan, to continue duties as Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.
In 1994, 7th Fleet was assigned the additional responsibility as Commander, Combined Naval Component Command for the defense of South Korea. Subsequently, Commander, 7th Fleet was named one of three primary Joint Task Force Commanders responsible to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command.
In 1996, Commander, 7th Fleet planned and organized a deployment of forces in response to tensions in the Taiwan Strait. In 1998, 7th Fleet staff deployed on short notice to plan and prepare for the evacuation of American citizens from Indonesia.
Since 2001, 7th Fleet has taken an active role in the Global War on Terrorism by providing guidance, support and security to countries throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
After the devastating earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia -- and the resulting tsunamis -- ravaged much of Southeast Asia in December 2004, 7th Fleet units began providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to many countries during Operation Unified Assistance. That assistance included aid from the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19).
USNS Mercy returned to the region in 2006 and 2008, delivering care to almost 300,000 people in coordination with the militaries, governments and non-governmental organizations of host nations.
On March 11, 2011 within hours after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan. U.S. 7th Fleet mobilized 22 ships, 132 aircraft and more than 15,000 personnel to support the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) in the largest recovery effort in their history. The relief operation that followed was named Operation Tomodachi, after the Japanese word for “friend.”
In the days and weeks that followed, 7th Fleet forces delivered more than 260 tons of relief supplies to groups of isolated people ashore. They systematically mapped and aided in the clearance of three ports at Hachinohe, Miyako and Oshima/Kesennuma. They provided fuel and supplies to Japanese ships and aircraft. They carefully searched more than 2,000 square miles of ocean in a concerted effort to find the remains of victims. They ferried electrical utility crews and fuel to the isolated island of Oshima. They conducted more than 160 aerial reconnaissance flights, reviewing thousands of overhead images to search for survivors and help inform Japanese relief and recovery efforts. And they did all of this while contending with the challenges of radiological contamination from the Fukushima nuclear plant, and with the angst for their loved ones back in Yokosuka and Atsugi.
Engagement, a key 7th Fleet mission, continues to this day, with ships making more than 500 port visits to 25 countries every year.