THE U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK
U.S. NAVY'S SIXTH FLEET
|Below are some historic details pertaining to the U.S.
Navy's Sixth Fleet
and to the participation of the
U.S.S. Little Rock CLG-4 as its Flagship.
U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet Today
Since 2004 the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet has been an operational unit of U.S. Naval Forces Europe. Since that time the staff has operated as a single entity with a four star commander, COMNAVEUR, and a three star Deputy Commander/Chief of Staff who also carries the title COMSIXTHFLT. The staff as a whole is known as COMNAVEUR-COMSIXTHFLT (or CNE-C6F) presently working from its Capodichino site facilities at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy. The Sixth Fleet flagship (currently USS Mount Whitney) is home-ported Gaeta, Italy.
All U.S. Naval forces entering the Mediterranean Sea are assigned ("chopped") to Sixth Fleet. The Sixth Fleet has consisted of up to 40 ships, 175 aircraft and 21,000 people, such as in early 2003, when two carrier battlegroups operated in the Mediterranean in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since 2005, Sixth Fleet ships have increasingly been operating around Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.
(The above was extracted in part from Wikipedia.)
A brief history of the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet
Since the early 19th century, when U.S. naval forces first engaged the Barbary Pirates to prevent them from interfering with commercial shipping, the United States has maintained a naval presence in the Mediterranean . The earliest squadron was generally known as the Mediterranean Squadron, and was also known as the Mediterranean Station.
In the years following World War I, ships of the United States Mediterranean Squadron helped maintain peace among the countries of the Balkans and the Middle East.
During World War II U.S. Naval forces in the Mediterranean supported landings in North Africa (the Nov 42), in Sicily (Jul and Aug 43), and Anzio (Jan 44). On 05 Aug 44 U. S. naval forces landed U. S. armies in Southern France. The performance of U. S. naval forces in the Mediterranean contributed significantly to victory in Europe. In the spring and summer of 1945 U.S. naval activities in the Mediterranean were reduced as liberated ports were returned to their national authorities. A small postwar fleet of U.S. Navy ships, known as Naval Forces, Mediterranean, commanded by Vice Admiral Bernhard H. Bieri, USN, remained in the Mediterranean to protect American interests and to support United States policies in the area.
In 1946 President Truman dispatched the battleship Missouri to the Eastern Mediterranean to counter Soviet threats to Turkey and Iran. At that time the small U.S. fleet had as its flagship the USS Shenandoah AD-26, a destroyer tender, which was anchored at Naples, Italy. The cruiser USS Dayton CL-105 relieved the Shenandoah as flagship and began operating with the fleet on 07 Aug 1947. The title of Naval Forces Mediterranean was changed to Commander Sixth Task Fleet on 01 Jun 48 and then, on 12 Feb 1950 to Commander Sixth Fleet.
Throughout its history the Sixth Fleet has been part of a number of higher commands. See a brief recap of these commands below.
Click HERE to read an alternate Sixth Fleet History summary published as part of a USS Little Rock brochure in the 1970's.
U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet Flagships
The data contained in the following chart is derived from a large number of sources. Much of the information shown, while accurate in content, is questionable as far as accuracy. If you have any verifiable data that can add to the accuracy of, or correct data in the table, please send it to the Webmaster.
In the early history of the United States squadrons of deployed naval ships were not named. The first officially named squadron in the Mediterranean was the "Mediterranean Squadron", later referred to as the "European Squadron". After WWII, U.S. naval ships deployed in the Mediterranean were considered part of "Naval Forces Mediterranean", later called the "Sixth Task Fleet". Beginning in 1950 deployed U.S. naval ships were considered to be part of the "Sixth Fleet".
The use of a (?) in a date indicates that the exact day, or month, or year shown is in question. The "Start Date" and "End Date" columns indicate the beginning date and the ending date for a particular ship's deployment as Flagship.
Ships that have had a large number of deployments as a Flagship are shown with a colored background to help identify them within the list.
Commanders of what is commonly referred to as the "Sixth Fleet"
(Also known at various times as the "Mediterranean Squadron", the "European Station",
the "European Squadron", "Naval Forces, Mediterranean", and the "Sixth Task Fleet".)
Operations Involving the Sixth Fleet
(Some of these are links to other websites)
Operation Blue Bat in Lebanon 15 Jul 58
USS Liberty Incident 08-09 Jun 67
Operation Eagle Claw 24 Apr 80
Operation El Dorado Canyon 15 Apr 86
Operation Praying Mantis 18 Apr 88
Operation Shining Hope Apr 99
Operation Allied Force Mar - Jun 99
Operation Joint Guardian 1999 - ongoing
SIXTH FLEET COMMAND BASIC OVERVIEW
Since leaving Villefranche-sur-Mer, France in 1967, the U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship has been stationed in Gaeta, Italy. The Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea encompasses task forces, battle groups, amphibious forces, support ships, land-based surveillance aircraft, and submarines. Its role has been important since the early 19th century to the U.S. Navy's commitment to forward presence.
As homeport to the Sixth Fleet flagship, Gaeta hosts the staff of USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC20) as well as U.S. Naval Support Activity, Gaeta. However, Gaeta's relationship with the U.S. Navy did not start in 1967. Long before the USS Little Rock sailed into Gaeta's harbor, Pope Pius IX and Ferdinand II, King of the two Kingdoms of Sicily, paid visit to the USS Constitution in 1849. Eight flagships later, the ties between the Italian and American communities have strengthened as Americans come to Gaeta eager to experience a new culture and make new friends.
The current Sixth Fleet flagship, the USS MOUNT WHITNEY, provides command ship facilities and support to Commander, Naval Forces Europe (CNE) / Commander, Sixth Fleet (COMSIXTHFLT), and his embarked staff. With the ability and space available to embark a Joint Task Force staff when necessary, USS MOUNT WHITNEY greatly increases the flexibility of the U.S. Sixth Fleet commander and his staff. Additionally, MOUNT WHITNEY has been outfitted with state-of-the-art command, control, and communications electronic equipment. Any operation or exercise involving sea, air, land, and amphibious forces can be controlled and directed from the flagship while at sea or in port, which further increases the U.S. Sixth Fleet's capability to respond to crisis or contingency operations.
The present make-up of the 6th Fleet
Sixth Fleet currently consists of approximately 40 ships, 175 aircraft and 21,000 people. The Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean is the major operational component of Naval Forces Europe. The principal striking power of the Sixth Fleet resides in its aircraft carriers and their modern jet aircraft, its submarines, and its reinforced battalion of US Marines on board amphibious ships deployed in the Mediterranean.
Commander, Sixth Fleet has both US national and NATO responsibilities. He reports to the Commander-In-Chief, US Naval Forces, Europe (CinCUSNavEur) in the US chain of command and to CinCSouth when the Sixth Fleet operates as part of NATO as StrikForSouth.
CinC Naval Forces Europe, based in London, is responsible for US naval operations in the European area, and also holds the NATO position of CinC Allied Forces Southern Europe, responsible to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. The CINC Naval Forces Europe does not have administrative responsibilities for support of US naval forces in Europe, which are under the cognizance of CINC Atlantic Fleet.
The United States Sixth Fleet is operationally organized into task forces. Each task force is responsible to the Sixth Fleet Commander for specific functions related to assigned units. The Sixth Fleet Command Ship is forward deployed to Gaeta, Italy.
Area of Operations: Mediterranean Sea
Headquarters: Naples, Italy
The Sixth Fleet Task Forces
Task Force 60:
Task Force 60 is Sixth Fleet's Battle Force. It is composed of one or more aircraft carriers, each with an accompanying complement of approximately six cruisers and destroyers. On board the aircraft carrier is an air wing of 65 - 85 aircraft. The air wing is the primary striking arm of the Battle Force, and includes attack, fighter, anti-submarine, and reconnaissance aircraft. Ships accompanying the carrier serve as defensive and offensive platforms with duties involving anti-air, surface and submarine warfare. In addition to its major role of controlling the seas, the Battle Force can also project its power over land.
Task Force 61:
Task Force 61 is the Mediterranean Amphibious Ready Group (MARG). It is composed of approximately three amphibious ships and their embarked landing craft. From these ships, United States Marine ground forces can move ashore by sea and air in amphibious assault of emergency evacuation missions. Once ashore, the ships of Task Force 61 logistically support the ground forces, until the objective of the landing has been accomplished, and the Marine Forces return to the ships.
Task Force 62:
Task Force 62 is the combat-ready ground force composed of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) of approximately 1,800 Marines. Transported in Task Force 61 ships, the MEU is equipped with armor, artillery, and transport helicopters that enable it to conduct operations ashore, or evacuate civilians from troubled areas.
Task Force 63:
Task Force 63 is the Logistics Force. Composed of oilers, provision ships, and repair ships, its mission is the delivery of supplies at sea, and effecting repairs to other ships and equipment of the Fleet.
Task Force 64:
Task Force 64 was the SSBN Force assigned to COMSIXTHFL. Until the end of the 1970th these ships were homeported in Rota, Spain.
In times of war the COMSIXTHFL had not had direct influence on the selection of the targets that would have been attacked by the SSBNs. These targets were annually chosen by the NATO's Nuclear Target Planning Group.
Task Force 66 / 69:
Task Force 66 / 69 is responsible for planning and coordinating area submarine and anti-submarine warfare operations in the Mediterranean. Specifically, Task Force 69 is composed of attack submarines that provide capability to destroy enemy surface ships and submarines, as well as protect other Sixth Fleet ships from attack.
Task Force 67:
Task Force 67 is composed of land-based maritime patrol aircraft. These aircraft operate over the waters of the Mediterranean in anti- submarine, reconnaissance, surveillance, and mining roles.
• The earliest formal presence of the US Navy was the Mediterranean Squadron,
• which became the European Squadron following the American Civil War
• In 1906 ships operating in the Mediterranean were part of the North Atlantic Fleet (Squadron).
• In 1917, the title changed to United States Naval Forces Operating in European Waters
• In 1922, Naval Forces, Europe (NAVEUR) was established.
• Nov 1946, NAVEUR became Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean COMNELM.
• In Apr 1947 COMNELM changed to Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM).
• Jun 1951 CINCNELM joins with Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH) and headquarters moves from London to Naples.
• Jun 1952, the two commands were separated. CINCNELM Headquarters returned to London and CINCSOUTH remained in Naples
• Sep 1958 CINCNELM adds U.S. Commander Eastern Atlantic (USCOMEASTLANT).
• Feb 1960 title changes to Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR). (CINCNELM title is retained for command in the Middle East. CINCNELM is then disestablished on 01 Feb 1964.)
• During most of the intervening years, CINCUSNAVEUR has exercised direct command over four subordinate commanders:
Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet (COMSIXTHFLT)
Commander, Fleet Air Mediterranean (COMFAIRMED)
Commander, Middle East Force (COMIDEASTFOR)
Commander, U.S. Naval Activities, United Kingdom (COMNAVACT UK).
• CINCSOUTH and CINCUSNAVEUR are joined on 01 Jan 1983.
• In 2002, the command changed its name to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (COMUSNAVEUR).
• Mar 15, 2004, NATO’s Joint Force Command (COMJFC) Naples is activated. COMUSNAVEUR continues to be dual-hatted as COMJFC Naples.
• Aug 2005 COMUSNAVEUR headquarters completed its relocation to Naples, Italy from London.
|The following is a Sixth Fleet History
summary published a part of a USS Little Rock brochure in the 1970's:
Warships of the United States Navy have cruised the Mediterranean Sea since the early nineteenth century. Beginning with the war with Tripoli in 1801, and almost continuously since 1886, American sea power has operated in this area of more than one million square miles which the ancient people called "the center of the earth."
In the unsettled years immediately following World War I, ships of the United States Mediterranean Squadron helped maintain peace among the countries of the Balkans and the Middle East.
In World War II, the Mediterranean again played an important part in U.S. plans. U.S. naval forces supported the November 1942 landing in North Africa, the Sicilian landings of July and August, 1943, and the Anzio landings of January, 1944. On August 5,1944, powerful U.S. naval forces landed U. S. armies in Southern France as a sequel to the Allied landings in Normandy. The performance of U.S. naval forces in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Theaters played a decisive part in the victory of the Allied nations in Europe.
In the spring of 1945, U.S. naval strength in the Mediterranean was reduced, but small detachments were maintained in Italy to support the U.S. Army, to assist U.S. merchant shipping, and to continue representation on the Allied Commission for Italy.
The summer of 1945 saw U.S. naval activities in the Mediterranean further reduced. Liberated ports were rapidly returned to national authorities and some ships of the Mediterranean Fleet were redeployed to the Pacific. But the end of World War II found the United States Navy continuing to maintain a few ships in the strategic Mediterranean to protect American interests and to support United States policies in the area.
This small postwar fleet, known as Naval Forces, Mediterranean, was commanded by Vice Admiral Bernhard H. Bieri, USN. The flagship, a destroyer tender anchored at Naples, did not operate with the Fleet at sea, but stayed in Naples. On August 7, 1947, the cruiser USS DAYTON relieved the tender SHENANDOAH and became the first postwar Mediterranean Fleet Flagship actually to operate at sea. Cruisers have served as the Fleet Flagship since that time.
On June 1, 1948, the title of Commander Naval Forces, Mediterranean was changed to Commander Sixth Task Fleet, and on February 12, 1950, this title was simplified to Commander Sixth Fleet. Commanders of the Fleet succeeding Vice Admiral Bieri have been Vice Admirals Forrest Sherman, John J. Ballentine, Matthias B. Gardner, John J. Cassady, Thomas S. Combs, Ralph A. Ofstie, Harry D. Felt, Charles R. Brown, Clarence E. Ekstrom, George W. Anderson, Jr., David L. McDonald, William E. Gentner, Jr., William E. Ellis, and Frederick L. Ash worth. Vice Admiral William I. Martin took command on April 10, 1967.
The Sixth Fleet has played a significant role during many periods of extreme tension in the Mediterranean. Most noteworthy were the evacuation of U. S. citizens and other foreign nationals from Israel and Egypt during the Suez crisis of October 1956, and the landing of Sixth Fleet Marines in Lebanon in July, 1958, at the request of the government of that nation.
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Robert "Bob" Moody USMC 1951-1954 / Flag Marine 1952-1953 USS SALEM CA-139, USS NEWPORT NEWS CA-148, USS DES MOINES CA-134