Combined Fleet

Combined Fleet (聯合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) was the main ocean-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Until 1933, Combined Fleet was not a permanent organization, but a temporary force formed for the duration of a conflict or major naval maneuvers from various units normally under separate commands in peacetime.

For the "Carrier Striking Task Force", see Kido Butai.
聯合艦隊
Rengo Kantai
Combined Fleet
(Imperial Japanese Navy)
Active1894–1945
Country Empire of Japan
Allegiance Emperor of Japan
Branch Imperial Japanese Navy
TypeSea-going component of Imperial Japanese Navy
EngagementsFirst Sino-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
World War I
Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Isoroku Yamamoto
Tōgō Heihachirō
Hiroyasu Fushimi
and many others
Insignia
Identification
symbol

Imperial Seal of Japan and Seal of the Imperial Japanese Navy

History

Sino-Japanese War (1894–95)

Combined Fleet was formally created for the first time on 18 July 1894 by the merger of the Standing Fleet and the Western Fleet. The Standing Fleet (also known as the Readiness Fleet) contained the navy's most modern and combat-capable warships. The Western Fleet was a reserve force consisting primarily of obsolete ships deemed unsuitable for front-line combat operations, but still suitable for commerce protection and coastal defense. Vice-admiral Itō Sukeyuki was appointed the first Commander-in-Chief of Combined Fleet[1] for the duration of the first Sino-Japanese War against China.

Russo-Japanese War (1904–05)

Combined Fleet was re-formed during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 to provide a unified overall command for the three separate fleets in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The IJN 1st Fleet was the main battleship force, which formed the backbone of the navy and was intended to be used in a traditional line-of-battle showdown with an equivalent enemy battleship fleet (kantai kessen). The IJN 2nd Fleet was a fast, mobile strike force with armored cruisers and protected cruisers. The IJN 3rd Fleet was primarily a reserve fleet of obsolete vessels considered too weak for front-line combat service, but which could still be used in the operation to blockade Port Arthur. Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō was commander-in-chief of Combined Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War.

Interwar years

Combined Fleet was not maintained as a permanent organization, but was temporarily created when necessary during fleet maneuvers or when called for by extraordinary circumstances. Thus, during the period from 1905–1924, Combined Fleet was created only sporadically as the occasion or circumstances dictated, and disbanded immediately afterwards.

In 1924, the Imperial Japanese Navy declared in an edict on fleet organization that "for the time being" Combined Fleet would be a standing organization consisting of the IJN 1st Fleet and IJN 2nd Fleet. As this was not intended to be "permanent" and since the commander of IJN 1st Fleet concurrently directed Combined Fleet, Combined Fleet was not given a Headquarters staff of its own.

From 1933, with the Manchurian Incident and the increasing tension with China, a permanent HQ staff for Combined Fleet was established. By the late 1930s, it included most of Japan's warships—only the base units, the Special Naval Landing Forces, and the China Area Fleet lay outside Combined Fleet.

World War II

Combined Fleet came under direct command of the Imperial General Headquarters in 1937. With the start of the Pacific War with the attack on Pearl Harbor carried out by Combined Fleet's Kido Butai (1st Air Fleet), Combined Fleet became almost synonymous with the Imperial Japanese Navy. It comprised the battleships, aircraft carriers, aircraft, and the components that made up the main fighting strength of the IJN. It was first mobilized on the whole for the Battle of Midway. After the devastating carrier losses at Midway and in the Solomon Islands campaign, the navy re-organized into a number of "Area Fleets" for local operational control of various geographic zones. Combined Fleet then evolved into more of an administrative organization.

As the war situation deteriorated for the Japanese and the territories controlled by the "Area Fleets" fell one after another to the United States Navy, the Imperial General Headquarters and the Imperial Japanese Navy General Staff acted to force the American fleet into a "decisive battle" in the Philippines per the kantai kessen philosophy. In the resultant Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf the Japanese fleet was severely depleted. The remnants of Combined Fleet fled to Okinawa, but further operations were hindered by lack of fuel and air cover. By the time of the final suicide mission of the battleship Yamato in Operation Ten-Go, Combined Fleet had ceased to exist as an effective combat force.

Commanders of the Combined Fleet

1st Creation (Sino-Japanese War)

Note: Both Commanders-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet also exercised direct command over the Standing Fleet

Commander-in-ChiefDatesPrevious PostNext PostNotes
1Vice-Admiral
Itō Sukeyuki
伊藤雋吉
18 July
1894
11 May
1895
Commander-in-chief
Standing Fleet
Chairman
Navy General Staff
2Vice-Admiral
Arichi Shinanojō
有地品之允
11 May
1895
16 November
1895
Commander-in-chief
Kure Naval District
Reserved

2nd Creation (Russo-Japanese War)

Note: All Commanders-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet also exercised direct command over the 1st Fleet from Tōgō Heihachirō until Yamamoto Isoroku.
Direct command over the 1st Fleet was separated and passed to Takasu Shirō on 11 August 1941 while Admiral Yamamoto retained command of the Combined Fleet as a whole.

Commander-in-ChiefDatesPrevious PostNext PostNotes
3Vice-Admiral
Tōgō Heihachirō
東郷平八郎
28 December
1903
20 December
1905
Commander-in-chief
Standing Fleet
Chairman
Navy General Staff
Promoted to Admiral 6 June 1904

Temporary Creations (1908-1921)

Commander-in-ChiefDatesPrevious PostNext PostNotes
4Vice-Admiral
Ijūin Gorō
伊集院五郎
8 October
1908
20 November
1908
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet
5Vice-Admiral
Yoshimatsu Shigetarō
吉松茂太郎
1 November
1915
13 December
1915
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet
1 September
1916
14 October
1916
Admiral1 October
1917
22 October
1917
6Admiral
Yamashita Gentarō
山下源太郎
1 September
1918
15 October
1918
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet
1 June
1919
28 October
1919
7Admiral
Yamaya Tanin
山屋他人
1 May
1920
24 August
1920
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
8Admiral
Tochinai Sojirō
栃内曽次郎
24 August
1920
31 October
1920
Vice-Minister of the NavyCommander-in-chief
1st Fleet
1 May
1921
31 October
1921
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet

3rd Creation (1922-1945)

Commander-in-ChiefDatesPrevious PostNext PostNotes
9Vice-Admiral
Takeshita Isamu
竹下勇
1 December
1922
27 January
1924
Commander-in-chief
1st Fleet
Commander-in-chief
Kure Naval District
Promoted to Admiral 3 August 1923
10Admiral
Suzuki Kantarō
鈴木貫太郎
27 January
1924
1 December
1924
Commander-in-chief
Kure Naval District
Naval Councilor
11Admiral
Okada Keisuke
岡田啓介
1 December
1924
10 December
1926
Naval CouncilorCommander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
12Vice-Admiral
Katō Hiroharu
加藤寛治
10 December
1926
10 December
1928
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Naval CouncilorPromoted to Admiral 1 April 1927
13Admiral
Taniguchi Naomi
谷口尚真
10 December
1928
11 November
1929
Commander-in-chief
Kure Naval District
Commander-in-chief
Kure Naval District
14Vice-Admiral
Yamamoto Eisuke
山本英輔
11 November
1929
1 December
1931
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Naval CouncilorPromoted to Admiral 1 March 1931
15Vice-Admiral
Kobayashi Seizō
小林躋造
1 December
1931
15 November
1933
Vice-Minister of the NavyNaval CouncilorPromoted to Admiral 1 April 1933
16Vice-Admiral
Suetsugu Nobumasa
末次信正
15 November
1933
15 November
1934
Commander-in-chief
2nd Fleet
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Promoted to Admiral 30 March 1934
17Vice-Admiral
Takahashi Sankichi
高橋三吉
15 November
1934
1 December
1936
Commander-in-chief
2nd Fleet
Naval CouncilorPromoted to Admiral 1 April 1936
18Vice-Admiral
Mitsumasa Yonai
米内光政
1 December
1936
2 February
1937
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Minister of the Navy
19Admiral
Nagano Osami
永野修身
2 February
1937
1 December
1937
Minister of the NavyNaval Councilor
20Vice-Admiral
Yoshida Zengo
吉田善吾
1 December
1937
30 August
1939
Commander-in-chief
2nd Fleet
Minister of the Navy
21Vice-Admiral
Yamamoto Isoroku
山本五十六
30 August
1939
18 April
1943
Vice-Minister of the NavyKilled in ActionPromoted to Admiral 15 November 1940
Promoted to Marshal-Admiral posthumously
Vacant18 April
1943
21 May
1943
22Admiral
Koga Mineichi
古賀峯一
21 May
1943
31 March
1944
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Killed in Action
Promoted to Marshal-Admiral posthumously
Vacant31 March
1944
3 May
1944
23Admiral
Toyoda Soemu
豊田副武
3 May
1944
29 May
1945
Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Chairman
Navy General Staff
24Vice-Admiral
Ozawa Jisaburō
小沢治三郎
29 May
1945
10 October
1945
Vice-Chairman
Navy General Staff
Reserved
Fleet was surrendered
Navy would be dissolved a month later.


Chief of staff

Rank Name From To
1CaptainSamejima Kazunori19 July 189417 December 1894
2CaptainDewa Shigeto17 December 189425 July 1895
3CaptainKamimura Hikonojo25 July 189516 November 1895
4CaptainShimamura Hayao28 December 190312 January 1905
5Rear AdmiralKato Tomosaburo12 January 190520 December 1905
6Rear AdmiralFujii Koichi20 December 190522 November 1906
7CaptainYamashita Gentaro22 November 190610 December 1908
8CaptainTakarabe Takeshi10 December 19081 December 1909
9Rear AdmiralNomaguchi Kaneo1 December 190911 March 1911
10CaptainAkiyama Saneyuki11 March 191124 May 1912
11CaptainIsamu Takeshita1 December 191224 May 1913
Vacant23 May 19131 December 1913
12Rear AdmiralSatō Tetsutarō1 December 191317 April 1914
13CaptainKazuyoshi Yamaji17 April 19141 December 1914
14Rear AdmiralShibakichi Yamanaka1 December 191413 December 1915
15Rear AdmiralSaburo Horiuchi13 December 19151 December 1917
16Rear AdmiralHanroku Saito1 December 19171 December 1918
17Rear AdmiralKajishiro Funakoshi1 December 19181 December 1919
18Rear AdmiralHansaku Yoshioka1 December 19191 December 1921
19Rear AdmiralKumazo Shirane1 December 19211 December 1923
20Rear AdmiralBekinari Kabayama1 December 192310 November 1924
21CaptainKanjiro Hara10 November 19241 December 1925
22Rear AdmiralNaotaro Ominato1 December 19251 November 1926
23Rear AdmiralSankichi Takahashi1 November 19261 December 1927
24Rear AdmiralEijiro Hamano1 December 192710 December 1928
25Rear AdmiralKen Terajima10 December 192830 October 1929
26Rear AdmiralKoichi Shiozawa30 October 19291 December 1930
27Rear AdmiralShigetarō Shimada1 December 19301 December 1931
28Rear AdmiralZengo Yoshida1 December 193115 September 1933
29Rear AdmiralSoemu Toyoda15 September 193315 March 1935
30Rear AdmiralNobutake Kondō15 March 193515 November 1935
31Rear AdmiralNaokuni Nomura15 November 193516 November 1936
32Rear AdmiralYasutaro Iwashita16 November 193618 February 1937
33Rear AdmiralJisaburo Ozawa18 February 193715 November 1937
34Rear AdmiralIbo Takahashi15 November 19375 November 1939
35CaptainShigeru Fukudome5 November 193910 April 1941
36Rear AdmiralSeiichi Ito10 April 194111 August 1941
37Rear AdmiralMatome Ugaki11 August 194122 May 1943
38Vice AdmiralShigeru Fukudome22 May 19436 April 1944
39Rear AdmiralRyunosuke Kusaka6 April 194424 June 1945
40Rear AdmiralShikazo Yano24 June 194525 September 1945

References

Notes

Books

  • D'Albas, Andrieu (1965). Death of a Navy: Japanese Naval Action in World War II. Devin-Adair Pub. ISBN 0-8159-5302-X.
  • Dull, Paul S. (1978). A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941–1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-097-1.
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