Pacific Ocean Areas

Pacific Ocean Areas was a major Allied military command in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. It was one of four major Allied commands during the Pacific War, and one of three United States commands in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater. Admiral Chester W. Nimitz of the U.S. Navy, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, headed the command throughout its existence.

The vast majority of Allied forces in the theatre were from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. However units and/or personnel from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Fiji and other countries also saw active service.

Pacific Theater Areas;map1
Map of Pacific Theater

Formation and composition

03 1905 APR 1942 message from COMINCH (Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, King) to CINCPAC (Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, Nimitz) designating Nimitz Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Area (first of four part message).

On 24 March 1942, the newly formed British and US Combined Chiefs of Staff issued a directive designating the Pacific theater an area of American strategic responsibility. On 30 March the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) divided the Pacific theater into three areas: the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), and the Southeast Pacific Area.[1][2][3] Details and transition, including whether Nimitz "appointed" or "nominated" the commander of the South Pacific Area, were worked out between 3 April and formal assumption of the overall Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas by Nimitz on 8 May 1942.[4][5]

The JCS designated Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CINCPOA), with operational control over all units (air, land, and sea) in that area. The theater included most of the Pacific Ocean and its islands, but mainland Asia was excluded from the POA, as were the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands East Indies, the Territory of New Guinea (including the Bismarck Archipelago) and the western part of the Solomon Islands. US strategic bomber forces in the theatre were under the direct control of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. All land forces in Alaska and Canada remained under the control of the US Army's Western Defense Command (see Aleutian Islands Campaign).

The Joint Chiefs further divided the Pacific Ocean Areas into the North, Central and South Pacific Areas. Nimitz designated subordinate commanders for the North and South Pacific Areas (NORPAC and SOPAC) but retained the Central Pacific Area (CENPAC), including the Hawaiian Department, under his direct command.

From 1942-1943, three Army infantry divisions (23rd/"Americal", 25th, 27th) and two Marine divisions (1st, 2nd) fought in the POA (the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions also fought in the SWPA in 1943). From 1944-1945, five Army infantry divisions (7th, 27th, 77th, 81st, 96th) and six Marine divisions (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th) served in the POA (an additional 15 Army divisions fought in the SWPA during this time).[6] Among allied land force formations was the 3rd New Zealand Division, which fought in the Solomon Islands campaign during 1943-44.

U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) operated in the POA under the Seventh, Thirteenth, and Twentieth Air Forces at various times. Allied air forces included units of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

In the separate South West Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur assumed command. The effective result of this organizational scheme was the creation of two separate commands in the Pacific: POA and SWPA, each reporting separately to the Joint Chiefs, each competing for scarce resources in an economy-of-force theater, and each headed by a commander in chief (CINC) from a different service. In particular, the division of the Solomons caused problems, since the battles of the Solomon Islands campaign in 1942–1943 ranged over the whole region, with the main Japanese bases in SWPA and the main Allied bases in SOPAC.


Commanders, South Pacific Area

Commanders, North Pacific Area

Major campaigns and battles

See also



  1. ^ Cressman 1999, p. April 3, Fri. entry.
  2. ^ Potter 1976, p. 45.
  3. ^ Williams 1960, pp. 30—31.
  4. ^ Morton 2000, pp. 244—256.
  5. ^ Nimitz & Steele 1942, p. Entries April 1942.
  6. ^ Mark R. Henry and Mike Chappell, The U.S. Army of World War II, Volume 1: The Pacific (Men at Arms Series, 342)(Osprey Publishing: 2000)
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Silverstone (1968) pp.9–11
  8. ^ Potter & Nimitz (1960) pp.651–652
  9. ^ Kafka & Pepperburg (1946) p.185
  10. ^ Potter & Nimitz (1960) p.751
  11. ^ Ofstie (1946) p.194
  12. ^ Potter & Nimitz (1960) p.761
  13. ^ Potter & Nimitz (1960) p.765
  14. ^ a b Potter & Nimitz (1960) p.770
  15. ^ a b c d Ofstie (1946) p.275


  • Cressman, Robert J. (1999). "The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II". Contemporary History Branch, Naval Historical Center (now Naval History & Heritage Command). Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  • Morton, Louis (2000). The War in the Pacific—Strategy and Command: The First Two Years. United States Army In World War II. Washington, D. C.: Center Of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 61-60001.
  • Nimitz, Chester W., Admiral (USN); Steele, James M., Captain (USN) (1942). ‘Gray Book’ — War Plans and Files of the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet; Running Estimate and Summary maintained by Captain James M. Steele, USN, CINCPAC staff at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, covering the period 7 December 1941–31 August 1942 (PDF). 1 of 8 volumes. Operational Archives, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington D.C. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
  • Potter, E.B. (1976). Nimitz. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-492-9. LCCN 76-1056.
  • Williams, Mary H. (1960). Chronology 1941—1945. United States Army In World War II. Washington, DC: Center Of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 59-60002.
  • Willmott, H. P. (1983). The Barrier and the Javelin: Japanese and Allied Pacific Strategies February to June 1942. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-535-3.


The following references are arranged in descending chronological order:

  • Toll, Ian (2012). Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941–1942. W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-34341-3.
  • Miller, Edward S. (2007). War Plan Orange: The U.S. Strategy to Defeat Japan, 1897–1945. US Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-500-7.
  • Cressman, Robert J. (2000). The Official Chronology of the U.S. Navy in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-149-1.
  • Drea, Edward J. (1998). In the Service of the Emperor: Essays on the Imperial Japanese Army. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-1708-0.
  • Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and All That Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509514-6.
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1968). U.S. Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company.
  • Potter, E. B.; Chester W. Nimitz (1960). Sea Power. Prentice-Hall.
  • Kafka, Roger; Pepperburg, Roy L. (1946). Warships of the World. New York: Cornell Maritime Press.
  • Ofstie, Ralph A. (1946). The Campaigns of the Pacific War. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office.

External links


AirSols was a joint command for Allied air units in the Solomon Islands campaign of World War II, from April 1943 to June 1944. It was subordinate to the Allied Pacific Ocean Areas POA Command. AirSols superseded and absorbed Cactus Air Force, which controlled Allied air units in the Solomons during 1942–43. AirSols units came from elements of the United States Navy (USN), United States Marine Corps (USMC), the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the Thirteenth Air Force, United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).

The Allied fliers were opposed by the Japanese 11th Air Fleet and 4th Air Army, based at Rabaul, New Britain.

"Commander, Aircraft, Solomons" (ComAirSols) directed the combat operations of all land-based air in the Solomons during the major Allied offensive of 1943–44, Operation Cartwheel. Discussing the initial command structure of AirSols, Marine Corps historians Henry I. Shaw & Douglas T. Kane, wrote:

Rear Admiral Charles P. Mason was the first officer to hold the title ComAirSols; he assumed command on 15 February 1943 at Guadalcanal. Actually, Mason took over a going concern, as he relieved Brigadier General Francis P. Mulcahy, who had controlled all aircraft stationed at the island during the final phase of its defense. Mulcahy, who became Mason's chief of staff, was also Commanding General, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The fact that a general headed the staff of an admiral is perhaps the best indication of the multiservice nature of AirSols operations. Since Mason brought only a few officers with him to help run the new command with its enlarged scope of activity, he kept Mulcahy's veteran staff. Experience, not rank, seniority, or service, determined the assignments. Vice Admiral Aubrey W. Fitch, as Commander, Aircraft, South Pacific (ComAirSoPac), was Admiral Mason's immediate superior.On 15 June 1944, AirSols was replaced by AirNorSols (Air North Solomons), which would have 40 squadrons (including 23 USMC squadrons). That same day, responsibility for Allied units west of 159° East Longitude and south of the Equator passed from POA to the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). However, seven USAAF squadrons in AirNorSols were transferred, as part of the Thirteenth Air Force, to the U.S. Far East Air Forces (SWPA) and eight USN and RNZAF squadrons were moved to garrison duty in South Pacific.

Asiatic-Pacific Theater

The Asiatic-Pacific Theater, was the theater of operations of U.S. forces during World War II in the Pacific War during 1941–45. From mid-1942 until the end of the war in 1945, there were two U.S. operational commands in the Pacific. The Pacific Ocean Areas (POA), divided into the Central Pacific Area, the North Pacific Area and the South Pacific Area, were commanded by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief Pacific Ocean Areas. The South West Pacific Area (SWPA) was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Allied Commander South West Pacific Area. During 1945, the United States added the United States Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific, commanded by General Carl A. Spaatz.

Because of the complementary roles of the United States Army and the United States Navy in conducting war in the Pacific Theater, there was no single Allied or U.S. commander (comparable to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in the European Theater of Operations). There was no actual command; rather, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater was divided into SWPA, POA, and other forces and theaters, such as the China Burma India Theater.

Chester W. Nimitz

Chester William Nimitz, Sr. (; February 24, 1885 – February 20, 1966) was a fleet admiral of the United States Navy. He played a major role in the naval history of World War II as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, commanding Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II.Nimitz was the leading US Navy authority on submarines. Qualified in submarines during his early years, he later oversaw the conversion of these vessels' propulsion from gasoline to diesel, and then later was key in acquiring approval to build the world's first nuclear-powered submarine, USS Nautilus, whose propulsion system later completely superseded diesel-powered submarines in the US. He also, beginning in 1917, was the Navy's leading developer of underway replenishment techniques, the tool which during the Pacific war would allow the US fleet to operate away from port almost indefinitely. The chief of the Navy's Bureau of Navigation in 1939, Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1945 until 1947. He was the United States' last surviving officer who served in the rank of fleet admiral.

Commander Naval Forces Marianas

Commander Naval Forces Marianas, also known as Comnavmarianas, is the Navy force shore command responsible for United States Navy activities in Guam, Saipan, Tinian and the surrounding islands.

From 1944 to 1949, an era of military government, the officers who served as ComNavMarianas were respectively charged with such civil responsibilities as governor of the Marshalls-Gilberts; deputy military governor, Pacific Ocean Areas; and deputy military governor, Bonin-Volcano Islands.

From 1944 until March 29, 1952, Naval Station served as a Naval Operations Base, providing a huge portion of every type of fleet service. In September 1956, the Naval Base was disestablished and the Naval Station was reassigned to the military command of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas.

The Navy and Air Force held a ground breaking ceremony for a combined headquarters at Nimitz Hill Feb. 6, 2009, signalling the beginning of Joint Region Marianas. The creation of a joint region is mandated by Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005, but is also unique to Guam. That means at least two military bases, possibly of different services, will be combined to create one base. The naval and air force bases will retain separate base commanders who will oversee operations and mission requirements for their respective installations. Joint Region Marianas will be responsible for all support management functions.

Herbert Loper

Herbert Bernard Loper (22 October 1896 – 25 August 1989) was a United States Army major general who helped plan the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign and the Okinawa campaign during World War II. He was chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project from 1952 to 1953, and Chairman of the Military Liaison Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission from 1954 to 1961.

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he was commissioned in the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1919. He graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1940, and became Assistant Chief, and later Chief, of the Intelligence Division at the Office of the Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC. In May 1942, he negotiated the Loper-Hotline Agreement, under which responsibility for military mapping and survey of the globe was divided between the United States and the United Kingdom. In 1944, he was appointed Chief Engineer of US Army Forces, Pacific Ocean Areas. In this role he was involved with the planning of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign and the Okinawa campaign. After the fighting ended, he participated in the Occupation of Japan.

Loper returned to the United States to become Chief of the Joint Photo and Survey Section of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Joint Intelligence Group in 1948. The next year he was appointed as an Army member of the Military Liaison Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. He wrote a report which became known as the Loper Memorandum, which was influential in the decision to develop thermonuclear weapons. He was Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force 3, which was responsible for the conduct the Operation Greenhouse nuclear tests in the Pacific. In 1951 became Chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, but was forced to retire after he suffered a heart attack in 1953. He subsequently served as Chairman of the Military Liaison Committee from 2 August 1954 to 14 July 1961.

Hickam Air Force Base

Hickam Air Force Base is a United States Air Force installation, named in honor of aviation pioneer Lieutenant Colonel Horace Meek Hickam. The base merged with the Naval Station Pearl Harbor to become part of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam. The base neighbors Honolulu International Airport and currently shares runways with the airport for its activities and purposes.

I Marine Amphibious Corps

The I Marine Amphibious Corps, or I MAC, was a formation of the United States Marine Corps.

It was created on 1 October 1942, with most of the staff transferred from Amphibious Corps, Pacific Fleet (ACPF). It was then deployed to the South Pacific Area – a U.S.-led multinational military command active during World War II that was a part of the U.S. Pacific Ocean Areas – first to Hawaii, then to New Caledonia.When the Marine Corps was not satisfied with the leadership of its commander, Major General Clayton B. Vogel, Commandant Thomas Holcomb ordered Alexander Vandegrift to take command. Vandegrift, the commander of the 1st Marine Division during the Battle of Guadalcanal was promoted to lieutenant general.General Vandegrift carried on in command of the Corps when its next-designated commander for the invasion of Bougainville, Major General Charles D. Barrett, died following a fall from the balcony of his quarters in New Caledonia. General Vandegrift led I MAC during the invasion and was later made the Commandant.

The Corps consisted of the 3rd Marine Division, the 37th Infantry Division (United States), the 8th Brigade (New Zealand) and the 53rd Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees). It conducted the invasion of Bougainville. When the 53rd was assigned to the Marine Corps it was redesignated "Naval Construction Battalion First Marine Amphibious Corps"On 15 April 1944, I MAC was renamed the III Amphibious Corps.

K-class blimp

The K-class blimp was a class of blimps (non-rigid airship) built by the Goodyear Aircraft Company of Akron, Ohio for the United States Navy. These blimps were powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp nine-cylinder radial air-cooled engines, each mounted on twin-strut outriggers, one per side of the control car that hung under the envelope. Before and during World War II, 134 K-class blimps were built, configured for patrol and anti-submarine warfare operations and were extensively used in the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean areas.

List of major U.S. Commands of World War II

The List of major U.S. Commands of World War II includes major military commands of the United States. These are units above corps level.

National Museum of the Pacific War

The National Museum of the Pacific War is located in Fredericksburg, Texas, the boyhood home of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. Nimitz served as CinCPAC, Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet and was soon afterward named Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II. The six acre site includes the Admiral Nimitz Museum which is housed in the old Nimitz Hotel and tells the story of Nimitz beginning with his life as a young boy through his naval career as well as the evolution of the old hotel.

Operation Cartwheel

Operation Cartwheel (1943–1944) was a major military operation for the Allies in the Pacific theatre of World War II. Cartwheel was an operation aimed at neutralising the major Japanese base at Rabaul. The operation was directed by the Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA), General Douglas MacArthur, whose forces had advanced along the northeast coast of New Guinea and occupied nearby islands. Allied forces from the Pacific Ocean Areas command, under Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, advanced through the Solomon Islands toward Bougainville. The Allied forces involved were from Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the US and various Pacific Islands.

Operation Robson

Operation Robson (20 December 1944) was the first of a series of aerial operations, Operation Outflank, undertaken by the British Pacific Fleet (BPF) against the oil refineries of Japanese-occupied Sumatra during World War II. Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, proposed a strike on the refineries to Admiral Bruce Fraser, commander of the BPF, during a meeting in early December.

The primary target of Operation Robson was the refinery at Pangkalan Brandan. It had been fired by fleeing American and Dutch personnel during the invasion of the Dutch East Indies in 1942, but the Japanese had repaired it by the year's end. Refined product was piped from there to the port of Pangkalan Susu eight miles away and to the more distant deep-water port of Belawan Deli, the secondary target. Pangkalan Soesoe had tanks capable of holding thirty million gallons.

Palm Circle

Palm Circle or the Pineapple Pentagon, is the portion of Fort Shafter in Honolulu, Hawaii which housed the headquarters of the commanding general and his staff, U.S. Army forces, Pacific Ocean Areas, during World War II. By 1944 this command was responsible for the supply and administration of all U.S. Army personnel in the Central and South Pacific, and from 1943 to 1945, carried out logistical planning for the invasions of the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Guam, Palau, and Okinawa.

South Pacific Area

The South Pacific Area (SOPAC) was a multinational U.S.-led military command active during World War II. It was a part of the U.S. Pacific Ocean Areas under Admiral Chester Nimitz.

The assignment orders for Major General Ernest Harmon as the Commanding General, Army Forces, South Pacific, dated 7 July 1942, said:"The establishment of the Pacific Ocean Area as an area of United States strategical responsibility under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, became effective on May 8, 1942. The Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet, has been designated the "Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Area". Under the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Area, a U.S. Naval officer has been designated as "Commander, South Pacific Area". The South Pacific Force under COMSOPAC include the following:

1. All base and local defense forces (ground, naval and air) now assigned or to be assigned to forces in the South Pacific Area. The New Zealand Chiefs of Staff are responsible for the land defense of New Zealand, subject to such strategic decisions affecting this responsibility as may be made by the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet, for the conduct of naval operations in the Pacific Ocean Areas.

2. Assigned New Zealand, Free French, Dutch and other United Nations Naval forces.

3. Such fleet types and aircraft as may be assigned by the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet."In July 1942 the South Pacific Area, under Admiral Ghormley, superseded by Admiral William Halsey Jr. from 16 October, comprised four commands: Amphibious Forces, South Pacific (AmphibForSoPac), under Admiral Richmond K. Turner, South Pacific Naval Forces under Admiral Ghormley, U.S. Army Forces South Pacific under Major General Millard Harmon, and South Pacific Air Forces under Admiral John S. McCain, Sr.. At a later stage Transport Group, South Pacific (TransGrpSoPac) was added to the organisation.

The organisation's first major battle was the Battle of Guadalcanal. Admiral Ghormley's Operations Order 1-42 established two task forces, Task Force 61 and Task Force 63, to carry out the operation.

On September 20, 1942, six weeks after the first American amphibious operation of the war got underway at Guadalcanal, Vice Admiral Aubrey Fitch assumed command of Aircraft, South Pacific Force (AirSoPac). Not a desk-bound admiral, he carried out numerous, hazardous flights into the combat zones, inspecting air activities and bases for projected operations. For these, he received a Distinguished Flying Cross. Under Fitch's command, AirSoPac—ultimately encompassing not only Navy but Army, Marine Corps, and Royal New Zealand Air Force air units—achieved great success in aiding the Allied campaign in the South Pacific Area.

Commander, Aircraft, Solomons (ComAirSols), directed the combat operations of all land-based air in the Solomons during CARTWHEEL, under the direction of AirSoPac. Rear Admiral Charles P. Mason was the first officer to hold the title ComAirSols; he assumed command on 15 February 1943 at Guadalcanal. Actually, Mason took over a going concern, as he relieved Brigadier General Francis P. Mulcahy, who had controlled all aircraft stationed at the island during the final phase of its defense. Mulcahy, who became Mason's chief of staff, was also Commanding General, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing. The fact that a general headed the staff of an admiral is perhaps the best indication of the multiservice nature of AirSols operations.

Vice Admiral Finch retained two areas of flight operations under his direct control; sea search by long range Navy patrol planes and Army bombers, and transport operations by South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command (SCAT). Throughout its long and useful life (November 1942-February 1945), SCAT's complement of Marine and Army transports was headed by MAG-25's commanding officer. SCAT's operations area moved northward with the fighting during 1943, and by August's end, all regularly scheduled flights in SoPac's rear areas were being handled by the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS).

Supreme Allied Commander

Supreme Allied Commander is the title held by the most senior commander within certain multinational military alliances. It originated as a term used by the Allies of World War I during World War I, and is currently used only within NATO. The current NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe is U.S. General Tod D. Wolters.

United States Army Air Forces in the South Pacific Area

During World War II, the United States Army Air Forces engaged in combat against the Empire of Japan in the South Pacific Area. As defined by the War Department, this consisted of the Pacific Ocean areas which lay south of the Equator between longitude 159° East and 110° West. It included New Zealand, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Fiji, and most of the Solomon Islands.

In early 1942, the area was under the Seventh Air Force. By November, the Thirteenth Air Force,was formed to command and control AAF organizations in the southern areas of the widely separated Seventh Air Force and independent units scattered in the South Pacific Area during the Solomon Islands campaign. As the war progressed, Thirteenth Air Force units moved into the South West Pacific theatre and coordinated their activities with Fifth as part of the Far East Air Forces, a new Command.

United States Third Fleet

The United States Third Fleet is one of the numbered fleets in the United States Navy. Third Fleet's area of responsibility includes approximately fifty million square miles of the eastern and northern Pacific ocean areas including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and a sector of the Arctic. Major oil and trade sea lines of communication within this area are critically important to the economic health of the United States and friendly nations throughout the Pacific Rim region.First established in 1943, the Third Fleet conducted extensive operations against Japanese forces in the Central Pacific during World War II. Deactivated in 1945, the fleet remained inactive until 1973, when it was reactivated and assumed its current responsibilities.

United States theaters of operations in World War II

During World War II, the United States Army divided its operations around the world into four theaters. Forces from many different Allied nations fought in these theaters. Other Allied countries have different conceptions of the theaters and/or different names for them.


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