Third Fleet (Imperial Japanese Navy)

The 3rd Fleet (第三艦隊, Dai-san Kantai) was a fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), which was created, and subsequently disbanded on six separate occasions and revived on five separate occasions.


Russo-Japanese WarEdit

First established on 28 December 1903, the 3rd Fleet was created by the Imperial General Headquarters as an administrative unit to manage vessels considered obsolete for front-line combat service. These vessels were used primarily for training and for coastal patrol duties. The 3rd Fleet came under the aegis of the Combined Fleet for the duration of the Russo-Japanese War from March 1904. Although initially derided as a "dinosaur fleet",[1] the 3rd fleet proved invaluable at the Battle of Tsushima and the Invasion of Sakhalin. It was disbanded on 20 December 1905.

South China FleetEdit

The 3rd Fleet was revived on 24 December 1908 as an expeditionary force during the Chinese Republican Revolution, to safeguard Japanese interests (civilians and property) on the Chinese mainland and (if necessary) to conduct emergency evacuation. It was nicknamed the "South China Fleet" after its chief area of envisioned activity was the South China Sea. Its cruisers patrolled the Yangtze River and other large rivers in China, and its headquarters was in the Japanese concession in Shanghai. It was disbanded on 25 December 1915.

World War IEdit

The 3rd Fleet was reconstituted on the same day as the dissolution of the "South China Fleet", initially to act as a training force to supplement Japan's contribution to the World War I under the terms of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. When the Russian Revolution was proclaimed by the communist forces in Russia, the mission of the 3rd Fleet was changed to that of patrols of the Russian sea coast for the Siberian Intervention by Japanese ground forces in support of anti-Bolshevik forces. The 3rd Fleet was disbanded on 1 December 1922, and many of its vessels were scrapped almost immediately under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty.

First China Expeditionary FleetEdit

The 3rd Fleet was again raised on 2 February 1938 as part of Japan's emergency buildup of forces after the Shanghai Incident. The buildup took the form of three separate expeditionary fleets, consisting primarily of cruisers and gunboats to patrol the Chinese coast and major riverways and to support the landings of Japanese ground forces. With the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the 3rd Fleet came under the aegis of the China Area Fleet. It was disbanded on 15 November 1939; however, some of the organizational and command structures for ground forces under the First China Expeditionary Fleet remained in place until August 1943.

Southern Expeditionary FleetEdit

The 3rd Fleet was recreated once again on 10 April 1941 with the additional designation "Southern Expeditionary Fleet" for the specific task of invading the Philippine islands. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, its headquarters was in Palau and its mission expanded to include the invasions of Java, Borneo and other islands of the Netherlands East Indies. It was superseded by the 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet under the aegis of the Southwest Area Fleet on 10 March 1942.

Order of Battle at time of Pearl HarborEdit

Based at Takao, Formosa[2]

12th Carrier Division

AV Kamikawa Maru (flagship)
AV Sanuki Maru
AV Sanyo Maru

16th Division

CL Nagara (fleet flagship)
CL Kuma
CA Ashigara

17th Division

AN/CM Itsukushima (flagship)
AN/CM Yaeyama
CM Tatsumiya Maru
CM Tatsuharu Maru

Supply Group

AR Yamabiko Maru
AP Senko Maru
AW Koan Maru
AW Chozan Maru
AW Goryu Maru
AO Hayatomo Maru
AO Genyo Maru
AP Kosei Maru
AGS Kyodo Maru

5th Destroyer Squadron

CL Natori (flagship)
5th Destroyer Division
DD Asakaze
DD Harukaze
DD Hatakaze
DD Mattsukaze
22nd Destroyer Division
DD Fumizuki
DD Minazuki
DD Nagatsuki
DD Satsuki

6th Submarine Squadron

AS Chōgei (flagship)
9th Submarine Division
9th Submarine Division

1st Base Force

21 Minesweeper Division
AM W-7
AM W-8
AM W-9
AM W-10
AM W-11
AM W-12
1st Gunboat Division
PG Busho Maru
PG Keiko Maru
PG Kanko Maru
PG Myoken Maru
1st Subchaser Division
PC Ch-1
PC Ch-2
PC Ch-3
2nd Subchaser Division
PC Ch-13
PC Ch-14
PC Ch-15
51st Subchaser Division
PC Kyo Maru No. 12
PC Kyo Maru No. 13
AN Tōkō Maru No. 1 Go
52nd Subchaser Division
PC Shonan Maru No. 17
PC Takunan Maru No. 5
AN Fukuei Maru No. 15
AN/CM Shirataka
AN/CM Aotaka
AGM Ikushima Maru
AGM Kimishima Maru
AP Myoku Maru
AG Hakusan Maru

2nd Base Force

21st Torpedo Boat Division
PT Chidori
PT Hatsukari
PT Manazuru
PT Tomozuru
11th Minesweeper Division
AM W-13
AM W-14
AM W-15
AM W-16
30th Minesweeper Division
AM W-17
AM W-18
AM W-19
AM W-20
2nd Gunboat Division
PG Kamitsu Maru
PG Tokuyo Maru
PG Taiko Maru
PM Banyo Maru
3rd Gunboat Division
PG Aso Maru
PG Kiso Maru
PG Nampo Maru
53rd Subchaser Division
PC Kyo Maru No. 2
PC Kyo Maru No. 11
AN Korei Maru
54th Subchaser Division
PC Shonan Maru No. 1
PC Shonan Maru No. 2
AN Nagara Maru
21st Subchaser Division
PC Ch-4
PC Ch-5
PC Ch-6
PC Ch-16
PC Ch-17
PC Ch-18
31st Subchaser Division
PC Ch-10
PC Ch-11
PC Ch-12
CMN Wakataka
ACM Nichiyu Maru
PG/CM Imizu Maru
PG/CM Seian Maru
PG/CM Shinko Maru
AP Sumanoura Maru
AP Kumagawa Maru
AP Kenryu Maru
AG Hakozaki Maru

32nd Special Base Force

1st Patrol Boat Division
PB Patrol Boat No. 1
PB Patrol Boat No. 2
PB Patrol Boat No. 32
PB Patrol Boat No. 33
PB Patrol Boat No. 34
PB Patrol Boat No. 35
PB Patrol Boat No. 36
PB Patrol Boat No. 37
PB Patrol Boat No. 38
PB Patrol Boat No. 39
CMc Kamome
CMc Tsubame
PG/CM Imizu Maru
AMc Nichiyu Maru

World War II (post-July 1942)Edit

The sixth (and final) incarnation of the 3rd Fleet was formed on 14 July 1942 immediately after the disastrous Battle of Midway as an aircraft carrier task force modeled after similar units in the United States Navy. It was centered on the new aircraft carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku. It played an important role during the Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Santa Cruz, in which the American aircraft carrier Hornet was sunk, but at the cost of many of the best air crews in the Japanese Navy.

After March 1944, the 3rd Fleet was basically merged with the 2nd Fleet, and suffered through the disastrous Battle of the Philippine Sea, losing 3 of its aircraft carriers, including the newly commissioned Taihō and over 350 carrier planes.

In October 1944, the 3rd Fleet was designated the "Northern Force" in a three-force plan to defeat the Allied invasion of the Japanese-held Philippines. The 3rd Fleet carriers were divested of all but 108 aircraft and sent to lure the American-led fleet away from protecting the troop landing ships. On 25–26 October, facing a large force that included ten USN carriers, with 600–1,000 aircraft,[3] 3rd Fleet lost 4 aircraft carriers, one light cruiser and one destroyer at the Battle off Cape Engaño. The 3rd Fleet effectively ceased to exist, and was officially disbanded on 15 December 1944.[4]

Commanders of the 3rd FleetEdit

1st Creation (Russo-Japanese War)Edit


Commander-in-Chief Dates Previous Post Next Post Notes
1   Vice-Admiral
Kataoka Shichirō
28 December
20 December
Takeshiki Naval Base
1st Fleet

2nd Creation (World War I)Edit

Rank Name Dates
1 Admiral Kakuichi Murakami 13 December 1915 6 April 1917
2 Admiral Ryokitsu Arima 6 April 1917 1 December 1918
3 Admiral Teijiro Kuroi 1 December 1918 1 December 1919
4 Admiral Kaneo Nomaguchi 1 December 1919 1 December 1920
5 Admiral Kozaburo Oguri 1 December 1920 1 December 1921
6 Admiral Baron Kantarō Suzuki 1 December 1921 27 July 1922
7 Vice-Admiral Naoe Nakano 27 July 1922 1 December 1922

3rd Creation (2nd Sino-Japanese War)Edit

Commander-in-Chief Dates Previous Post Next Post Notes
1   Vice-Admiral
Nomura Kichisaburō
2 February
28 June
Yokosuka Naval District
Yokosuka Naval District
Relieved after being blinded in eye
during the Hongkou Park bombing 29 April 1932.
2   Vice-Admiral
Sakonji Seizō
28 June
1 December
Sasebo Naval District
3   Vice-Admiral
Mitsumasa Yonai
1 December
15 September
Chinkai Guard District
Navy General Staff
4   Vice-Admiral
Imamura Nobujirō
15 September
15 November
Sasebo Naval District
5   Vice-Admiral
Hyakutake Gengo
15 November
1 December
Maizuru Guard District
Sasebo Naval District
6   Vice-Admiral
Oikawa Koshirō
1 December
1 December
Naval Aviation Bureau
7   Admiral
Hasegawa Kiyoshi
1 December
25 April
Vice-Minister of the Navy Commander-in-chief
Yokosuka Naval District
Also Commander-in-chief China Area Fleet
after 20 October 1937
8   Vice-Admiral
Oikawa Koshirō
25 April
15 November
Naval Aviation Bureau
China Area Fleet
Also Commander-in-chief China Area Fleet

On 15 November 1939 the 3rd Fleet was reorganized into the 1st China Expeditionary Fleet.
Admiral Oikawa retained command of the China Area Fleet but command of the former 3rd Fleet passed to Tanimoto Umatarō. Command History continues there.

4th Creation (Pacific War)Edit

Rank Name Dates
1 Admiral Ibō Takahashi 10 April 1941 10 March 1942
X Disbanded 10 March 1942 14 July 1942
1 Admiral Chuichi Nagumo 14 July 1942 11 November 1942
2 Vice-Admiral Jisaburō Ozawa 11 November 1942 15 November 1944

Chief of Staff

Rank Name Dates
1 Rear-Admiral Shizuka Nakamura 28 December 1903 12 January 1905
2 Vice-Admiral Koshi Saito 12 January 1905 2 November 1905
X Disbanded 20 December 1905 13 December 1915
1 Rear-Admiral Shichitaro Takagi 13 December 1915 1 April 1916
2 Rear-Admiral Tokutaro Hiraga 1 April 1916 19 March 1917
3 Vice-Admiral Hisatsune Iida 19 March 1917 1 December 1917
4 Vice-Admiral Shichigoro Saito 1 December 1917 1 December 1918
5 Vice-Admiral Shinzaburo Furukawa 1 December 1918 10 June 1919
6 Vice-Admiral Kosaburo Uchida 10 June 1919 20 November 1920
7 Rear-Admiral Hisamori Taguchi 20 November 1920 1 December 1921
8 Vice-Admiral Naomoto Komatsu 1 December 1921 1 December 1922
X Disbanded 1 December 1922 2 February 1932
1 Admiral Shigetarō Shimada 2 February 1932 28 June 1932
2 Vice-Admiral Shigeru Kikuno 28 June 1932 1 April 1933
3 Rear-Admiral Seizaburo Mitsui 1 April 1933 15 November 1933
4 Admiral Shirō Takasu 15 November 1933 15 November 1934
5 Vice-Admiral Eijiro Kondo 15 November 1934 2 December 1935
6 Vice-Admiral Seiichi Iwamura 2 December 1935 16 November 1936
7 Vice-Admiral Rokuzo Sugiyama 16 November 1936 25 April 1938
8 Vice-Admiral Jinichi Kusaka 25 April 1938 23 October 1939
9 Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue 23 October 1939 15 November 1939
X Disbanded 15 November 1939 10 April 1941
1 Vice-Admiral Toshihisa Nakamura 10 April 1941 10 March 1942
2 Vice-Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka 14 July 1942 23 November 1942
3 Vice-Admiral Sadayoshi Yamada 23 November 1942 6 December 1943
4 Rear-Admiral Keizo Komura 6 December 1943 1 October 1944
5 Rear-Admiral Sueo Obayashi 1 October 1944 15 November 1944


  1. ^ Jukes, The Russo-Japanese War
  2. ^ Niehorster, Leo; Alsleben, Al; Yoda, Tadashi. "Administrative Order of Battle - 3rd Fleet, Combined Fleet, 7 December 1941". Imperial Japanese Armed Forces.
  3. ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (2004) [1956]. Leyte, June 1944 – January 1945, vol. 12 of History of United States Naval Operations in World War II. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press; Reprint edition. ISBN 0-252-07063-1.
  4. ^ D'Albas, The Death of a Navy
  5. ^ Wendel, Axis History Database


External linksEdit