Combined Fleet

The Combined Fleet (聯合艦隊, Rengō Kantai) was the main sea-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Until 1933, the 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.

聯合艦隊
Rengo Kantai
Combined Fleet
(Imperial Japanese Navy)
Naval ensign of the Empire of Japan.svg
Active1894–1945
Country Empire of Japan
Allegiance Emperor of Japan
Branch Imperial Japanese Navy
TypeSea-going component of the Imperial Japanese Navy
EngagementsFirst Sino-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
World War I
Second Sino-Japanese War
World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Tōgō Heihachirō
Isoroku Yamamoto
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Imperial Seal of Japan.svg
Imperial Seal of Japan and Seal of the Imperial Japanese Navy

HistoryEdit

Sino-Japanese War (1894–95)Edit

The 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 the Combined Fleet[1] for the duration of the first Sino-Japanese War against China.

Russo-Japanese War (1904–05)Edit

 
Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War.

The 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 the Combined Fleet during the Russo-Japanese War.

Interwar yearsEdit

The 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, the 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" the 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 the Combined Fleet, the Combined Fleet was not given a Headquarters staff of its own.

From 1933, with the Mukden Incident and the increasing tension with China, a permanent HQ staff for the 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 the Combined Fleet.

World War IIEdit

 
Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during the early stage of the Pacific War.

The 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), the Combined Fleet became almost synonymous with the Imperial Japanese Navy, under the command of admiral Isoroku Yamamoto till April 1943 when he died after his plane was shot-down by US air forces over Bougainville Island. 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. The 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 the 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, the Combined Fleet had ceased to exist as an effective combat force.

Commander-in-Chief (司令長官, Shireichōkan)Edit

No. Portrait Commander-in-Chief Took office Left office Time in office
1Itō, SukeyukiVice Admiral
Itō Sukeyuki
伊藤祐亨

(1843–1914)
18 July 189411 May 1895297 days
2Arichi, ShinanojōVice Admiral
Arichi Shinanojō[a]
有地品之允

(1843–1919)
11 May 189516 November 1895[b]189 days
3Tōgō, HeihachirōVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 6 June 1904)
Tōgō Heihachirō
東郷平八郎

(1848–1934)
28 December 190320 December 1905[c]1 year, 357 days
4Ijūin, GorōVice Admiral
Baron Ijūin Gorō
伊集院五郎

(1852–1921)
8 October 190820 November 190843 days
5Yoshimatsu, ShigetarōVice Admiral
Yoshimatsu Shigetarō [ja]
吉松茂太郎

(1859–1935)
1 November 191513 December 191542 days
(5)Yoshimatsu, ShigetarōVice Admiral
Yoshimatsu Shigetarō [ja]
吉松茂太郎

(1859–1935)
1 September 191614 October 191643 days
(5)Yoshimatsu, ShigetarōAdmiral
Yoshimatsu Shigetarō [ja]
吉松茂太郎

(1859–1935)
1 October 191722 October 191721 days
6Yamashita, GentarōAdmiral
Yamashita Gentarō
山下源太郎

(1863–1931)
1 September 191815 October 191844 days
(6)Yamashita, GentarōAdmiral
Yamashita Gentarō
山下源太郎

(1863–1931)
1 June 191928 October 1919149 days
7Yamaya, TaninAdmiral
Yamaya Tanin
山屋他人

(1866–1940)
1 May 192024 August 1920115 days
8Tochinai, SojirōAdmiral
Tochinai Sojirō [ja]
栃内曽次郎

(1866–1932)
24 August 192031 October 192068 days
(8)Tochinai, SojirōAdmiral
Tochinai Sojirō [ja]
栃内曽次郎

(1866–1932)
1 May 192131 October 1921183 days
9Takeshita, IsamuVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 3 August 1923)
Takeshita Isamu
竹下勇

(1870–1949)
1 December 1922[d]27 January 19241 year, 57 days
10Admiral
Kantarō Suzuki
鈴木貫太郎

(1868–1948)
27 January 19241 December 1924309 days
11Okada, KeisukeAdmiral
Okada Keisuke
岡田啓介

(1868–1952)
1 December 192410 December 19262 years, 9 days
12Katō, HiroharuVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 1 April 1927)
Katō Hiroharu
加藤寛治

(1870–1939)
10 December 192610 December 19282 years, 0 days
13Taniguchi, NaomiAdmiral
Taniguchi Naomi [ja]
谷口尚真

(1870–1941)
10 December 192811 November 1929336 days
14Yamamoto, EisukeVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 1 March 1931)
Yamamoto Eisuke [ja]
山本英輔

(1876–1962)
11 November 19291 December 19312 years, 20 days
15Kobayashi, SeizōVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 1 April 1933)
Kobayashi Seizō
小林躋造

(1877–1962)
1 December 193115 November 19331 year, 349 days
16Suetsugu, NobumasaVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 30 March 1934)
Suetsugu Nobumasa
末次信正

(1880–1944)
15 November 193315 November 19341 year, 0 days
17Takahashi, SankichiVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 1 April 1936)
Takahashi Sankichi
高橋三吉

(1882–1966)
15 November 19341 December 19362 years, 16 days
18Yonai, MitsumasaVice Admiral
Yonai Mitsumasa
米内光政

(1880–1948)
1 December 19362 February 193762 days
19Nagano, OsamiAdmiral
Nagano Osami
永野修身

(1880–1947)
2 February 19371 December 1937302 days
20Yoshida, ZengoVice Admiral
Yoshida Zengo
吉田善吾

(1885–1966)
1 December 193730 August 19391 year, 272 days
21Yamamoto, IsorokuVice Admiral
(when appointed)
Admiral
(from 15 November 1940)[e]
Yamamoto Isoroku
山本五十六

(1884–1943)
30 August 193918 April 1943[f] †3 years, 231 days
22Koga, MineichiAdmiral[g]
Koga Mine'ichi
古賀峯一

(1885–1944)
21 May 194331 March 1944[h] †315 days
23Toyoda, SoemuAdmiral
Toyoda Soemu
豊田副武

(1885–1957)
3 May 194429 May 19451 year, 26 days
24Ozawa, JisaburōVice Admiral[i]
Ozawa Jisaburō
小沢治三郎

(1886–1966)
29 May 194510 October 1945[j]134 days

Chief of Staff (参謀長, Sanbōchō)Edit

No. Portrait Chief of Staff Took office Left office Time in office
1Samejima, KazunoriCaptain
Samejima Kazunori
鮫島員規

(1845–1910)
19 July 189417 December 1894151 days
2Dewa, ShigetōCaptain
Dewa Shigetō
出羽重遠

(1856–1930)
17 December 189425 July 1895220 days
3Kamimura, HikonojōCaptain
Kamimura Hikonojō
上村彦之丞

(1849–1916)
25 July 189516 November 1895114 days
4Shimamura, HayaoCaptain
Shimamura Hayao
島村速雄

(1858–1923)
28 December 190312 January 19051 year, 15 days
5Katō, TomosaburōRear Admiral
Katō Tomosaburō
加藤友三郎

(1861–1923)
12 January 190520 December 1905342 days
6Yamashita, GentarōCaptain
Yamashita Gentarō
山下源太郎

(1863–1931)
8 October 190820 November 190843 days
7Yamanaka, ShibakichiRear Admiral
Yamanaka Shibakichi [ja]
山中柴吉

(1870–1941)
1 November 191513 December 191542 days
8Horiuchi, SaburōVice Admiral
Horiuchi Saburō [ja]
堀内三郎

(1869–1933)
1 September 191614 October 191643 days
(8)Horiuchi, SaburōVice Admiral
Horiuchi Saburō [ja]
堀内三郎

(1869–1933)
1 October 191722 October 191721 days
9Saitō, HanrokuRear Admiral
Saitō Hanroku [ja]
斎藤半六

(1869–1952)
1 September 191815 October 191844 days
10Funakoshi, KajishirōRear Admiral
Funakoshi Kajishirō [ja]
舟越楫四郎

(1870–1962)
1 June 191928 October 1919149 days
11Yoshioka, HansakuRear Admiral
Yoshioka Hansaku [ja]
吉岡範策

(1869–1930)
1 May 192031 October 1920183 days
(11)Yoshioka, HansakuRear Admiral
Yoshioka Hansaku [ja]
吉岡範策

(1869–1930)
1 May 192131 October 1921183 days
12Shirane, KumazoRear Admiral
Shirane Kumazō [ja]
白根熊三

(1876–1939)
1 December 19221 December 19231 year, 0 days
13Kabayama, KanariRear Admiral
Kabayama Kanari [ja]
樺山可也

(1876–1932)
1 December 192310 November 1924345 days
14Hara, KanjirōCaptain
Hara Kanjirō [ja]
原敢二郎

(1880–1948)
10 November 19241 December 19251 year, 21 days
15Ōminato, NaotarōRear Admiral
Ōminato Naotarō [ja]
大湊直太郎

(1879–1958)
1 December 19251 November 1926335 days
16Takahashi, SankichiRear Admiral
Takahashi Sankichi
高橋三吉

(1882–1966)
1 November 19261 December 19271 year, 30 days
17Hamano, EijirōRear Admiral
Hamano Eijirō [ja]
濱野英次郎

(1880–1952)
1 December 192710 December 19281 year, 9 days
18Terajima, KenRear Admiral
Terajima Ken [ja]
寺島健

(1882–1972)
10 December 192830 October 1929324 days
19Shiozawa, KōichiRear Admiral
Shiozawa Kōichi
塩沢幸一

(1881–1943)
30 October 19291 December 19301 year, 32 days
20Shimada, ShigetarōRear Admiral
Shimada Shigetarō
嶋田繁太郎

(1883–1976)
1 December 19301 December 19311 year, 0 days
21Yoshida, ZengoRear Admiral
Yoshida Zengo
吉田善吾

(1885–1966)
1 December 193115 September 19331 year, 288 days
22Toyoda, SoemuRear Admiral
Toyoda Soemu
豊田副武

(1885–1957)
15 September 193315 March 19351 year, 181 days
23Kondō, NobutakeRear Admiral
Kondō Nobutake
近藤信竹

(1886–1953)
15 March 193515 November 1935245 days
24Nomura, NaokuniRear Admiral
Nomura Naokuni
野村直邦

(1885–1973)
15 November 193516 November 19361 year, 1 day
25Iwashita, YasutarōRear Admiral
Iwashita Yasutarō [ja]
岩下保太郎

(1887–1937)
16 November 193618 February 1937 †94 days
26Ozawa, JisaburōRear Admiral
Ozawa Jisaburō
小沢治三郎

(1886–1966)
18 February 193715 November 1937270 days
27Takahashi, IbōRear Admiral
Takahashi Ibō
高橋伊望

(1888–1947)
15 November 19375 November 19391 year, 355 days
28Fukudome, ShigeruCaptain
Fukudome Shigeru
福留繁

(1891–1971)
5 November 193910 April 19411 year, 156 days
29Itō, SeiichiCaptain
Itō Seiichi
伊藤整一

(1890–1945)
10 April 194111 August 1941123 days
30Ugaki, MatomeCaptain
Ugaki Matome
宇垣纏

(1890–1945)
11 August 194122 May 19431 year, 284 days
31Fukudome, ShigeruVice Admiral
Fukudome Shigeru
福留繁

(1891–1971)
22 May 19436 April 1944320 days
32Kusaka, RyūnosukeRear Admiral
Kusaka Ryūnosuke
草鹿龍之介

(1893–1971)
6 April 194424 June 19451 year, 79 days
33Yano, ShikazōRear Admiral
Yano Shikazō [ja]
矢野志加三

(1893–1966)
24 June 194525 September 194593 days

See alsoEdit

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Created Baron on 5 June 1896.
  2. ^ Forced into retirement on 21 October 1895 for boarding neutral vessels in search of Liu Yongfu, the fugitive president of the Republic of Formosa; Fleet dissolved.
  3. ^ Fleet dissolved.
  4. ^ Fleet recreated as permanent entity; given direct command over 1st Fleet.
  5. ^ Promoted posthumously to Marshal Admiral.
  6. ^ 1st Fleet separated from direct command on 11 August 1941.
  7. ^ Promoted posthumously to Marshal Admiral.
  8. ^ Killed in action when Kawanishi H8K ("Emily") flying boat crashed during a typhoon between Palau and Davao.
  9. ^ Refused promotion to Admiral.
  10. ^ Fleet surrendered.

ReferencesEdit

NotesEdit

BooksEdit

  • 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.

External linksEdit