Task Force Commander



Frank Jack Fletcher was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on 29 April 1885. Appointed to the U. S. Naval Academy from his native state in 1902, he graduated from Annapolis on 12 February 1906 and was commissioned an Ensign on 13 February 1908 following two years at sea.

The early years of his career included service on the battleships Rhode Island (BB-17), Ohio (BB-12), and Maine (BB-10). He served on USS Eagle (PY) and USS Franklin. In November 1909 he was assigned to USS Chauncey (DD-3), a unit in the Asiatic Torpedo Flotilla. He assumed command of USS Dale (DD-4) in April 1910 and in March 1912 returned to Chauncey as Commanding Officer. Transferred to USS Florida (BB-30), in December 1912, he was aboard that battleship during the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico, in April 1914.
For distinguished conduct in battle engagements in Vera Cruz, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.


He became Aide and Flag Lieutenant on the staff of the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet in July 1914. After a year at this post, he returned to the Naval Academy for duty in the Executive Department.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, he served as Gunnery Officer of USS Kearsarge (BB-5) until September 1917, when he assumed command of USS Margaret (SP-527) in order to get to Europe. He was assigned to USS Allen (DD-66) in February 1918 before taking command of USS Benham (DD-49) in May of 1918. For distinguished service as Commanding Officer USS Benham, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling European waters and protecting vitally important convoys, he was awarded the Navy Cross.

From October 1918 to February 1919, he assisted in fitting out USS Crane (DD-109) at San Francisco. He then became Commanding Officer of USS Gridley (DD-92) upon her commissioning. Returning to Washington, he was head of the Detail Section, Enlisted Personnel Division in the Bureau of Navigation from April 1919 until September 1922.

He returned to Asiatic Station, having consecutive commands of the USS Whipple (DD-217), USS Saramento (PG-19), USS Rainbow (AS-7), and Submarine Base, Cavite. He served at the Washington Navy Yard from March 1925 to August 1927; became Executive Officer of USS Colorado (BB-45). He then completed the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport in June 1930 and he graduated from the Army War College in 1931 and completed the Senior Course at the Naval War College, Newport in 1929-30 followed immediately by the Army War College in Washington, D.C., 1930-31, in preparation for strategic leadership responsibilities.

His experience and training was preparing him for high command. He became Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet in August 1931. In the summer of 1933, he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Following this assignment he had duty from November 1933 to May 1936 as Aide to the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Claude A. Swanson. He assumed command of USS New Mexico, (BB-40) flagship of Battleship Division Three in June 1936. In December 1937, he became a member of the Naval Examining Board, and became Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Navigation in June 1938.

Returning to the Pacific between September 1939 and December 1941, he became Commander Cruiser Division Three; Commander Cruiser Division Six; Commander Cruisers 'Scouting Force; and Commander Cruiser Division Four. He was operating south of Oahu in USS Minneapolis (CA-36) when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Wake Island was threatened and he was in command of TF 14 in the attempted relief.  He was in command of one of the two Task Forces participating in operations in the Marshall-Gilbert Islands in February 1942 and was second in command during the Salamaua-Lae operations.

On 19 April 1942, he was designated Commander Cruisers, Pacific Fleet. This was the senior title available, Pye had Battleships and Halsey was Carriers. He was in this command in May 1942 during the Battle of the Coral Sea which stopped Japanese expansion. In June during the Battle of Midway, he was Senior Task Force Commander of two Task Forces, his flag flying in USS Yorktown (CV5). It was in this battle that the Japanese suffered the first decisive defeat in three hundred and fifty years, restoring the balance of naval power in the Pacific. He was promoted to Vice Admiral and during the Tulagi-Guadalcanal landings on 7-8 August 1942, he commanded two of the three Task Forces engaged as well as the American Task Forces in the ensuing Battle of the Eastern Solomons. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal "for exceptionally meritorious service as Task Force Commander, United States Pacific Fleet . . ." during the Battles of the Coral Sea and Midway.

In November 1942, he became Commandant, Thirteenth Naval District, Seattle, Washington, and Commander Northwestern Sea Frontier. In October 1943 became Commander, Alaskan Sea Frontier, with additional duty as Commander North Pacific Force and North Pacific Ocean Area. This is one of the three ocean areas under Nimitz. A task force under his overall command on 4 February 1944 made the first sea bombardment of the Kurile Islands. Determining the Kuriles were in a defensive posture, he felt free to interdict shipping in the whole northern Pacific. He returned to bombard the Kurils in January 1945 claiming 30 ships destroyed. The same task force made the first penetration through the Kurile Islands into the Sea of Okhtoskon 3-4 March 1945. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal by the War Department for ". . . his professional ability and able leadership in the vast wartime expansion and organization of naval installations in the North Pacific Area . . . between October 1943 and August 1945.

In September 1945, following the cessation of hostilities in the Far East, he proceeded to Mutsu Bay, off Ominto, Honshu, Japan, with sixty ships of his North Pacific Force for the emergency naval occupation of northern Japan where he accepted the surrender of the Imperial Northern Fleet. Included in his speech to his men :   

On 17 December 1945, he reported for duty as a member of the General Board, Navy Department.
On 1 May 1946, he became Chairman, General Board, and continued to serve in that capacity until retirement in 1947.
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher died 25 April 1973 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
On to :Page 2.The Battles     Classmates
Page 3.The Aftermath
Page 4.Q & A.
Early Life in Iowa.

Reference :
In Bitter Tempest : The Biography Of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher
    by Stephen D. Regan,
    Hardback, 288 pages.   Publisher : Iowa State University Press, December 1993
    ISBN : 0813807786
Black Shoe Carrier Admiral : Frank Jack Fletcher at Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal
    by John B. Lundstrom
    Hardback, 838 pages.   Publisher : Naval Institute Press, 2006
    ISBN : 1-59114-475-2
Fletcher, Task Force Commander ; the early years of the Pacific War   NEW click here
    by James Bauer
    Trade paperback, 256 pages, illustrated, tables, charts.
    Manorborn Press, November 2010. ISBN : 978-0-9830502-0-9

External Links:
Relief of Wake Island
Battle of Coral Sea   {
Battle of Midway
Battle of Eastern Solomons
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, USN
Battle of Midway: ComCruPacFlt Report
Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher Christopher Lee Dennis
Biography, Arlington National Cemetery
USS Fletcher (DD-992)

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About this page: Fletcher - World War II, the early years: biography of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher, task force commander at the Battles of Coral Sea, Midway, and Eastern Solomons.  The basic text of this page is contributed by Christopher Lee Dennis.
Last updated on Oct 30, 2007. Add early life in Marshalltown, Iowa.
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