By Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer
Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet
U.S. 7th Fleet was established by a single naval message with the effective date of March 15, 1943. And now, 75 years later, we are the U.S. Navy’s largest fleet in the Indo-Pacific. We continue to be defined by our forward-deployed presence, our many partnerships with like-minded navies and by the security we provide to this dynamic and vital region.
Seventh Fleet was created to address a need for regional presence at the advent of America’s involvement in World War II. Since 1943, 7th Fleet has fought in nearly every conflict in this region and beyond, from Cold War hot spots to our nation’s immediate response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. We have also responded to many natural disasters over the years, an added advantage of our longstanding presence in the region.
As 7th Fleet commander, I am committed to making sure our Sailors, ships, submarines and aircraft are ready when our nation calls us to action. At any given time, there are up to 70 ships, 140 aircraft and about 40,000 Sailors and Marines in the region. This includes forward-deployed forces that operate out of Japan and Guam, as well as rotationally deployed forces based in the United States.
As I mentioned, 7th Fleet was born 75 years ago. I didn’t mention that it was in Brisbane, Australia. At that time, our fleet was rebuilding from Pearl Harbor, learning in the unforgiving crucible of war and facing a formidable foe. We found a home amongst our allies in Brisbane. Under the supreme leadership of General MacArthur, admirals Carpenter and then Kinkaid turned Seventh Fleet into a powerful fighting force, one that helped turn the tide of war toward peace. We will always be grateful to Brisbane, and to all Brisbanites, for sheltering our Navy’s revival at a time when we were at our most vulnerable.
Our headquarters moved several times since then, ultimately settling in Yokosuka, Japan. We do our best work – I do my best work – alongside allies, partners and friends. Our shared commitment to providing security has enabled stability; and this stability has promoted the rising tide of prosperity that continues to sweep the Indo-Pacific. That commitment endures today in the face of rising, unpredictable challenges, posed by revisionist powers and other persistent threats. But security does not happen by itself. It must be provided by likeminded nations and by the constant presence of their navies at sea.
We will continue to do this based on shared values and principles that transcend episodic differences, and support the rules-based order. These same principles have paved the way toward reconciliation and peace many times. 75 years ago, no one envisioned that generations of Seventh Fleet Sailors would live in Yokosuka, Japan, or sail with Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force, yet now we do. And 40 years ago, few would’ve predicted a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group visiting Vietnam. Yet I stood with many Vietnamese sons and daughters just last week, as we sang our national anthems aboard USS Carl Vinson.
Our Sailors have lived in the Indo-Pacific for the past 75 years far away from our nation’s shores. Their stories are canonized in the enduring examples of service members willing to sail into harm’s way and support our regional partners when called upon. Their families begin here, their children were raised here, and their aspirations are intertwined with the places they visit and the people they meet here. Every day I marvel at the strength of a community born in wartime and tested by adversity. Families that not only survive, but thrive when their loved ones deploy for months at a time. That’s not just our heritage, but a legacy we will pass on to forward-deployed families for posterity.
As we reflect on this legacy, no one should doubt Seventh Fleet’s readiness today. No one should doubt our obligations to defend our allies. No one should doubt our resolve to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.
Happy 75th birthday, 7th Fleet!