Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Asiatic Fleet

The Asiatic Fleet was part of the US Navy, during the World War II era, and was tasked with protecting the Philippines. By mid-1941, the headquarters for this unit was in Manila, at the Marsman Building. The commander was Admiral Thomas C. Hart and the fleet was based at Cavite Naval Base and Olongapo Naval Station. On July 22, the Mariveles Naval Base was completed and used as well.

This was not part of the US Pacific Fleet, which was based on the western coast of the United States and, in 1940, moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Table of contents
1 War with Japan
2 Chinese Detachment
3 Minefields
4 Vessels of the Asiatic Fleet and the 16th Naval District -- December 8, 1941
5 Aircraft of the Asiatic Fleet -- December 8, 1941
6 Vessels of the British and Dutch Navies
7 Asiatic Fleet -- December 8, 1941

War with Japan

Admiral Hart had permission to withdraw to the Indian Ocean, in the event of war, at his discretion.

Chinese Detachment

Early in November, the Navy Department ordered Hart to withdraw the fleet's Marines and gunboats, stationed in China. Five of the gunboats were moved to Manila, the Wake was seized by the Japanese and the Tutuila was given to the Chinese.

The majority of the 4th Marine Corps Regiment was stationed at Shanghai, and other detachments were at Pekin (Beijing) and Tientsin (Tianjin). These troops were loaded onto two President class liners on November 27 and 28 (at either Shanghai or Chinwangtao (Qinghuangdao) and arrived on November 30 and December 1.

The President Harrison returned to Chinwangtao, to move the remaining marines, but was captured by the Japanese. Those Marines which had reached the Philippines were tasked with defending the naval stations, particularly Mariveles Naval Base.


Manila and Subic Bays (in support of the Harbor Defenses) were mined by the Asiatic Fleet, stationed in Manila Bay. These minefields were designed to stop all vessels, except for submarines and shallow-draft surface craft.

Vessels of the Asiatic Fleet and the 16th Naval District -- December 8, 1941

The Asiatic Fleet and the 16th Naval District, possessed 1 heavy cruiser, 1 light cruiser, 13 World War I era destroyers, 29 submarines, 5-6 gunboats, 1 yacht, 6 minesweeperss, 2 tankers, an ocean-going tugboat, 1 rescue vessel, and various other ships, including 6 motor torpedo boats.

Also stationed at Cavite Naval Base was the Offshore Patrol.

Aircraft of the Asiatic Fleet -- December 8, 1941

Beginning in July of '41, 3-6 PBYs were flying along the southern border of the Philippines. The Dutch eventually added a connecting air patrol, north of Borneo.

Vessels of the British and Dutch Navies

In the Far East, by December of 1941, the British had 1 battleship, 1 battlecruiser, 10 cruisers, and 13 destroyers. The Dutch had 3 light cruisers, 7 destroyers, and 15 submarines.

These forces were either wiped out or driven from the area during the next few months. HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were the first victims of the Japanese. They set out from Singapore to intercept Japanese forces landing in Malaya. On 10 December 1941, they were intercepted by Japanese aircraft and sunk. The British and Dutch cruisers were damaged or destroyed during the defence of the Netherlands East Indies, including at such engagements as the Battle of the Java Sea.

Asiatic Fleet -- December 8, 1941

See also:

Philippine Department, USAFFE