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The United States Fleet was an organization in the United States Navy from 1922 until after World War II. The acronym CINCUS, pronounced "sink us", was used for Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Fleet. This title was disposed of and officially replaced by COMINCH in December 1941 (for "Commander-in-Chief", U.S. Navy). This last-named position was taken over by Admiral Ernest J. King, who in 1944 was promoted to the five-star rank of Fleet Admiral.
The General Order of 6 December 1922 combined the U.S. Pacific Fleet and the U.S. Atlantic Fleet to form the United States Fleet. The main body of its ships, the Battle Fleet, was stationed in the Pacific Ocean and the "Scouting Fleet" was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, the "Control Force", protecting the Atlantic sea lanes, and the "Fleet Base Force" were included. Remaining independent of the United States Fleet were the Asiatic Fleet, the Naval Forces in Europe, the "Special Service Squadron", and all U.S. Navy submarines.
During 1930, the Battle Fleet and Scouting Fleet were renamed the Battle Force and the Scouting Force. The Submarine Force was also placed under control of the CINCUS. The Control Force was abolished in 1931. The Special Service Squadron and the Asiatic Fleet were retained, both still apparently independent of the U.S. Fleet.
With the start of World War II in Europe the U.S. Navy began to plan for the possibility of war in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. On 1 February 1941, General Order 143 was issued, abolishing the "United States Fleet" organization. In its place, the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the U.S. Pacific Fleet were re-established, each under its own commander-in-chief. The Asiatic Fleet remained an independent organization as before.
The additional title of Commander-in-Chief United States Fleet was given to one of the three fleet commanders in the event of two or more fleets operating together. Except for this provision, the individual commanders-in-chief were responsible directly to the Secretary of the Navy and to the President of the United States.
Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was appointed the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and the Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, on February 1, 1941, carrying the temporary rank of Admiral starting on that date. Admiral Kimmel was relieved as the CINPAC / CINCUS on 17 December 1941, shortly after the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On the following day, by Executive Order 8984 of December 18, 1941, the position of Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet was re-established, and he was given operational command over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Asiatic Fleets, and all naval coastal forces. On 20 December, Admiral Ernest J. King was assigned as the COMINCH. One important difference from the previous post of CINCUS was that Admiral King insisted that his headquarters would always be in Washington, D.C., rather than with the Fleet.
Dividing command of the Navy between the COMINCH King and the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark did not prove to be very effective. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed this problem with his Executive Order 9096 of March 12, 1942. This order commanded that the offices of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet (COMINCH) would be held by a single naval officer, and Admiral King received the designation of CNO in addition to that of COMINCH. Admiral King relieved Stark as the CNO on 29 March 1942, and King wore both of these "hats" for the remainder of World War II.
The position of Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, no longer needed in peacetime, was abolished by Admiral King on 10 October 1945, and its responsibilities were transferred to the Chief of Naval Operations. From that date through the present, the Chief of Naval operations has nearly always been the highest-ranking U.S. Navy officer. Since September 1947, the CNO has held the additional position of Chief of Staff of the United States Navy, and he is the highest-ranking naval officer except when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is also a U.S. Navy officer.
Commanders of the United States Fleet: