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U.S. Atlantic Fleet Video Collection

Dates: 1984-1995

Historical Note

The U.S. Atlantic Fleet was established in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Fleet concept came into being following the Spanish-American War when new bases acquired in the Caribbean and the Pacific were considered useless unless protected by an adequate fleet.

President Roosevelt placed great emphasis on naval readiness for war. During his first administration, from 1901 to 1905, authorization was obtained from Congress for 10 new battleships, four armored cruisers, and 17 smaller craft. All battleships were assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and all armored and lighter cruisers were assigned to the newly created Pacific Fleet.

The first Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Fleet was Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, who assumed command on 1 January 1906 aboard his flagship, the battleship USS Maine (BB-10).

In December 1907, Rear Admiral Evans led the fleet of 16 first line battleships out of Hampton Roads on the start of the famous world cruise of the Great White Fleet (1907-1909). President Roosevelt witnessed the departure from his yacht, Mayflower. This ceremonious Fleet Review served as a highlight of the Jamestown Exposition, then being held at the site of the present Norfolk Naval Station.

History indicates a continuous use of the title "Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet" from 1906 until 1923 and again from 1941 through 2002. In a reorganization of the United States Fleet in 1923, that title was abolished and the title Commander Scouting Force was used. On 1 February 1941, General Order 143 reestablished the title and reorganized the United States Fleet into three separate fleets (Atlantic, Pacific and Asiatic). The Order further stated each fleet would be under the command of a full admiral. Thus, on 1 February 1941, Rear Admiral Ernest J. King, in his flagship USS Texas (BB-35) at Culebra, Puerto Rico, hauled down his two-star flag and hoisted his four-star flag as Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Fleet.

From April 1941 to April 1948, four flagships served as Headquarters for the Commander in Chief: USS Augusta (CA-31) from April 1941 to January 1942; the historic spar-decked corvette/sloop USS Constellation (launched in 1855) from January 1942 to August 1942; USS Vixen (PG-53) from August 1942 to May 1946; and USS Pocono (AGC-16) from May 1946 to April 1948. On 5 April 1948, the Headquarters moved ashore into spaces of the former U.S. Navy Hospital, Norfolk, where it has remained.

After the end of World War II, the structure of the United States Armed Forces was reviewed with an eye toward reorganization following the turbulent war years. On 1 December 1947, under a reorganization act of the Armed Forces approved by Congress, the unified United States Atlantic Command was established, with headquarters co-located to those of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Admiral William H.P. Blandy, USN, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, became the first Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command, a title that remained dual-hatted (and would later become triple-hatted) until another reorganization of the Armed Forces in 1985 (the Goldwater-Nichols Act) separated the U.S. Atlantic Command from the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

In the early 1950s, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) decided to establish a new major command, that of Allied Command, Atlantic under the command of a U.S. four-star admiral with headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. Since this was primarily a naval command responsible for allied defense of the North Atlantic, the decision was made to co-locate this organization with that of the U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet, to form a tri-hatted command. On 10 April 1952, Admiral Lynde D. McCormick, USN, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet, assumed the title as the first Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic. Like the U.S. Atlantic Command, the Allied Command, Atlantic, remained intact and part of a tri-hatted command organization until a Congressionally mandated reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces occurred in 1985, which separated command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet from the other two commands with its own four-star admiral. Admiral Wesley L. McDonald, USN, was the last U.S. Navy admiral to command all three organizations at the same time. He relinquished command of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet to Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost, USN, on 4 October 1985.

However, under the 1985 reorganization of the U.S. Armed Forces, the admiral filling the post of Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, would also fill the position of Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command. This role for CINCLANTFLT continued until the Secretary of Defense, in 1986, approved a separate billet for the Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command. On 16 September 1986, Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, USN, relinquished the Deputy USCINCLANT post to Major General Thomas G. Darling, USAF.

From 1 February 1991 to 17 February 2000, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet was the naval component commander for the unified Commander in Chief, U.S. Southern Command, assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters in the USSOUTHCOM area of responsibility. On 17 February 2000, these responsibilities were reassigned to the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (formerly Commander, South Atlantic Force), assuming naval component commander duties for the unified USSOUTHCOM. However, COMUSNAVSO does not have any permanently assigned afloat forces, CINCLANTFLT, at the direction of USJFCOM (formerly USCINCLANT), remains the major force provider for USNAVSO for forces attached in support of USSOUTHCOM operations and exercises.

On 1 June 1992, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet became the naval component commander for the Commander in Chief, U.S. Strategic Command, assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters under USSTRATCOM.

On 1 October 2001, the Chief of Naval Operations designated CINCLANTFLT as concurrent Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (COMUSFLTFORCOM); a new command responsible for overall coordination, establishment, and implementation of integrated requirements and policies for manning, equipping, and training Atlantic and Pacific Fleet units during the inter-deployment training cycle.

On 1 October 2002, COMLANTFLT became the Naval component commander for the newly formed U.S. Northern Command, assuming responsibility for all U.S. Navy operational and training matters under Commander, U.S. Northern Command.

On 24 October 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the title of "Commander in Chief" be reserved solely for the President of the United States. In a message to Naval Commanders in Chief, the Chief of Naval Operations directed a change of title to that of "Commander." This change affected the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe.

Source: A Brief History of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command

Scope and Content Note

This collection consists of miscellaneous video recordings relating to the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Many are news programs or documentaries produced by commercial broadcasters, though a smaller number of official information and training videos are included as well. Major topics include women in the military; gays in the military, the enactment of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and Lieutenant Tracy Thorne; sexual harassment and the Tailhook scandal; Haiti and Haitian refugees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; ships of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet; the attack on USS Stark; Hurricane Andrew; and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Each recording is identified and described in the Box Listing below.

A variety of tape formats are found in the collection. The bulk of the tapes are VHS, with Beta and several types of professional videocassettes also present.

The collection is organized in four series. Each series holds tapes covering a variety of topics and formats. Series I (Boxes 1-30) holds recordings for which dates are available. These tapes are arranged chronologically.

Series II (Boxes 31-57) holds undated recordings. Tapes in this series are arranged alphabetically by title.

Series III (Boxes 57-60) consists of previously unidentified tapes. Where possible, these recordings have been viewed and are now arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series IV (Boxes 61-64) contains recordings on professional videocassettes. Due to their larger size, these tapes have been segregated in separate boxes. They are arranged alphabetically by title.


Access Note

The Archives currently has no means of making available to researchers those recordings in Beta or the professional videocassette formats.

In order to preserve the original recordings, recordings in VHS format will be converted to DVD for reference and research use. Researchers wishing to use these recordings are encouraged to contact the Archives in advance of their visit.

Restrictions Note

Many of the recordings in this collection consist of materials produced by news media and other non-government entities. These recordings will be made available solely for individual viewing and study. The Archives Branch does not hold the copyright to these materials and cannot grant permission to use non-government programs for public showings or as part of documentaries or subsequent news reporting. It is the responsibility of the user to obtain necessary permissions for any reuse of commercially produced materials found in this collection.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as Atlantic Fleet Video Collection, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.


18 cubic feet


23 March 2005


Published: Mon Feb 01 14:12:24 EST 2021