The Sixth Fleet is the United States Navy's operational fleet and staff of United States Naval Forces Europe. The Sixth Fleet is headquartered at Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy.〔(– Order amalgamating Sixth Fleet and Naval Forces Europe staffs )〕 The officially stated mission of the Sixth Fleet in 2011 is that it "conducts the full range of Maritime Operations and Theater Security Cooperation missions, in concert with coalition, joint, interagency, and other parties, in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa." The commander of the Sixth Fleet is Vice Admiral James G. Foggo, III.〔''NAVEUR'', "()", 11 October 2013.〕
The Sixth Fleet was established in February 1950 by redesignation of the former Sixth Task Fleet. Since that time, it has been continually engaged in world affairs around the Mediterranean, and, on occasion, further afield. It was involved in numerous NATO maritime exercises, the U.S. Lebanese intervention of 1958, confrontation with the Soviets during the Yom Kippur War (also known as the October War) of 1973, clearance of the Suez Canal after 1973, several confrontations with Libya during the 1980s (including Operation El Dorado Canyon), and maintenance of task forces in the Adriatic during the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Most recently it launched airstrikes on Libya again during the Libyan Civil War of 2011.
The United States has maintained a naval presence in the Mediterranean since the early 19th century, when U.S. Naval forces first engaged the Barbary pirates to prevent them from interfering with commercial shipping. The earliest unit was the Mediterranean Squadron.
On 1 February 1946, U.S. Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters (NavNAW), was redesignated U.S. Naval Forces, Mediterranean.〔Thomas A. Bryson, ''Tars, Turks, and Tankers: The Role of the United States Navy in the Middle East'', Scarecrow Press, Inc., Metuchen, New Jersey, and London, 1980, 89–90.〕 The force was responsible to U.S. Naval Forces, Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean in London, and had as its flagship a destroyer tender, anchored at Naples, Italy. In 1946, President Truman dispatched the battleship to the Eastern Mediterranean, ostensibly to return the body of Münir Ertegün, former Turkish Ambassador to Washington, back to Istanbul. However, perhaps a much stronger motive was to demonstrate U.S. power in view of Soviet threats to Turkey and Iran. The cruiser relieved the tender as flagship and began operating with the fleet. In June 1946 , flying the flag of Vice Admiral Bernhard Bieri, Commander, Naval Forces Mediterranean, was despatched to Trieste.〔Bryson, 92–97.〕
On 5 September 1946, , flying the flag of Rear Admiral John H. Cassady, Commander Carrier Division 1,〔(【引用サイトリンク】title=U.S.S. Little Rock Crew Member's Transcript of his U.S.S. Little Rock experiences as given by Captain Henri H. Smith-Hutton )〕 and accompanied by , , and , visited Piraeus, the port of Athens. , escorted by USS ''Fargo'' and , visited Greece in December 1946.
The title of Naval Forces Mediterranean was changed to Commander Sixth Task Fleet and then, in 1950, Commander, Sixth Fleet. Sixth Fleet's NATO guise was the principal player in Exercise Longstep during November 1952. In 1957, a naval exercise, Operation Deep Water, took place within the Allied Forces Southern Europe area of responsibility. It was conducted by Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe (STRIKFORSOUTH), commanded by Vice Admiral Charles R. Brown, USN, who also commanded the Sixth Fleet. STRIKEFORSOUTH was effectively the NATO designation for the U.S. Sixth Fleet, though additional NATO headquarters personnel would eventually be assigned, while maintaining American control over its nuclear weapons on board U.S. aircraft carrier as mandated by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946.
Sixth Fleet supported American land forces during Operation Blue Bat in Lebanon in 1958.
On 20 January 1967, following France's withdrawal from the NATO Military Command Structure, and the removal of NATO troops from France, Sixth Fleet Headquarters was moved from Villefranche-sur-Mer, France to Gaeta, Italy.〔
During the Cold War, the Sixth Fleet had several confrontations with the Soviet Navy's 5th Operational Squadron, notably during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.〔James L. Holloway III, Aircraft Carriers at War〕 During the Yom Kippur War Elmo Zumwalt describes part of the Sixth Fleet buildup as follows:〔Elmo Zumwalt, On Watch, 1976, 447.〕
"On 25 October JCS directed TG 20.1, and escorts, to (under the command of ).. ComSixthFleet as TG 60.3 and proceed to join TG 60 south of Crete. Additionally, and escorts (TG 60.2) and TF61/62 (amphibious task forces ) were directed to join TG 60.1 south of Crete. ... TG 100.1 (Baltic destroyers) were ordered to proceed to the Mediterranean and chop to ComSixthFleet..'
In an exchange of notes on 13 and 25 April 1974, the United States and Egypt agreed that the United States would provide extensive assistance to clear the Suez Canal of mines, unexploded ordnance, and sunken ships.〔Bryson, ''Tars, Turks, and Tankers'', 1980, 185–192.〕 These operations took the form of Nimbus Star (mine and ordnance clearance), Nimbus Moon (land and sub-surface naval ordnance clearance), and Nimrod Spar, in which a private salvage contractor would clear the canal of the ten sunken ships under the supervision of the Sixth Fleet's Task Force 65. Captain J. Huntly Boyd, the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage, was sent to the Canal Zone as Commander, Salvage Task Group (CTG 65.7). He supervised the actual salvage clearing operation which was carried out by the Murphy Pacific Marine Salvage Company of New York. A total of ten ships blocked the canal; 200 civilian specialists worked from May to December 1974 to complete the operation. The canal reopened on 5 June 1975, with the Sixth Fleet flagship ''Little Rock'' in attendance.
The Sixth Fleet provided military, logistical and humanitarian assistance to support NATO operations in Kosovo from the beginning of Operation Allied Force. It also participated in Operation Shining Hope and Operation Joint Guardian. In March 2011, it was involved in operations in Libya pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
The New York Post criticized the shrinking of the fleet since 2003 to the point in 2010 where it could exercise no control in preventing the Gaza flotilla raid.
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