Command Relations, Eastern Sea Frontier
Experience has demonstrated the practical value of the Sea Frontier as an element of naval administration. It has also revealed that, in general, the structure of the Frontiers has been built upon sound principles of organization. But the need for possible modification in the design of the Eastern Sea Frontier has been revealed during the months of extraordinary strain produced by the intense submarine warfare. On April 8, 1942, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier in a letter to CominCh expressed the opinion that this Frontier, as established, did not fully meet war conditions for the following reasons:
- Commandants of Naval Districts were so occupied with other district activities that they could give but little attention to military and Frontier matters. The U-boat activities along the coast showed clearly that the handling of combat forces required the full time and immediate attention of local operating commanders.
- As a result of conflicting duties, the authority of District Commandants was delegated to subordinates - either retired or reserve officers - not fully experienced or competent to handle situations that arose and not fully prepared to make decisions without reference to Commandants.
- The inclusion of Army Air Forces within the Frontier structure made it highly desirable that officers actually exercising command should be active officers of high rank.
Commander Eastern Sea Frontier based his proposal for reorganization upon the general principle of separating the fighting from the service
forces in much the same way they are divided in any operating fleet. In the fighting forces he recommended grouping the following elements:
the sea going vessels assigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier,
the Army Air forces assigned to coastal protection,
the Navy Air forces assigned to coastal protection,
the Inshore Patrol,
and the routing authorities.
The service forces would include all naval districts and operating bases under his command, navy yards, air stations, and Army airfields. These essential units should not be involved in any of the tasks assigned the Fighting Forces since they were fully occupied with vital problems of repair and upkeep of material, and the housing, feeding, and recreation of the personnel. All Sea Frontier military action would be divorced from their control and, by the same token, all service forces would be separated from control of the Sea Frontier.
Having established the basic principle of division between the two mutually exclusive but complementary forces, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier proceeded to recommend a revised method of administration. All of the fighting forces in an area would be organized into a task force under a flag officer who would be directly responsible for his area under the direction of Commander Eastern Sea Frontier. This responsibility was large, embracing the training of personnel, the organization of the forces, and decisions of military action. Commander Eastern Sea Frontier directives would provide the framework within which the task group commander could express his initiative.
The authority of these Commanders in each area would cease at the harbor entrance net. Inside this barrier, the District Commandant would be
responsible for such matters as mine sweeping and laying, patrol of mine fields, control of air patrols, and so forth. It was proposed, however, that Port Directors should be under Task Group Commanders rather than under the Commandants. The Commanders would be provided with a staff of Army and Navy officers who would maintain a twenty-four hour watch at headquarters.
To provide for the adequate transmittal of information between the various commands involved, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier recommended an elaborate system of communication between air stations, task group headquarters, and Headquarters of Eastern Sea Frontier.
The service forces would continue in command of all physical properties of the various shore based activities. To indicate the nature of the broad division between the two kinds of forces, Commander Eastern Sea Frontier suggested the analogy between a Fleet and a Fleet Base.
The fundamental principle of the suggested reorganization was the division of authority in two parts which conformed closely to the lines of cleavage between the activities of those primarily concerned with operations and those essentially charged with service. The purpose of this was to facilitate military operations by placing them in the hands of those concerned exclusively with them.
The purpose of the reorganization was recognized by CominCh in a dispatch of April 12, 1942 and a letter of April 16, 1942. In the former, he stated that Commandants assigned as Task Group or Force Commanders by a Sea Frontier Commander should consider such duty their primary duty. In the letter he notified Commander Easter Sea Frontier that additional flag officers would be sent to various districts as Assistant Commandants.
To this series of communications Commander Eastern Sea Frontier replied by letter on April 27, 1942. He believed that additional personnel would not "meet fully the active conditions" of his command, and that even with such help the Commandants could not give their full attention to the Eastern Sea Frontier which was a full time job. He proposed instead that the flag officers serving as Assistant Commandants should have their duties specifically confined to Easter Sea Frontier and the Naval Local Defense Forces should have control over all military operations both air and surface which were controlled by the Commandant.
On May 2, 1942, CominCh approved this recommendation "in principle" with the following amplification:
District Commandants would retain full responsibility for all operations of the Sea Frontier and the Local Defense Force. The Assistant Commandants would act under the authority delegated directly to them by District Commandants.
It was decided that Assistant Commandants would be assigned to the Naval Districts to assist the District Commandant in the performance of his duty as a Task Group Commander under Commander Eastern Sea Frontier. These Assistant Commandants began their new duty during 1942. There can be no question but that they took much of the load off the District Commandants and in so doing insured greater efficiency in the conduct of our military operations.
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