The important bilateral relationship between Japan and the United States that exists today is very much in evidence at U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, where ships of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the United States Seventh Fleet share this excellent port.
Sasebo has been an important naval base since 1889, when the Sasebo Naval Station began operations on July 1st as headquarters for the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Third Naval District. In 1905, ships of the Combined Fleet, under the command of Fleet Admiral Heihachiro Togo, sailed from Sasebo to engage Russia’s Baltic Fleet. Admiral Togo’s victory during the Battle of Tsushima is a classic in naval history.
The Imperial Japanese Navy employed some 50,000 people at the Sasebo Naval Arsenal at the peak of World War II, constructing and refitting destroyers, light cruisers, submarines and other various naval vessels. The 21st Naval Air Arsenal, established jointly at Sasebo and Omura, produced a total of 966 aircraft. In those days, just as today, Sasebo was a favorite liberty port for navy personnel.
On September 22, 1945, the 5th Marine Division landed at Sasebo, and in June 1946, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo was formally established.
When war broke out in Korea four years later, Sasebo became the main launching point for the United Nations and U.S. Forces. Millions of tons of ammunition, fuel, tanks, trucks and supplies flowed through Sasebo on their way to U.N. Forces in Korea. The number of American military personnel in Sasebo grew to about 20,000.
After the Korean War ended, Japan established its Self Defense Forces, and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force ships began to homeport in Sasebo, as U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo continued to support ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Service Force ships as well as mine craft also made Sasebo their homeport.
U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo provided heavy support to the expanded Seventh Fleet during the years of war in Southeast Asia. Repair work completed by Japanese shipyards in Sasebo was then, and is still today, equal to the best in the world. Operations at U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo were scaled back during the mid-1970s and the base was designated as a Naval Ordnance Facility, while fleet visits dwindled to a very low level.
On July 4, 1980 this trend was reversed. U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo regained its name and once again, Seventh Fleet ships were forward deployed to Sasebo. U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo is currently home to USS America (LHA 6), USS Rushmore (LSD 47), USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Green Bay (LPD 20), USS Warrior (MCM 10), USS Patriot (MCM 7), USS Pioneer (MCM 9), USS Chief (MCM 14) and some 5,900 military members and their families as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces.
U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo played a vital logistics role in 1990-91 during Operation Desert Shield/Storm by serving as a supply point for ordnance and fuel for ships and Marines operating in the Persian Gulf theater.
Today, as throughout its history, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo stands ready to support Seventh Fleet units as they continue to ensure peace and security in the Pacific region.