The U.S. Pacific Command was established as a unified command on January 1, 1947, and it is the oldest and largest of the United States' unified commands.
The present U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) includes areas originally assigned to two other unified commanders. The Far East Command, which had been established on January 1, 1947, was disestablished on July 1, 1957, and all its responsibilities were assumed by the Pacific Command. That same day the command assumed some of the responsibilities of the Alaskan Command and individual Army and Air Force component commands for the Pacific also were established in Hawaii.
In October 1957, the then Commander in Chief, Pacific Command (CINCPAC) headquarters moved from Makalapa to Camp H.M. Smith, which is also the headquarters of the Commander, Marine Forces Pacific. CINCPAC also served concurrently as Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet until January 1958, when the U.S. Pacific Fleet became a separate component with its own commander.
Added responsibilities were assigned to CINCPAC on January 1, 1972, for military forces and elements in the Indian Ocean, Southern Asia, and the Arctic. Alaskan Command, one of the original unified commands established on January 1, 1947, was disestablished in 1975 and its responsibilities were transferred to the Pacific Command. The Pacific Command's area of responsibility was further expanded on May 1, 1976, to the east coast of Africa. This enlarged the Pacific Command to more than 50 percent of the earth's surface, an area of over 100 million square miles.
Another enlargement of the USPACOM area took place in October 1983, when CINCPAC was assigned responsibility for the People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia, and the Republic of Madagascar. CINCPAC was also redesignated Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (USCINCPAC).
In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act expanded, as well as codified, the authority of the commanders of the unified commands to carry out their assigned missions and to employ combatant forces provided by the individual Services.
A new Alaskan Command (ALCOM) was established on July 7, 1989, at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, as a subordinate unified command responsible to USCINCPAC. (There is no relationship to the original ALCOM, a unified command disestablished in 1975.) This placed the defense of Alaska and its surrounding waters under the leadership of one commander, providing a unity of command absent from the state since the early 1970s.
From 1989 through 2000, three Unified Command Plans slightly reduced USPACOM's area of responsibility. With the focus of attention shifting to the Middle East, the August 16, 1989, plan assigned responsibility for the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden to Commander, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). The January 1, 1996 plan transferred the Seychelles and adjacent waters to USCENTCOM. On October 1, 2000, responsibility for Indian Ocean waters off Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa was transferred from USPACOM to U.S. European Command (USEUCOM).
The Unified Command Plan changed as a result of the events of September 11, 2001, and the ensuing war on terrorism, as well as the new defense strategy articulated in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. For the first time the entire surface of the earth was divided among the various unified commands. A new Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) was created for homeland security and other changes in the various commands' responsibilities resulted in significant changes for USPACOM. The West Coast of North America was reassigned from USPACOM to USNORTHCOM. While Alaska was included in the reassignment to USNORTHCOM, Alaskan Command forces remained assigned to USPACOM in the "Forces for Unified Commands Memorandum." Antarctica was also added to USPACOM's area of responsibility. Approved in April 2002, the new Unified Command Plan became effective October 1, 2002.
Effective October 24, 2002, by direction of the Secretary of Defense, the title "Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command" (USCINCPAC) was changed to "Commander, U.S. Pacific Command" (CDRUSPACOM). As stated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, there is only one Commander in Chief and that is the President of the United States.
The 2008 Unified Command Plan, signed on December 17, 2008, documented the transfer of all areas of the Indian Ocean previously assigned to USPACOM west of 68 degrees east to the newly established U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM). As a result, four island countries off the east coast of Africa that were formerly assigned to PACOM were reassigned to AFRICOM: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Reunion.
USPACOM is the recipient of six Joint Meritorious Unit Awards.
Camp H.M. Smith, home of the headquarters of Commander, U.S. Pacific Command and the Commanding General of Marine Forces Pacific, is located on Oahu's Halawa Heights at an elevation of about 600 feet above Pearl Harbor near the community of Aiea. Once covered with sugar cane fields, Camp Smith's location was approved by an Act of Congress on March 17, 1941 to be the site of a new Navy hospital. Initial investment for the 220.5 acres of land was $912,000; improvements cost an additional $14 million. Hospital construction began in July 1941. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, construction of the planned 1,650-bed facility was rushed to completion. When Admiral Chester W. Nimitz attended the commissioning ceremony for the "Aiea Naval Hospital" on November 11, 1942, expansion was already necessary.
Throughout World War II, the Aiea Naval Hospital served as an interim treatment stop for thousands of wounded Sailors and Marines on their way home from the war in the Pacific. Following the battle for Iwo Jima in February - March 1945, the hospital was filled to overflowing with 5,676 in-patients, the highest number at any given time in its history.
On June 1, 1949, the hospital was deactivated when Army and Navy medical facilities were consolidated at the new Tripler Army Medical Center. Vacant and being considered for sale, the Marine Corps selected the site as the "Home of the Fleet Marine Force Pacific" in 1955. The installation was renamed on June 8, 1955, in honor of the first commanding general of Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific and a highly regarded Marine leader during World War II, General Holland McTyeire Smith. The Marines took up residence in October 1955 and Camp H.M. Smith was in full operation two weeks before its dedication on January31, 1956.
In October 1957, Camp Smith also became the headquarters for USPACOM where they, too, were located in the old Aiea Naval Hospital. In February 2001, ground was broken for a new USPACOM headquarters building. Construction was completed and people began moving into the new Building 700 during the period February-April 2004. Although neither man had commanded the Pacific Command, the building was named in honor of two great leaders of World War II in the Pacific: Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, USN, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, USA. The Nimitz-MacArthur Pacific Command Center was formally dedicated on April 14, 2004.