Raymond Spruance was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 3rd July, 1886. He attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1907 (24/209) and joined the United States Navy.
Spruance specialized in electrical engineering and spent a year seconded to the General Electric Company. After the First World War he commanded destroyers and studied at the Naval War College (1926-27).
In 1938 Spruance was given command of the Mississippi and two years later became head of the 10th Naval District based in San Juan. Spruance was promoted to rear admiral in December 1940 and two years later was appointed head of Cruiser Division 5 in the Pacific.
After the United States entered the Second World War Spruance served under William Halsey, the head of Task Group 16. A nervous skin disease meant that Halsey missed the battle of Midway and Spruance led the task force that inflicted considerable damage on the Japanese Navy.
When Halsey returned to duty in June, 1942, Spruance became chief of staff to Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet. The following year Spruance was promoted to vice admiral and became Nimitz's deputy. In this post he played a major role in the planning of the navy's role in the Pacific War.
Spruance became head of the 5th Fleet in September 1943 and held overall command of the assaults on the Gilbert Islands (20th November 1943) and the Marshall Islands (31st January, 1944). In February 1944 he was promoted to full admiral.
Spruance was also given the task of planning the assaults of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After these successful operations Spruance began to organize the invasion of Japan but the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made this unnecessary.
In 1948 Spruance retired from the US Navy and served as ambassador to the Philippines (1952-55). Raymond Spruance, who declined to write his memoirs, died in California on 23rd December 1969.
Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.
USS Spruance (DD-963)
USS Spruance (DD-963) was the lead ship of the United States Navy's Spruance-class of destroyers and was named after Raymond A. Spruance, a U.S. Navy admiral.
Spruance was built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi, and launched by Mrs. Raymond A. Spruance, Commander Raymond J. Harbrecht in command. 
Spruance served in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, assigned to Destroyer Squadron 24 and operating out of Naval Station Mayport, Florida.
Spruance was decommissioned on 23 March 2005 and then was sunk as a target on 8 December 2006.
Early Life & Career
The son of Alexander and Annie Spruance, Raymond Ames Spruance was born at Baltimore, MD on July 3, 1886. Raised in Indianapolis, IN, he attended school locally and graduated from Shortridge High School. After further schooling at the Stevens Preparatory School in New Jersey, Spruance applied to and was accepted by the US Naval Academy in 1903.
Graduating from Annapolis three years later, he served two years at sea before receiving his commission as an ensign on September 13, 1908. During this period, Spruance served aboard USS Minnesota (BB-22) during the cruise of the Great White Fleet. Arriving back in the United States, he underwent additional training in electrical engineering at General Electric before being posted to USS Connecticut (BB-18) in May 1910. Following a stint aboard USS Cincinnati, Spruance was made commander of the destroyer USS Bainbridge in March 1913 with the rank of lieutenant (junior grade).
In May 1914, Spruance received a posting as Assistant to the Inspector of Machinery at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. Two years later, he aided in the fitting out of USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) then under construction in the yard. With the battleship's completion, Spruance joined its crew and remained aboard until November 1917.
An old salt picks his 4 favorite American admirals—and explains why (Part I)
By Capt. Wayne P. Hughes, USN (Ret.)
Best Defense officer of maritime affairs
By Capt. Wayne P. Hughes, USN (Ret.)
Best Defense officer of maritime affairs
The four flag officers on my personal list of great American naval leaders have, in addition to the usual attributes, two odd things in common.
First, each of them was steeped in technology, to the point that Raymond Spruance and Arleigh Burke had to fight the naval engineering community to get to the Pacific War. Their technological background and prowess were value adds in different ways because technology and tactics are two sides of a single coin. The second oddity is that none came from a coast nor grew up in a seagoing family. You may take that for what it is worth, but in my own case, growing up in Illinois I was caught up in the romance of the sea and dreamed of winning battles. Perhaps fortunately, I was only shot at twice, once by friendly forces.
Only a whisker separates the rankings of my dream team, but I present them in order of my love for each. I start with Spruance.
In the short description of The Fleet at Flood Tide, which includes contributions from Raymond Spruance, author James Hornfischer closes with this declaration: “Spruance should forever be remembered as the greatest operational naval commander of World War II.” I agree and believe he meant the greatest in any navy.
I think Spruance’s greatness first struck me when, as a lieutenant teaching naval history, I read about his arrival at Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s office just before the Battle of Midway. Nimitz told Spruance that William Halsey was sick, that Halsey had recommended him to take command of Task Force 16, that there would be a battle with 100% certainty, and the U.S. warships would be outnumbered four to one by the Japanese fleet. On the way back to his flagship Spruance said to his aide, “It appears . . . I have two sets of orders. [First] a written order to meet and defeat the Japs. [Second] My oral orders are not to lose my force. If things go badly I am to withdraw and let them have Midway, because they can’t hold it and we will get it back.” Spruance made his name on June 4, 1942, by sinking four Japanese carriers. But there were many heroes in that battle, so I’m going to describe a different one in which Spruance was unequivocally in command.
First, some background. One foundation to prepare Spruance for his wartime exploits was his technical experience. As an ensign he wangled a year at General Electric. Recognized for his aptitude for electrical engineering, he served in three engineer officer tours afloat and three other technical tours in the Bureau of Engineering.
Almost too late, Spruance had to argue his way back to his first love, command at sea.
A second foundation to prepare Spruance for war was two tours at the Naval War College. In the second tour under Rear Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus he felt compelled to tell the president that his pet project, the doctrinal publication Sound Military Decision, was an elaborate cookbook of form over substance. Kalbfus wanted a recipe of a universally applicable decision process. Captain Spruance told him a process could not be an end in itself, but was an aid to apprehending both the breadth and essence of each operation in all its distinctive complexity. Strange to say, Kalbfus neither lost his respect for Spruance nor changed his mind.
The third foundation of Spruance’s greatness was his experience in command at sea. He commanded six ships. The first was the destroyer Bainbridge as lieutenant junior grade, and the last was USS Mississippi when he was promoted to rear admiral. In between, Spruance learned high-speed shiphandling under Commander William F. Halsey, his destroyer squadron commander, and it was then that Halsey first learned to respect young Spruance.
I cannot dwell on all of Spruance’s prewar connections with Halsey and Nimitz, though they were serendipitous and important. I must hasten on to illustrate his greatness when the decisions were all his as Commander of the Fifth Fleet in June 1944 at the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Spruance led more operations later at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, where he also would exhibit his famous coolness under pressure, his reliance on strong-willed subordinates of his own choosing, and a reluctance to mediate their heated disputes. But his decisive victory in the Philippine Sea was a climax that ended all hope in Japan they could stop the American advance after our successful landings in the Marianas.
Some historians, including Hornfischer, express doubts about his key decision to stay on the defensive and protect the beachhead. Marc Mitscher and Mitscher’s Chief of Staff, Arleigh Burke, knew that all the 1942 carrier battles had been won by getting off the first decisive attack. What Spruance saw, or so I believe, was that by 1944 our CIC for fighter direction, our five-inch guns with VT fuses, and our scores of 20mm and 40mm guns in every ship made it impossible to penetrate our defenses. By striking down all scout and torpedo bombers to the hanger decks each carrier captain could concentrate on dispatching and recovering nothing but fighters flown by experienced pilots well-schooled in ACM. We actually had more fighters in the air from our fifteen fast carriers than all the attacking aircraft launched from nine Japanese carriers. The result was the famous Marianas Turkey Shoot. The Japanese lost 435 of 450 aircraft and never recovered.
Much more could be said about Spruance’s perspicacity, and when the need arose, his daring in facing the enemy. I’ll sum up with the words of historian J. B. Lundstrom in the introduction to Tom Buell’s biography, The Quiet Warrior. In response to critics who said Spruance might have done better at Midway, at Tarawa, or in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Lundstrom wrote, “The constant was that every time Admiral Raymond A. Spruance commanded an operation against the Japanese, they lost.” He never let the Japanese Navy, Army, kamikazes, typhoons, or logistical impediments defeat him, even under the direst circumstances. Naval War College historian and strategist George Baer offers that Spruance perfectly characterizes Carl von Clausewitz’s notion of military genius.
Captain Wayne P. Hughes Jr. (Ret.), during his 30 years of active duty, held three commands in the surface Navy. He also was an operations analyst afloat and ashore. He is the author of the naval classic Fleet Tactics. Since retiring some 34 years ago, he has been a teacher and administrator at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
A Man Of His Time, And Ours
Winston Churchill’s views were typical of his place as a member of Britain’s ruling upper class, which, then and now, views dominance as a birthright.
Priya Satia is the Raymond A. Spruance professor of international history at Stanford University. Her most recent book is “Time’s Monster: How History Makes History.”
Winston Churchill was always ambitious for attention. Today he occupies a central place in heated disputes about the past and present of racism, and whether to celebrate or redeem Britain’s imperial history.
In March, protests against police violence against women prompted the government to ring Churchill’s statue in central London with police protection, even hours after people had dispersed. A few weeks later, rallies against proposed laws curtailing the very right to protest, including harsh punishments for defacing statues, prompted the same government response — though protestors showed little interest in attacking the statue.
Boris Johnson’s government, with its nostalgia for British imperial greatness, habitually translates criticism of its policies into attacks on the prime minister’s personal hero. Those who do criticize Churchill, like the (now disbanded) scholarly working group on “Churchill, race and empire” at Cambridge University’s Churchill College, are also threateningly rebuked for failing to grasp that his violently racist views were merely typical of his time.
In fact, Churchill’s views not only reflected but also enormously influenced his time more interestingly, over his long career, they were at times significantly out of step with his time — typical only of his place as a member of Britain’s ruling upper class.
In 1974, the actor Richard Burton wrote in The New York Times that to play Churchill was to hate him. Burton was the son of a Welsh miner, and his essay is a reminder of the extent to which people’s views are often typical of place rather than time: Welsh miners have never forgiven Churchill for violently crushing their strike when he was home secretary in 1911. Likewise, Britain’s ruling class found Burton’s view practically treasonous: The BBC drama department banned him for life.
A decade had not yet passed then since Churchill’s death. We now have a longer view, more records and a more inclusive historical profession that ought to be better able to understand Churchill’s historical impact. But questioning his legacy continues to arouse intimations of treason from those who insist that Churchill’s pivotal role in defeating the Nazis puts him beyond criticism. That this is a view conditioned by class is clear, for Churchill was continually reproached in his own lifetime.
Even before World War II was over, Britons rejected him in the election of 1945, looking to the Labour Party for new social and imperial policies, partly because many of Churchill’s wartime policies were so controversial. His 1944 decision to destroy rather than support Greece’s anti-fascist resistance before the Nazis had even been defeated, for instance, was challenged by members of parliament in stormy debates. His majority in his Woodford seat shrank in the 1959 election.
If electoral accountability was not treasonous then, why should historical accountability be today?
Even earlier in his career, during World War I, Churchill was demoted for his hand, as first lord of the admiralty, in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign. In the election of 1922, he lost his seat in parliament.
In such spells of defeat, Churchill took up his pen (and painting brush), aware that his work as a historian would mitigate the criticism of his contemporaries for future generations. He would consciously shape our view of him as the man who stood between freedom and fascism, though the truth, as always, was more complex.
From his youth, he had lived his life in a manner aimed at producing material for historical writing. Conscious of his lineage as a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough, he felt destined for greatness, holding himself to a different moral standard than an ordinary person. Coming of age in the late Victorian era, when imperial imagery and sounds permeated Britain’s emerging mass culture, he recognized the good fortune of his family name and used it to take part in conflicts abroad in order to make the history he would write. After helping the Spanish suppress Cuban freedom fighters, he joined British expeditions in India, where he also read Edward Gibbon and Thomas Macaulay, two earlier historians whose popular works had crucially motivated Britain’s imperial expansion.
His experiences as a journalist accompanying the relief of a British garrison on British India’s Northwest Frontier furnished the material for his first book, “The Story of the Malakand Field Force” (1898), earning him authorial and military fame. The garrison was besieged by those whose lands had been partitioned by the border the British drew (the Durand Line) between Afghanistan and British India. Churchill was outraged at the sight of “weapons of the 19th century … in the hands of the savages, of the Stone Age” — but on his next adventure, he saw no savagery in British use of the new Maxim machine gun to kill thousands of Sudanese anticolonial rebels while losing less than 50 British soldiers in the Battle of Omdurman, which he participated in and described in “The River War” (1899). His next books recounted his adventures in the South African War, appearing as he launched his parliamentary career in 1900. They traded in powerful racist and orientalist tropes that both reflected and influenced popular images of empire.
This is not to say that Churchill lacked nuance. He opposed a bill against Jewish immigration in 1905 and helped draft the first National Insurance Act in 1911. If he violently crushed workers’ strikes and proposed sterilizing “degenerate” Britons, he was also friends with the anticolonial poet Wilfrid Blunt and was willing to use force to implement Irish home rule and prevent the partition of the island. As secretary of state for air and war in 1919, he planned and executed a sustained chemical attack against Bolshevik-held villages in the Russian Civil War and urged the use of chemical weapons against Northwest Frontier tribes over the objections of his colleagues in the India Office — but then he was aghast at the use of bombardment for tax collection in British Iraq, advocating using nonlethal gas instead.
Whether these views were “of” his time is a misleading and impossible question: In every time, including ours, multiple value systems are in contest. Churchill’s decisions were guided less by intellectual consistency than an unapologetic sense of entitlement to make decisions (often opportunistically) based on his romantic intuitions. Churchill hero-worshiped T. E. Lawrence, with whom he designed a regime of aerial terror for policing British Iraq after the First World War. For Churchill, Lawrence’s dreamy aura of the intuitive military genius and epic writer, famed for his covert wartime adventures in the Middle East, kept the possibility of great-man historical agency alive even as the war’s tragic European battles stoked intense doubt about it. He devoted a chapter to Lawrence in his 1937 book on “Great Contemporaries” and, in World War II, modeled the Special Operations Executive on Lawrence’s activities.
Churchill’s sense of historical birthright, of masculine, upper-class entitlement to make history without accountability for human costs, is what Britain’s ruling classes hanker after today. But in Churchill’s time, that prerogative was precisely what began to be questioned. His autocratic expansion of empire in the Middle East was what cost him his seat in parliament in 1922, which went instead to E. D. Morel, a leading figure in the movement for democratic control of foreign policy.
To be sure, Churchill found more like-minded thinkers in the Conservative Party after 1924, but this was an era, increasingly, of doubt about empire — and Churchill deliberately staked a position against that trend. His defiance of his times is evident in the contrarian phrasing of his statement to the Peel Commission on Palestine in 1937: “I do not admit … that a great wrong has been done” to Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals by their replacement by “a stronger race.” His convictions about the superiority of “Aryan stock” resonated with Nazi ideology to an uncomfortable extent for many interwar Britons.
He praised Mussolini through the 1930s and continued to flatter him during the war itself. He sided with the fascists in the Spanish Civil War and admired Hitler, who also garnered a chapter in “Great Contemporaries.” He didn’t object to fascism but to the threatening continental expansionism that it inspired in Germany.
His gift for words and his belligerent disposition enabled him to rouse a frightened nation to fight at a crucial juncture — but as the head of a coalition government anchored by Labour. In his questionable wartime decisions, like the bombing of German civilians, he tellingly soothed his conscience with faith in the higher poetic justice of “the shattering stroke of retribution.”
When requisitioning policies caused famine in Bengal in 1943, his refusal to comply with the viceroy of India Lord Wavell’s requests for emergency grain shipments were not the mark of a uniquely villainous soul other British politicians might have acted similarly in his place. That said, many officials, including his own India secretary, Leo Amery, an arch-imperialist who crushed wartime Indian anticolonial rebellion ruthlessly, found Churchill’s racist defenses of his decision — that Indians breed like rabbits, that if the famine was so bad why was Gandhi still alive, that the starvation of Bengalis mattered less than starvation of “sturdy” Greeks — remarkable.
Churchill was “not quite sane” on India, Amery concluded, finding little difference “between his outlook and Hitler’s.” Even leaving aside the opinions of Indians and other “non-Aryans,” in a time when many Britons recognized Aryanism as a Nazi ideology and even fellow Conservatives found Churchill’s views extreme, it is difficult to dismiss them as typical of his time. They emerged from a class-based sense of his personal historical role as someone destined to stoically tolerate all manner of evil in the name of progress. These were the unchristian ethics of empire that anticolonial thinkers so deplored. They also shaped Churchill’s oversight of Britain’s brutal war in Kenya in the 1950s, in which countless people were killed and tortured in a “pipeline” of concentration camps, and the violent counterinsurgency in Malaya, where the British became the first power to use Agent Orange.
How far do we want to take the justification of “typicality,” given mass opposition to such policies in the colonies and significant opposition within Britain itself? The Churchill who defied Hitler also overthrew the democratically elected Iranian prime minister in 1953 for daring to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (in which Churchill had gotten his government to purchase a majority share in 1912), at a time when Britain itself was nationalizing key industries. The U.K. and the U.S. installed a brutal royal dictatorship in the prime minister’s place. Churchill had to implement his view covertly partly because it went so against the time.
To what extent does obligatory Churchill worship do a disservice to Britons who embraced genuinely anti-fascist, anti-racist and anti-imperialist outlooks in his very time?
Amery and Wavell believed the Bengal famine would forever blacken Britain’s name. But Churchill and the legion of biographers who followed ensured that it did not. And the backlash in recent years, as a new generation of scholars has put the forgotten episode back on the table, is testimony to the consecration of the Churchill legend, which has become more stubbornly entrenched even as the historical imagination that shaped Churchill’s life has come into question: a vision of history as something made by great men who dare to rise above ordinary moral standards.
Churchill’s views were not typical of his time they were typical of his race, class and gender in his time — and, partly because of his cultural influence, in ours too. Of course the British ruling class adore him but then even more understandable is the rest of the world’s inability to.
Those who refuse to consider him as anything more complicated than Hitler’s nemesis are those who see no need to apologize for Britain’s imperial past because they remain committed to the values of innate upper-class white supremacy on which it was founded. Indeed, Churchill helped extend their life with his vision of the “iron curtain” of the Cold War, which inaugurated a new era of imperial contest, and the war on terror, rooted in British machinations in the Middle East on Churchill’s watch, extended them further into the 21st century.
Britons avoided reckoning with the racist and violent reality of their empire, allowing myth to cloud memory, erase famine and substitute pride in abolition for acknowledgment of slavery (which persisted well after abolition). The Churchill cultural industry, the endless stream of films, hagiographic biographies and TV shows that have made him a talisman-like fixation for Britain’s elite played no small part in this — and for American elites too, not least because of the superior “Anglo-Saxon” bond he helped popularize as a descendent of America’s upper class through his mother.
This Churchill, devoid of racial views or colonial importance, bears no resemblance to the Churchill who made himself, practically speaking, unavoidable in serious history on British colonialism. But popular desire to come to terms with that imperial past after endless deferral has intensified in the form of demands for racial equity, reparations, restitution, memorials, apologies and reconsideration of which historical figures Britons should venerate in stone — as well as growing awareness of how such veneration perpetuates the great-man vision of history that enabled empire.
For Britain’s ruling class, to question Churchill’s place in that pantheon is to question the instrumental view of history that guided him and justified imperialism, the very instrumentalism that prompts members of the Johnson government to call on Britons to quietly (without protest) tolerate all manner of trial, from lockdowns to Brexit, on their promise, as would-be great men, that Britain will then once again emerge as “the greatest place on Earth.” These are the ethics not of a particular time but a particular class (defined racially, too) that sees its dominance as a birthright.
Admiral Raymond Spruance
Admiral Raymond Spruance was a senior naval commander in the Pacific campaign. Raymond Spruance commanded the 5th Fleet at the Battle of the Philippines Sea in 1944 when the Japanese Navy was weakened beyond repair.
Raymond Spruance was born in Baltimore on July 3rd, 1886. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1906 and became a career naval officer. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 6th, 1941, Spruance had served on battleships, cruisers and destroyers. At the end of 1941, he was in command of a cruiser division that supported Admiral Halsey’s carrier, the ‘Enterprise’, at Wake Island. He later supported the carriers that were used for the Doolittle Raid on Japan.
After the success of the Doolittle Raid – if only a psychological success – Halsey fell ill and recommended that Spruance succeed him as commander of Task Force 16 which included the carriers ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Hornet’. Spruance quickly developed a reputation as a skilful carrier commander. He was quickly promoted to Chief-of-Staff of the US Pacific Fleet, which meant that he played an integral role in planning future naval operations in the Pacific.
In November 1943, Spruance became Commander of the 5th Fleet which gave him command of the Central Pacific Forces. He led the 5th Fleet into the Battle of the Philippines Sea which resulted in the so-called ‘Great Marianas Turkey Shoot’ when 365 Japanese planes were lost – a military disaster that the Japanese Navy never recovered from. Ironically, Spruance was criticised in some quarters for his tactics at the Philippine Seas. Whereas the Japanese Navy’s aerial power at sea had been devastated, Spruance did not fully attack the carriers of Ozama’s force. Some believed that he was being overcautious and that Spruance should have used the chaos inflicted on the Japanese to destroy all their carriers. However, his fleet had another function and that was to guard the amphibious landings that were taking place at Saipan and Tinian. Spruance believed that if he chased Jisaburo Ozama’s retreating fleet, he would leave the troops on the islands of the Marianas unguarded and this was a risk he was unwilling to take. He was also aware that carriers exist merely as transport for planes at sea. The battle in the Philippine Sea had eradicated this problem and with just 35 serviceable planes left, the Japanese carriers were all but useless. Production problems within Japan would also make it highly unlikely that these planes could be replaced.
After the Battle of the Philippine Sea, Spruance went back to Pearl Harbour to assist in the planning of future landings. He participated in the planning for the invasion of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and returned to sea to lead the 5th Fleet in these two decisive battles.
After America’s victory in these two battles, Spruance once more returned to Pearl Harbour to help plan for the invasion of Japan – a event that was not to happen. He was involved in the planning for Operation Olympic (the invasion of Kyushu) and Operation Coronet (the invasion of Honshu). Had Operation Coronet gone ahead, Spruance would have led it. However, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ensured that no invasion of Japan was needed.
After the war ended, Spruance became Commander-in-Chief Pacific for a short while, President of the Naval College and the American ambassador to Philippines.
Raymond Spruance - History
Admiral Spruance, the victor of the battle of Midway, is another naval hero of World War II who made his home in California.
Raymond Ames Spruance was born on July 3, 1886 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy at Anapolis and graduated in 1906. Passed midshipman upon graduation in September 1906 and operated less than a year in the North Atlantic on the battleship IOWA (BB-4) before transferring to the MINNESOTA (BB-22) for the global voyage of the "Great White Fleet" (1907-1909), during which he was commissioned a ensign in September 1908. After receiving instruction in electrical engineering he was assigned to the CONNECTICUT (BB-18) for a year (1910-1911) and thereafter assigned to the Asiatic Fleet as senior engineer of the cruiser CINCINNATI (C-7) and commander of the destroyer BAINBRIDGE (DD-1) in the rank of lieutenant (junior grade) and was again promoted in 1914.
Lieutenant Spruance was assigned to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, where he helped to outfit and serve as electrical officer of the PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38) from February 1916 through Chesapeake maneuvers until November 1917. As lieutenant commander he was assistant engineer officer at New York Navy Yard (1917-1918) and was made executive officer of the troop transport AGAMEMNON for four months and in the rank of commander. In April 1919 he commissioned and commanded the AARON WARD (DD-132) for station ship duties during the flight of the NC boats and Pacific operations, and the PERCIVAL (DD-298) in March 1920 out of San Diego until June 1921.
Commander Spruance served a tour of duty at the Electrical Division at the Bureau of Engineering (1921-1924), and commander of the DALE (DD-290), followed as assistant chief of staff to Admiral Philip Andrews, commanding U.S. Naval Forces in European waters (1924-1925) on the cruiser PITTSBURGH (ACR-4). His subsequent sea duties included command of the OSBORNE (DD-295) in European and Mediterranean waters (1925-1926), executive officer of the MISSISSIPPI (BB-41) with the Battle Fleet (1929-1931), and later (1938-1940) her skipper. He was promoted to the rank of captain in June 1932. He became chief of staff to Commander Destroyers Scouting Force, Adolphus E. Watson, flagship light cruiser RALEIGH (CL-7), along the West coast (1933-1935). In December 1939, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
Having served in battleships, destroyers and cruisers through his whole career, Spruance assumed command of Cruiser Division Five, flagship heavy cruiser NORTHAMPTON (CA-26), at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. In this office, Spruance supported Admiral Halsey's carrier ENTERPRISE during the early 1942 carrier raids, including shelling of Wotje, Maloejap, Wake and Marcus Islands. Later, he escorted the task force conducting the Doolittle Raid.
Halsey, falling ill on the conclusion of the raid, appointed Spruance as his replacement as Commander, Task Force 16, ENTERPRISE and HORNET. Spruance, under the nominal command of Rear-Admiral Fletcher, led his carriers expertly with the help of Commander Browning, Halsey's Chief-of-Staff, and justly received a large part of the praise for the US Navy success in the battle. Following this battle, Spruance became Chief-of-Staff of the U.S. Pacific Fleet under Nimitz, in which role he had a major part in planning future operations.
In November 1943, he became Commander, Fifth Fleet, commanding the Central Pacific Forces, including carriers, battleships and amphibious assets. Here he hoisted his flag on board the INDIANAPOLIS (CA-35). He once again performed very well. Leading the Navy across the Pacific via the Marshalls, Spruance lead the attack on the Marianas, leading the Fifth Fleet into the Battle of the Philippine Sea. There, his air groups decimated the enemy. Spruance's forces sank the medium carrier HIYO. Spruance has been blamed by later historians for not following the Imperial Japanese Navy after their retreat. However, this opinion is unjustified. Spruance's task was to guard the invasion forces and beaches not to risk the fleet.
After the Philippine Sea battle, from August 1945 to January 1945, Spruance, for the first time, turned over the Fifth Fleet to Admiral Halsey, going back to Pearl Harbor to plan future landing operations. The invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were partly his work. He returned to the INDIANAPOLIS, transferring to the NEW MEXICO (BB-40) after a kamikaze hit, to lead the Fifth Fleet in battle off those two islands. Finally returning one last time to Pearl Harbor, Spruance began planning the operations Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu, and Coronet, the invasion of Honshu, which he would have led had the war progressed.
With war's end, Spruance was relieved of the Fifth Fleet in November, becoming Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC), for a short term, and in February 1946 became President of the Naval War College. He retired from the Navy in July 1948. Admiral Spruance later served as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines (1952-1953).
A quiet, shy and intelligent officer, Spruance was the ideal man to lead the Navy in the Central Pacific. He was always interested in the opinions of his staffs, and would stand to his decisions. Precise and calculating, he was even better a planner than a combat leader. With due respect to Halsey, it must be said that of the two, Spruance rated higher for Fleet Admiral promotion, for he was a better commander, an admirals' admiral, not a sailors' admiral as Halsey.
His son, Capt. Edward D. Spruance (1915-1969), commissioned and commanded the submarine LIONFISH (SS-298) in the Yellow Sea during the Okinawa campaign.
Admiral Spruance returned to his home in California. He died on December 13, 1969 at Monterey, California. Spruance is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno next to his long time friends Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner and Vice Admiral Charles Andrews Lockwood, Jr.
A Curious Compact Among Four Friends
By Colonel Norman S. Marshall California Center for Military History
Four close friends, each being colleagues and co-workers before, during and after World War II, and each being a fellow Californian, rest together in the nearby Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno, California.
The Golden Gate National Cemetery at San Bruno is located about two miles west of the San Francisco International Airport, and according to Admiral Richard Kelly Turner's biographer (1), Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz arranged for this final resting place well before his death in 1966.
This is how Fleet Admiral Nimitz related how it came about that Kelly Turner is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery:
As you well know, BUPERS buries people. When I was CHBUNAV, Helen Hess, who handled all the Bureau's arrangement of funerals, said to me:
Why don't people plan ahead in connection with their burial?"
When I came to retire in the 12th Naval District, I remembered her remark and looked around. I found the Presidio Burial Grounds filled. I went out to the golden Gate Cemetery at San Bruno, and the caretaker there said, I have just the place for you, a high spot in the center of the cemetery.' I wrote to Admirals Spruance and Turner and asked them if they were interested in being buried at the apex of the war dead in the Golden Gate Cemetery. When Harriet Turner became very ill, Kelly wrote to me and said, Is the offer still good?' I said it was and she was buried there and Kelly soon followed.
On 13 September 1952, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote to the Chief of Naval Personnel:
While I fully understand and appreciate the decision of the Quartermaster General to make no grave site reservations in the Golden Gate National Cemetery for other officers, I earnestly request that Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN (Retired), and Admiral R. K. Turner, USN (Retired) upon their deaths be given grave sites adjoining those which have been reserved for Mrs. Nimitz and me. This request is made because I firmly believe that our success in the Pacific during World War II was due in a very large measure to the splendid service rendered the Nation by these two officers, and it is fitting that they enjoy the same privilege granted to me in choosing their final resting place close to the Service personnel who died in the Pacific."
Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz (U.S. Naval Academy, 1905) had long worked with Admiral Raymond Spruance (U.S. Naval Academy, 1906) and made him the air boss at Midway. He was the pre-eminent carrier strategist of the Pacific. Turner (U.S. Naval Academy, 1906) won Nimitz' admiration for leading amphibious groups throughout the Pacific during the war and Charles Lockwood (U.S. Naval Academy, 1908) was a submariner, like Nimitz, and became Commander Submarine Force, Pacific (COMSUBPAC) in February 1943 which force crushed the Japanese Merchant Fleet.
Nimitz had enormous respect and appreciation for each of these men and wanted them all to be together. They had been friends and shipmates for forty years. Their wives had been supportive and friends also.
Thus, their grave sites perfectly aligned in the first row along the street bearing Nimitz's name Nimitz Drive. This is a unique tribute to each of these Californians.
Leadership: Admiral Raymond Spruance, USN
Admiral Raymond Spruance was one of the great Naval leaders of the 20th Century.
His decisions at the Battle of Midway and subsequent battles in the Pacific theatre of World War II were the mark of great leadership that saw him rise through the ranks to be Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet after the war had ended. He would subsequently lead the US Naval College and act as ambassador to Singapore.
Admiral Spruance came to prominence on the eve of the US Navy’s greatest ever test, the Battle of Midway. Carrier Task Force 16’s leader, Vice Admiral Bill Halsey, had fallen ill and needed to be replaced. Admiral Nimitz who was in overall command of the US Navy in the Pacific chose Rear Admiral Spruance on Halsey’s recommendation. Spruance had been leading Cruiser Division Five. Spruance had always served on traditional battleships, cruisers and destroyers but was now being asked to lead a task force which included the Aircraft Carriers US Ships Hornet and Enterprise. Vice Admiral Halsey was a popular military leader he was charismatic, extroverted and inspirational. He was great for publicity and had a passionate hate for the Japanese people, which was popular with the press of the day. He was a naval aviator who knew aircraft carriers well and was very bold in his approach to using them. The fact that he was sick was not a good omen. The Midway Islands was a tiny set of islands that had an airfield, a fact that would make them a very important strategic asset that the US could ill afford to lose.
In Halsey’s place was the much more constrained Rear Admiral Raymond Spruance. His experience as a surface warfare officer would make him have a more conservative and precise view on air-sea combat. Spruance’s personality was also vastly different from his predecessor. ‘Spruance was quiet, reserved, and preferred reflection over constant interaction.’ Unlike Halsey who was a free spirit, Spruance was deliberate, methodical and paid attention to the finest details. The two are often compared as they had almost polar opposites of leadership styles yet both were considered great leaders. While Halsey would often act on gut instinct or rely on the advice from his subordinates, Spruance would meticulously and methodically plan everything and then hand over to his commanders who made it happen. Spruance’s leadership style could best be described as ‘hands-off’ because he would let his people do their thing and his subordinates appreciated this. Spruance was also a careful manager but because of his hands-off approach to leadership he was not micromanaging his subordinates. This indicated that he had high confidence in his subordinates, however when things did not go to plan he had to take responsibility for it.
Admiral Robert Spruance
Spruance arrived with the task force two days before the Battle of Midway and he brought with him only a single staff member. Spruance had to win the confidence of the ships’ crews and the aviators in very limited time before he would commit them to one of the most important battles in naval history. As Spruance was not an aviator, the task of winning over the pilots would prove all the more difficult as they were used to serving under Halsey—who was a qualified aviator himself. It was Captain Miles Browning, Chief of Staff that was in charge of Naval Air Warfare who would ultimately influence the outcome of the battle when he talked the rookie Carrier Task Force commander into launching the attack earlier than planned. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
Spruance would lead Task Force 16 deferring overall command of the major task group to Admiral Fletcher who brought with him Task Force 17 led by the severely damaged USS Yorktown. The Yorktown had only just survived the Battle of Coral Sea and was put back into action after only three days repairs when normally 90 days would be required. There were no battleships accompanying the US Task Groups because Admiral Nimitz felt they would be too vulnerable to attack from the skies and the battleships he had available would not be of adequate speed to catch the more modern Japanese vessels anyway. The days of the battleship dominating the high seas were over.
The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Raymond A. Spruance.
The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Raymond A. Spruance. By Thomas B. Buell. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1987 (first published 1974). Maps. Photographs. Bibliography. Index. Notes. Pp. xxxvi, 518. $16.47 paperback ISBN: 1-59114-085-6
This is the story of one of the most effective, yet little known, naval commanders of World War II. A Rear Admiral when the war started Raymond Spruance was wearing four stars by February 1944. He never sought the limelight and avoided press conferences like the plague. The Quiet Warrior effectively sums him up--quiet, competent, and deadly. Every time Spruance commanded an operation against the Japanese they lost: Midway where the Japanese lost four fleet carriers in June 1942 and were thrust permanently on the defensive the amphibious assault on the Gilbert Islands in November 1943 (Tarawa) and the amphibious assault on the Marshall Islands in May 1944, including an air assault on Truk. These operations were central to the thrust across the Central Pacific and led to the Marianas operations that secured Guam, Saipan, and Tinian as bases for B-29 operations against the Japanese home islands.
Spruance graduated from the Naval Academy in 1906, and served as a line officer in surface ships. He commanded six ships before being selected for rear admiral in 1940. His shore duty included several tours at the Naval War College where war games focused on a war with Japan.
On December 7, 1941, he was Commander Cruiser Division Five, attached to an aircraft carrier battle force commanded by Halsey. He and Halsey worked well together.
The task force (TF) spent early 1942 conducting harassment raids against enemy islands in the Pacific. But a major Japanese offensive against Midway was in the offing. Although Midway was the physical objective, the true goal was to lure American carrier forces into an ambush. Admiral Nimitz, CINCPAC, was warned by communications intelligence and recalled Halsey's TF to Pearl to replenish. Halsey was put into hospital at Pearl Harbor with a severe case of dermatitis but recommended that Spruance, a non-aviator, replace him. Spruance commanded TF 16, with carriers Enterprise and Hornet while VAdm. Fletcher, another surface line officer, commanded TF 17 with Yorktown and overall tactical command.
At Midway, Spruance directed an immediate airstrike against the Japanese Navy (IJN) carriers once their position was reported by scout aircraft. The airstrike sank three of the four IJN carriers the remaining carrier was hunted down and sunk later that same day. Spruance came under some criticism from naval aviators for failing to close the reported IJN position for another carrier strike. However, he knew that superior IJN surface forces had the capability to sink his carriers with their heavy guns in a night engagement, which was their forte, and steamed away to deny them the opportunity.
At the 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea, Spruance again was criticized for failing to destroy all the IJN carriers. He was concerned for the security of his amphibious forces, busily engaged in landing operations in the Marianas. His carrier aircraft shot down well over 400 IJN aircraft in a defensive battle later called the "Marianas Turkey Shoot." U.S. submarines sank two IJN carriers, and a third was sunk by carrier air attack. Although several IJN carriers survived, the large loss of planes and aircrew effectively destroyed their future usefulness.
Spruance also had some problems with USAAF commanders who controlled land-based air involved in the Gilberts and Marshalls campaigns. Buell treats the matter evenly, though some USAF readers may side with their predecessors.
His final campaign involved amphibious assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa during early 1945. Following the Japanese surrender, Spruance briefly became CINC-PAC and then headed the Naval War College. He capped his career in 1952 as Ambassador to the Philippines.
Buell does a wonderful job of extracting information about Spruance, a very private person, from his wife and daughter and key staff officers, and presents the reader with an understanding of an outstanding military officer. However, two significant errors, or perhaps typos, mar an otherwise very well written book. Buell states that Spruance positioned his forces 325 miles northwest of Midway when, in fact Spruance's forces were northeast of Midway. He also discusses the Savo Island debacle at Guadalcanal in August 1943. That actually took place in August 1942. Perhaps the original editors can be excused for missing those points, but a Naval Institute editor should have caught the mistakes and Buell, a Naval Academy graduate in 1958, should have known better.
Capt. John F. O'Connell, USN (Ret.), Docent, National Air and Space Museum