Raymond Ames Spruance
- December 13
) was a United States Navy admiral
in World War II
Spruance commanded US naval forces during two of the most significant naval battles in the Pacific theater, the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Battle of Midway was the first major victory for the United States over Japan and is seen by many as the turning point of the Pacific war. The Battle of the Philippine Sea was also a significant victory for the US. Spruance was known for his keen intellect and his ability to remain calm under pressure. He was also criticized by some for being too cautious at times. After the war, Spruance was appointed president of the Naval War College, and later served as American ambassador to the Philippines.
Spruance was born in Baltimore, Maryland
to Alexander and Annie Spruance. He was raised in Indianapolis, Indiana
. Spruance attended Indianapolis public schools and graduated from Shortridge High School
. From there, he went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy
in 1906, and received further, hands on education in electrical engineering
a few years later. His seagoing career included command of the USS Osborne
, four other destroyers, and the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41)
. Spruance also held several engineering, intelligence, staff and Naval War College
positions up to the 1940s. In 1940 and 1941, he was in command of the 10th Naval District and Caribbean Sea Frontier, headquartered at San Juan, Puerto Rico
World War II: Before Midway
In the first months of World War II in the Pacific, Spruance commanded four heavy cruisers and support ships that made up Cruiser Division Five. Spruance’s division was under a task force built around the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise
commanded by Admiral William "Bull" Halsey
. Halsey led a series of raids on the Marshall islands, Wake Island, and other targets. The raids didn’t accomplish much militarily, however they provided significant propaganda victories as well as invaluable real world experience for the US Navy.
World War II: Midway
Admiral William Halsey
, commander of the Pacific aircraft carrier force, came down with a severe case of psoriasis
just before the battle, which hospitalized him. He recommended to his boss Chester W. Nimitz
that Spruance take his place, over the objection that Spruance, as a cruiser division commander, would have little idea as to how to handle carriers. Halsey reassured him, telling Spruance to rely on his able staff, particularly Captain Miles Browning
, a battle-proven expert in carrier warfare. Spruance commanded Task Force 16
, with two aircraft carriers
, USS Enterprise
(flagship) and USS Hornet
, and was under the overall command of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher
, trailing behind in the damaged USS Yorktown
World War II: Truk, Philippine Sea and Iwo Jima
After the Midway battle, Spruance became Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet
(CINCPAC) and later was Deputy Commander in Chief. In mid-1943, Spruance was given command of the Central Pacific Force, which became the United States 5th Fleet
in April 1944. From 1943 through 1945, with USS Indianapolis
as his usual flagship
, Spruance directed the campaigns that captured the Gilbert Islands
, Marshall Islands
, Iwo Jima
, and Okinawa
Spruance directed Operation Hailstone against the Japanese naval base Truk in February 1944 in which twelve Japanese warships, thirty-two merchant ships and 249 aircraft were destroyed. While screening the American invasion of Saipan, in June 1944 Spruance also defeated the Japanese fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Although he broke the back of the Japanese naval airforce by sinking 3 carriers,
2 oilers and destroying about 600 enemy airplanes -- in the Battle of Leyte Gulf a few months later the remaining carriers were used solely as a decoy due to the lack of aircraft, and aircrews to fly them -- Spruance has been criticized for not being aggressive enough.
Spruance succeeded Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz as commander of the Pacific Fleet in late 1945.
Spruance's promotion to Fleet Admiral was blocked multiple times by Congressman Carl Vinson, a staunch partisan of Admiral William Halsey, Jr. Congress eventually responded by passing an unprecedented act which specified that Spruance would remain on a full admiral's pay once retired until death. Spruance was President of the Naval War College from early 1946 until he retired from the Navy in July 1948. He was appointed as American ambassador to the Philippines by President Harry Truman, and served there from 1952 to 1955.
Spruance died in Pebble Beach, California in 1969. He was buried with full military honors alongside his wife, Margaret Dean, Admirals Chester Nimitz, his longtime friend Richmond K. Turner, and Charles A. Lockwood, an arrangement made by all of them while living.
The destroyers USS Spruance (DD-963), lead ship of the Spruance-class of destroyers, and USS Spruance (DDG-111), 61st ship of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer, were named in his honor.
- Bess, Michael (2006). Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-307-26365-7.