Admiral Raymond Spruance served in US Navy during World War Two. He presided over US Forces in the Pacific during two decisive Allied victories: the Battle of Midway in 1942 and the 1944 Battle of the Philippines Sea
Born on 3 July 1886, Spruance graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1906. In 1939 he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral.
On 6 December 1941 Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese bombers and America was swept into World War Two. Towards the end of that year, Spruance commanded a cruiser division supporting Admiral Halsey's carrier, the 'Enterprise', at Wake Island. In April 1942 he offered support to carriers that launched the Doolittle Raid, an air raid on Tokyo and other parts of Honshu island.
Just before the planned invasion of Midway island in June 1942, Halsey suddenly became ill with shingles. He suggested Spruance replace him as commander of the Fleet carrier force, despite the fact that Spruce had little experience with carriers. Spruance rewarded his trust by playing a decisive role in the US victory at the Battle Of Midway. All four of Japan’s aircraft carriers were sunk, devastating Japan’s ambitions in the Pacific. Spruance was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his service at Midway.
“For exceptionally meritorious service… During the Midway engagement which resulted in the defeat of and heavy losses to the enemy fleet, his seamanship, endurance, and tenacity in handling his task force were of the highest quality.”
(Citation on Rear Admiral Spruance’s Navy Distinguished Service Medal, awarded for his conduct at the Battle of Midway)
Spruance became Commander of the 5th Fleet in November 1943, which presented him with command of the Central Pacific Forces. He was responsible for leading the 5th Fleet into the pivotal Battle of the Philippines Sea, nicknamed the 'Great Marianas Turkey Shoot' because a total of 365 Japanese planes were brought down. The Japanese navy could never accept this catastrophic loss.
Despite this, some detractors argued that Spruance’s tactics at Philippine Sea were overly cautious. Some people asked why he did not take take advantage of the chaotic scene to attack all of Japan’s air carriers. However, Spruance’s fleet was also charged with guarding the amphibious landings at Saipan and Tinian. Spruance did not want to leave troops on the Marianas islands unguarded as he chased Jisaburo Ozawa’s retreating fleet. Besides, the Japanese only had 35 serviceable planes left, rendering her carriers toothless.
Once the Battle of the Philippine Sea came to an end, Spruance returned to Pearl Harbour to help plan other landings in the future. He took part in organising the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and led the 5th Fleet in these two final battles.
After these victories, Spruance went back to Pearl Harbour to assist with planning Japan’s invasion. However, an invasion was rendered unnecessary when the atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
From 1952 to 1955 Spruance served as the American ambassador to Philippines. He died on 13 December 1969 at the age of 83.
See also: General Kurt Student
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