Spruance, Raymond A.

views updated May 14 2018

Spruance, Raymond A. (1886–1969), World War II U.S. Navy admiral.Born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of a reclusive father, Raymond was reared by his mother and three spinster aunts; he showed an early talent for writing poetry. The shy young man graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1907, and first sailed around the world with the “Great White Fleet,” returning to study electrical engineering at the General Electric Company in 1909. His first command at sea was the Philippines‐based destroyer Bainbridge in 1913. Promoted to lieutenant commander in August 1917, Spruance never saw action during World War I.

Regarded as a superb ship handler, Spruance advanced between the wars, rising to the rank of rear admiral in 1940 after commanding a battleship. Taking command of Cruiser Division Five at Pearl Harbor in September 1941, he served as the surface screen commander for Adm. William F. Halsey during the early months of the war. When his friend Halsey was temporarily ill, Spruance took command of the American carrier force that fought and won the most crucial and decisive naval engagement of World War II: the June 1942 Battle of Midway.

Afterward, Spruance served as chief of staff to Adm. Chester Nimitz in Pearl Harbor, but he returned to battle in 1943 commanding the Fifth Fleet. His command of this force during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944 attracted some criticism because the Japanese fleet escaped. However, it was during this battle that Japan lost the bulk of its remaining naval airpower, and Spruance's primary mission was to protect the transports carrying the troops to invade Saipan. After the war, he served as the president of the Naval War College until his retirement. Called out of retirement, Spruance served as the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines (1952–55) before retiring once again. Spruance's near‐flawless performance of command during two critical battles in World War II marked him as one of the U.S. Navy's great commanders.


Emmet P. Forrestel , Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, USN: A Study in Command, 1966.
Thomas B. Buell , The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, 1974.

Rod Paschall