Raymond A. Spruance was an Admiral in the United States Navy. During World War Two in the Pacific, he was best known for commanding United States Fifth Fleet, the headquarters that took turns planning and commanding Pacific Fleet operations, with United States Third Fleet under his friend, William Halsey. He and Halsey had rather opposite personalities; Spruance was cool, intellectual, and precise, while Halsey was charismatic, emotional, and not detail-oriented. Their mutual commander, Chester W. Nimitz, commented that Spruance would always bring the fleet back while he was never sure what would happen while it was under Halsey. Nimitz also designated Spruance as operational commander during the Japanese surrender ceremony, feeling it was in good hands should there be a last-minute Japanese attack.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 3 July 1886,he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1906 and received further education in electrical engineering a few years later. His seagoing career was extensive, including command of five destroyers and the battleship Mississippi. Spruance also held several engineering, intelligence, staff and Naval War College positions up to the 1940s. In 1940-41, he was in command of the Tenth Naval District and Caribbean Sea Frontier.
World War Two
In the first months of World War II in the Pacific, Rear Admiral Spruance commanded a cruiser division.
Battle of Midway
When Halsey was too ill to command Task Force 16, with two aircraft carriers for the Battle of Midway, Halsey recommended Spruance to take his place, even though Spruance was not a naval aviator. As he did in several operations, he focused on what he considered the primary mission, which, in this case, was defending Midway, not annihilating the Japanese fleet after sinking its four main aircraft carriers.
After the Midway battle, he became Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas and later was Deputy Commander in Chief.
In mid-1943, he was given command of the Central Pacific Force, which became the Fifth Fleet in April 1944. While holding that command in 1943-45, with USS Indianapolis (CA-35) as his usual flagship, Spruance directed the campaigns that captured the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas, Iwo Jima and Okinawa and defeated the Japanese fleet in the June 1944 Battle of the Philippine Sea.
At Philippine Sea, he again saw his mission as covering the Battle of Saipan, not the destruction of the Japanese fleet. Later, at the Battle of Leyte Gulf, Halsey was criticized for having a first priority of destroying the Japanese fleet while not covering the invasion force against Japanese actions. While both were American victories, some have commented they might have been greater ones had the two commanders roles had been reversed.
Admiral Spruance held command of the Pacific Fleet in late 1945 and early 1946. He then served as President of the Naval War College until retiring from the Navy in July 1948. In 1952-55, he was Ambassador to the Philippines. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance died at Pebble Beach, California, on 13 December 1969.
USS Spruance (DD-963) was named in his honor.