Raymond A. Spruance
Raymond Ames Spruance (July 3, 1886 – December 13, 1969) was a United States Navy admiral during World War II. He commanded U.S. naval forces during two of the most significant naval battles that took place in the Pacific Theatre: the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. After the war, Spruance was appointed President of the Naval War College, and later served as American ambassador to the Philippines.
- On the forenoon of June 19th began the Battle of the Philippine Sea. The Japanese carriers launched their attacks from outside the range of our planes, with the apparent intention of having them land on their airfields on Guam and Rota, in the vicinity of Saipan. This day, June 19th, will be remembered by Navy men everywhere as the "Marianas' Turkey Shoot." The result of the day's action was 408 enemy planes destroyed out of 545 sighted, as against 32 American planes lost and negligible damage to 4 ships. There was nothing else like it in the whole of World War II.
- As quoted in Battle Stations! Your Navy In Action (1946), p. 272
Quotes about Spruance
- Decades later, when Spruance's military and diplomatic career had become history, Spruance was generally regarded as a man endowed with extraordinary intelligence and proven wisdom. Whether he was an intellectual is debatable. Intellectuals are commonly associated with the pursuit of the liberal arts and the physical sciences, with advanced academic degrees, and with learned writing and speaking. As a distinguished author recently observed, "In common parlance an intellectual is a man soaked in the advanced critical ideas of the liberal-academic establishment; and even an opponent of these ideas... has them all at his fingertips." Using these standards alone, Spruance would not be regarded as an intellectual. His formal education ended at the Naval Academy, and he read few, if any, of the classic works in science, literature, and philosophy. He disliked writing, and what little he wrote was not for publication. He also disliked public speaking, and what few speeches he did make were soon forgotten. Nevertheless, Spruance was an intellectual in the purest sense of the word. He was a person with superior mental power. He was deeply interested in fields of knowledge outside the technicalities of the naval profession. He once told some university students, "I think it is most desirable for you to retain and to stimulate your intellectual curiosity in other fields where you may have a natural interest." He explained that those with a liberal education in art, literature, and music had an advantage over people- such as himself- with only a technical education. "A knowledge and appreciation of these subjects enriches their lives," he said, "and makes them more interesting individuals to their friends and acquaintances." Finally, Spruance was a classic intellectual in the sense that he was extremely rational and relied upon his intellect rather than his emotions or feelings. He later regarded the war against Japan as an intellectual exercise that posed a complex yet interesting series of problems that challenged and stimulated his mind. These problems had to be solved using logic and reason that was unaffected by the violent passions of war.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 39-41
- Spruance received his written orders in the evening of 27 May, the night before he got underway. They comprised ten succinct pages. All operation orders in the early stages of the war were terse, reflecting the command philosophy of King, Nimitz, and the better admirals. That philosophy was to tell the subordinate commander what you wanted done, give him the necessary resources, provide as much information as you could about the enemy, and then let him alone so he could accomplish his mission. King would upbraid any commander for the sin of oversupervising his subordinates with complex, overly detailed directives. The intent was to encourage the on-scene commander to use his initiative and not to inhibit his freedom of action. Spruance's personal belief was that the commander responsible for accomplishing the mission should develop the necessary plans; the proper role of the next highest command echelon was to establish the objective and to suggest how the objective might be achieved.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 136
- The Congress during World War II created a limited number of five-star ranks for the Army and the Navy, designated General of the Army and Fleet Admiral. The Navy by law was authorized four Fleet Admirals. Three were easily chosen: Ernest J. King, Chester W. Nimitz, and William S. Leahy, chief of staff to President Roosevelt. The choice for the fourth was between Halsey and Spruance. Secretary of the Navy Forrestal told King that he would have to decide between the two. It was a difficult task, because Halsey and Spruance both had influential supporters in Washington. The most powerful was Representative Carl Vinson, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who had publicly endorsed Halsey. The Navy did not like to oppose Vinson on anything. King put off the decision for several months, then sent a memorandum to Forrestal summarizing the pros and cons of each candidate. There were many things in Halsey's favor. He was the senior admiral, he had been at sea since 1938, his performance in the South Pacific in the dark days of 1942-1943 had been brilliant, and his raids against the Japanese empire in late 1944 had been spectacular and devastating. Against him, wrote King, were his errors in judgment in not evading two typhoons that severely damaged his fleet in the latter part of the war. King said very little about Halsey's questionable decisions at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. King then turned to Spruance, whom he would have endorsed for CNO had it not been for Spruance's mandatory retirement age. "As to brains," wrote King, "the best man in every way." His record in the Pacific was self-evient. The only argument against Spruance was that he had held relatively subordinate commands during the early part of the war.
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 471-472
- Halsey eventually received the five-star rank. The Congress, in an effort to compensate Spruance and to acknowledge his wartime achievements, authorized full pay for life as a four-star admiral, whereas all other naval officers received reduced pay upon retirement. A controversy has continued ever since, the gist being that Halsey's publicity had own his fifth star, and that Spruance had been at a disadvantage because he had avoided publicity. Many efforts were subsequently made to promote Spruance to Fleet Admiral, all reportedly thwarted by Vinson. After Vinson retired, still more attempts were made, but the Navy has been unwilling to reopen the case. The Navy's reasoning is that Spruance was the only World War II naval officer who retired on full pay by a special act of Congress, and thereby he had been appropriately recognized and honored by the people of America. Spruance expressed his personal feelings on the matter in a 1965 letter to Professor E.B. Potter of the United States Naval Academy. "So far as getting my five star rank is concerned," wrote Spruance, "if I could have had it along with Bill Halsey, that would have been fine; but, if I had received it instead of Bill Halsey, I would have been very unhappy over it. The present situation is that World War II will have been over twenty years next August, which is a long time. Also, the central and western parts of the Pacific Ocean are a long way from Washington."
- Thomas B. Buell, The Quiet Warrior: A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance (1987), p. 472
- World War II gave King the opportunity of putting in practice another conviction. His earliest studies of the Napoleonic campaigns had indicated to him that the great weakness of the French military system of the period was that it required the detailed supervision of Napoleon. His belief that one must do the opposite, and train subordinates for independent action, had been confirmed and strengthened through his years of association with Admiral Mayo. During World War II King would jokingly maintain that he managed to keep well by "doing nothing that I can get anybody to do for me," but in all seriousness he could not have survived the four years of war without having made full use of the decentralization of authority into the hands of subordinate commanders, who were considered competent unless they proved themselves otherwise, and who were expected to think, decide, and act for themselves. Upon Nimitz in the Pacific, Edwards, Cooke and Horne in Washington, Ingersoll in the Atlantic, Stark in London, Halsey, Spruance, Kinkaid, Hewitt, Ingram and many other flag officers at sea, King relied with confidence and was not disappointed.
- Ernest King and Walter M. Whitehill, Fleet Admiral King: A Naval Record (1952), p. 645