Raymond Spruance

Raymond Spruance

Raymond Spruance was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on 3rd July, 1886. He attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated in 1907 (24/209) and joined the United States Navy.

Spruance specialized in electrical engineering and spent a year seconded to the General Electric Company. After the First World War he commanded destroyers and studied at the Naval War College (1926-27).

In 1938 Spruance was given command of the Mississippi and two years later became head of the 10th Naval District based in San Juan. Spruance was promoted to rear admiral in December 1940 and two years later was appointed head of Cruiser Division 5 in the Pacific.

After the United States entered the Second World War Spruance served under William Halsey, the head of Task Group 16. A nervous skin disease meant that Halsey missed the battle of Midway and Spruance led the task force that inflicted considerable damage on the Japanese Navy.

When Halsey returned to duty in June, 1942, Spruance became chief of staff to Chester Nimitz, commander of the Pacific Fleet. The following year Spruance was promoted to vice admiral and became Nimitz's deputy. In this post he played a major role in the planning of the navy's role in the Pacific War.

Spruance became head of the 5th Fleet in September 1943 and held overall command of the assaults on the Gilbert Islands (20th November 1943) and the Marshall Islands (31st January, 1944). In February 1944 he was promoted to full admiral.

Spruance was also given the task of planning the assaults of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After these successful operations Spruance began to organize the invasion of Japan but the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made this unnecessary.

In 1948 Spruance retired from the US Navy and served as ambassador to the Philippines (1952-55). Raymond Spruance, who declined to write his memoirs, died in California on 23rd December 1969.

Primary Sources

(1) Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (1947)

Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.