(July 3, 1886-Dec. 13, 1969). Born in Baltimore, Maryland, and raised in Indianapolis, Baltimore, and New Jersey, Raymond Ames Spruance is best remembered for his victorious tactics as the commanding admiral against the Japanese Navy in the Battle of Midway, June 4-6, 1942, during World War II.

Kwajalein Invasion, February 1944
Credit: Public domain

Spruance was the first child of Annie Ames Hiss, a member of an aristocratic Baltimore family, and Alexander Spruance, an Indianapolis businessman. Annie became an editor for Bobbs-Merrill And Company in Indianapolis and sent her son back east to live with her parents and sisters. Upon the bankruptcy of his grandfather years later, Raymond returned to Indianapolis where he graduated from Shortridge High School in 1902 at age 15.

Having no money for college, his mother sought and obtained a Naval Academy appointment for him from Indiana. Meanwhile, he had earned an appointment to the academy from New Jersey, but, upon the urging of his aunts, Raymond accepted the Indiana appointment. Spruance graduated from the Naval Academy in 1906, 26th in his class, and embarked on a naval career. He returned to Indianapolis in 1914 to marry.

Standing in for the hospitalized Adm. William Halsey in 1942, Spruance, then a rear admiral, was placed in command of Naval Task Force 16. Outnumbered nearly three to one by Japanese ships and personnel, Spruance conserved his resources and successfully surprise attacked the Japanese fleet, which was headed for Midway Island whose airfield was crucial to American military operations in the Pacific.

Soon after Midway, Spruance was named chief of staff to Adm. C. W. Nimitz, Pacific fleet commander, and, in 1943, he became commander of the Navy’s massive Fifth Fleet in the Pacific. He was promoted to the rank of admiral in 1944. Other battles in which he commanded victorious naval forces include the Gilbert Islands, Marshall Islands, Mariana Islands, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. After the war, he became president of the Naval War College, a post he held until his retirement in 1948. His last role in national service was that of ambassador to the Philippines, 1952-1955.

Spruance was posthumously honored by the U.S. Navy when a class of 30 destroyers, named the Spruance Class, was launched in 1973. The first ship in the class was christened USS Spruance.

Revised March 2021

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