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Raymond A. Spruance papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSC-012

Scope and Contents

The personal papers of Raymond A. Spruance, was donated to the Naval War College by Mrs. Spruance in 1970, only a year after the admiral's death. The collection contains eleven boxes of manuscript materials, along with memorabilia, including uniform items, medals, and Japanese Samurai swords. The papers focus, in the main, on the admiral's distinguished naval career, aspects of his ambassadorial appointnent, and his retirement years.

Series I, Correspondence, consists of letters relating to his position as Commander of the Central Pacific Force, 1943-1944; the Battle of Midway, 1943; official orders and copies of messages sent relating to duty assignments, 1906-1950; and letters received and drafts of letters sent regarding naval matters. Other correspondence focuses on the Naval History Division Spruance biography by V ADM Emmet P. Forrestel. Spruance was not a particularly loquacious person and was reluctant to commit his thoughts to paper, hence the correspondence series is limited in both scope and quantity.

Writings and speeches comprise Series II and Series III. Speeches consist of holograph drafts and typescripts given when Spruance was Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, President of the Naval War College, and in a retired status. His Naval War College thesis on Command, Naval War College lecture on Naval Tactics, notes made by Spruance for a book by E.B. Potter and the typescript of a 1965 Paris Match interview complete the writings segment. Spruance never published his own memoirs or wrote articles for publication.

Miscellany, Series IV, consist of a variety of materials, and forms the bulk of the coJlection. Published and unpublished articles, newspaper clippings, notes, programs, certificates, citations, diplomas and honorary degrees, and a number of scrapbooks containing photographs and clippings concerning World War II and Spruance's career as ambassador to the Philippines are included in this series. Much of it, however, consists of individual Navy photographs of World War II in the Pacific and photographs of the admiral and his family.


  • Creation: 1898-1969 and undated


Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to all researchers, unless otherwise specified.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in the public domain, unless otherwise noted.

Biographical Note

Admiral Raymond Ames Spruance was horn on July 3, 1886, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Alexander P. and Annie Hiss Spruance. One of three sons, he spent his youth in South Orange, New Jersey, where he lived with his maternal grandparents and three aunts. This happy interlude came to an end when his grandfather suffered financial reverses; young Spruance was then forced to return to his parents' home in Indianapolis, Indiana. He graduated from Shortridge High School there and accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy from Indiana, which his mother had worked tirelessly to secure.

Spruance entered the U.S. Naval Academy during the summer of 1903 as a member of the class of 1907. Although he disliked the Academy's curriculum and military routine, he nevertheless graduated twenty-fifth in his class. After early graduation in September 1906, he served in the USS IOWA and then in the USS MINNESOTA, which toured the world as part of the Great White Fleet. As a passed midshipman, he enjoyed the cruise tremendously and decided to make the Navy his career. Interested in engineering, Ensign Spruance received orders for advanced instruction in engineering at General Electric Company in Schnectady, New York, under LCDR Luke McNamee, a pioneer in naval radio systems.

Returning to sea duty in 1910, he first served in USS CONNECTICUT as an engineering officer and then in 1913 received his first command, the USS BAINBRIDGE, a destroyer of the Asiatic Fleet, based in the Philippines. A year later Spruance returned to Indianapolis where he resumed his courtship of Margaret Dean. They were married in December 1914 and had two chiklren: Edward, born in 1915, and Margaret, born in 1920.

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Spruance was electrical officer in the USS PENNSYLVANIA. Although he wanted to go to sea in 191 7, he was assigned instead to the Brooklyn Navy Yard as assistant engineering officer and electrical superintendent. There he was responsible for the development and installation of fire control systems on ships both here and abroad. Sea duty came as the war ended, and he was assigned as Executive Officer of the troop transport AGAMENNON, which carried returning soldiers home.

The post-war period was one of rapid demobilization, tight budgets, and naval disarmament treaties, all ominous for the U.S. Navy's future. Although dismayed by these events, Spruance decided to remain in the service and enjoyed several interesting assignments in the nineteen twenties. A three year stint with the Bureau of Engineering, his last engineering assignment, saw him involved in the installation of shipboard electrical systems. A tour of duty as Commanding Officer of the USS DALE and Assistant Chief of Staff to the Commander Naval Forces, Europe was followed by a year of study at the U.S. Naval War College. Spruance realized the value of a Naval War College education to his career and profited from his studies there, as his leadership in World War II proved.

After serving two years as Executive Officer in the battleship USS MISSISSIPPI, he returned again to Newport and the Naval War College where he headed the Correspondence Course Deparbnent. He left the College in 1933 to serve as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Destroyers, Security Force, only to return to the institution in 1935 as Head of the Tactics Section in the Operations Department.

In 1938, Spruance was ordered to command the USS MISSISSIPPI, a sea billet necessary for promotion to rear admiral. Two years later he was promoted to rear admiral, along with sixteen of his classmates, and was named Commandant of the Tenth Naval District, which comprised the West Indies and the Caribbean Sea. With the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, his post was now a strategic one, and he successfully headed up efforts to improve naval bases and facilities in the area.

Spruance's leadership qualities and skills as a trained warrior, strategist, and tactician became apparent during the long years of World War II in the Pacific Theater. Appointed Commander Cruiser Division Five, Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, he took his division to sea three times for trials before war actually began. Devastated by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, his division again went to sea early in 1942 where it participated in the initial attack on the Marshall Islands, on Wake Island, and provided support for the Doolittle raid on Japan.

The battle of Midway Island in June 1942, was one of Spruance's greatest wartime triumphs and one that turned the tide for U.S. forces. No longer on the defensive, the United States henceforth pursued the Japanese. As commander of American carrier divisions, his victory altered the balance of naval power in the Pacific and halted Japanese eastward expansion. Spruance's success earned him the Distinguished Service Medal.

In June 1942, he reported to CINCPAC headquarters as Chief of Staff to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. For the next year, the two shared a close personal and working relationship. As Nimitz's chief advisor, Spruance had vastly increased responsibilities coordinating the large and ever expanding staff. Despite the fact that Guadalcanal had been secured, the war was going badly for the allies in 1942. Planning in 1943 centered on a Central Pacific campaign, with the capture of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands the main objective.

In 1943, Spruance was detached to command a new Central Pacific Fleet, one tasked with planning and executing a major amphibious assault on the Gilberts. With Captain Charles J. Moore as his Chief of Staff, and Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner and General Holland Smith, USMC, as major force commanders, and an enormous war machine at his disposal, he went to sea in November 1943 in the USS INDIANAPOLIS. After a bloody battle with heavy casualties, Spruance returned to Pearl Harbor to a "well done" from Nimitz and months of intensive planning for the capture of the Marshalls.

During the midst of the Marshalls campaign, Spruance was promoted to admiral at age fifty-seven, the youngest at that time to be selected. By February 1944, the Marshalls were firmly in American hands and U.S. naval power had scored a magnificent strategic and tactical victory. Spruance's expert planning and careful decision making turned the tide in this encounter, too.

The admiral went on to win additional victories in the Marianas, the Philippine Sea, lwo Jima, and Okinawa during 1944 and 1945. All were of great strategic value in winning the war in the Pacific. On May 26, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey relieved Spruance at Okinawa, on orders of Nimitz who wanted to save his major commanders from further strain. Spruance would have preferred to finish the fight, but his overworked staff eagerly awaited relief.

He then joined Nimitz at his headquarters in Guam where they planned for the American offensive against Japan, which they hoped would end the war. Spruance advocated bringing the war to China in hopes of starving out Japan, but the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made this unnecessary.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Spruance relieved Nimitz as Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, a position he held for a mere ten weeks before being assigned as President of the Naval War College in Newport, RI. The Spruances' two years at the College were happy ones. The institution was in transition from a wartime to a peacetime footing and the admiral was instrumental in modernizing the curriculum (he added a logistics department), in expanding the student body and staff, and in encouraging the development of strategic thinking in the art of future naval warfare. Socially, there was a plethora of dinners and parties and the highlight of the season, the wedding of Margaret Spruance to CDR Gerald Bogart, held in the president's house.

On July 1, 1948, Spruance retired from the Navy and settled in Pebble Beach, California, where for the rext four years he lived the quiet life of a country gentlemen, gardening and becoming involved in community affairs. In January 1952, this idyllic period ended with his appointment as ambassador to the Philippines. He served three years in the islands where he carried out United States policy in support of the 1953 election of Ramon Magsaysay, the reformist president. When he retired from his post as ambassador in the spring of 1955, he received high praise from both Philippine and American leaders.

Upon his second retirement, he returned to his home in Pebble Beach where he continued to live a quiet life.As she reached the age of 80, his health began to deteriorate and continued to worsen after the death of his son, Edward, in 1969. Admiral Spruance died on December 13, 1969, and was buried at a military cemetery in San Francisco, next to his old comrades in arms, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz and Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner.

Admiral Spruance was the recipient of many United States and foreign awards and medals throughout his naval career, including the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal (USA), the Navy Commendation Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Cuban Pacification Medal, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, Croix de Guerre with Palm (Belgium), Honorary Companion of the Bath (England), the Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold with Palm (Belgium), and the Gold Cross of the Chevalier of the Order of the Saviour (Greece). He also received honorary degrees from Brown University, Yale University, Rhode Island College, Williams College, Occidental College, Worcester Polytechnic, and Central Philippine College.


Born, July 3, Baltimore, Maryland
Graduated, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD, Class of 1907
USS IOWA (BB-4), Passed Midshipman
USS MINNESOTA (BB-22), Great White Fleet Round-the-World Cruise
September 13, Commissioned Ensign
General Electric Company, Schnectady, NY, Electrical Engineering Instruction
USS CONNECTICUT (BB-18), Engineering Officer
USS CINCINNATI (C-7), Senior Engineering Officer
Newport News Shipbuilding and Ory Dock Company, Asst. Inspector of Machinery; Married Margaret Vance Dean, December 1914
USS PENNSYLVANIA (BB-38), Assistant Engineering Officer
Navy Yard, New York, NY, Assistant Engineering Officer
USS AGAMENNON (No. 3004 ), Executive Officer; USS AARON WARD (DD-132), CO; USS PERCIVAL (DD-298), CO
Navy Department, Bureau of Engineering
USS DALE (DD-290), CO; Commander Naval Forces Europe, Assistant Chief of Staff; USS OSBORNE (DD-295), CO
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, Student, Senior Course
Navy Department, Office of Naval Intelligence
USS MISSISSIPPI (BB-41), Executive Officer
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, Staff, Head, Correspondence Course
Promoted to Captain
Commander, Destroyers, Scouting Force, Chief of Staff
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, Staff, Head, Tactics Section
USS MISSISSIPPI (BB-41), Commanding Officer
Tenth Naval District, Commandant; Caribbean Sea Frontier, Commander; Promoted to Rear Admiral
Cruiser Division Five, Pacific Fleet, Commander
U.S. Pacific Fleet, Chief of Staff to Commander-in-Chief; Deputy Commanderin- Chief
Central Pacific Force, Commander
Promoted to Vice Admiral
Fifth Fleet, Commander
Promoted to Admiral
U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, Commander-in-Chief
U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, President
July 1, Retired from the U.S. Navy
U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines
Died, December 13, Pebble Beach, CA.


10.5 Linear Feet (15 archival boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into the following series:

Series 1.
Correspondence, 1906-1966
Series 2.
Speeches, 1945-1960
Series 3.
Writings, 1927-1965
Series 4.
Miscellany, 1906-1969
Raymond A. Spruance papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Naval War College Archives Repository

US Naval War College
686 Cushing Rd
Newport RI 02841 US