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Admiral Clifton A.F. 'Ziggy' Sprague, 1896-1955

Admiral Clifton A.F. 'Ziggy' Sprague, 1896-1955


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Admiral Clifton A.F. 'Ziggy' Sprague, 1896-1955

Rear Admiral Clifton 'Ziggy' Sprague was an American carrier admiral most famous for his role in the battle of Samar, part of the wider battle of Leyte Gulf, where his group of six escort carriers managed to avoid destruction at the hands of the main Japanese battle fleet, preventing the Japanese from reaching the vulnerable invasion shipping in Leyte Gulf.

Sprague attended the Annapolis naval college, graduating in June 1917. In 1920 he moved into naval aviation, and by 1941 had risen to command the seaplane tender Tangier. This ship was credited with firing the first shots at the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sprague was next promoted to Chief of Staff on the Gulf Sea Frontier, where the US Navy was struggling to cope with a sudden influx of U-Boats. From there he moved to command the Seattle Naval Air Station. He was then given command of the new Essex class aircraft carrier USS Wasp, named after the carrier sunk in September 1942. The new Wasp was ready for service in November 1943, and took part in the carrier raid on Marcus and Wake Islands.

Sprague then joined Admiral Spruance's fleet for the assault on the Marinas Islands. He was part of Admiral Mitscher's Task Force 58 and in that role took part in the battle of the Philippine Sea (June 1944).

After that battle Sprague was promoted to rear admiral and given command of Escort Carrier Div 25. He led this force during the invasion of Ulithi (September 1944). Next came the post that Sprague is best known for, command of Taffy 3, a ground of six escort carriers that formed part of the 7th Fleet during the battle of Leyte Gulf. Confusingly Taffy 3 was part of a larger formation of escort carriers commanded by Admiral Tommy Sprague, who also directly commanded Taffy 1. On 25 October 1944 Ziggy Sprague's Taffy 3 was attacked by Admiral Kurita's powerful striking force (Battle of Samar). Kurita's fleet included the giant battleship Yamato, and if handled well should have crushed Sprague's force of escort carriers and destroyers. Instead Sprague was able to hold off the Japanese battleships, using his aircraft and destroyers to disrupt their formation while his carriers attempted to escape south towards the other twelve escort carriers. The Japanese sank one carrier (the Gambier Bay), but eventually broke off the fight. Sprague's bold use of his fleet had helped the Americans avoid an embarrassing and potentially costly defeat.

In February 1945 Sprague was given command of Carrier Division 2, the post he held for the rest of the war. In 1946 he commanded the Navy Air Group during the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. He commanded Carrier Division 6 from 1948-49, the 17th Naval District during 1949 and the Alaskan Sea Frontier from 1949 until his retirement in 1951. He died in 1955.


Sprague, Clifton Albert Frederick (1896-1955)


U.S. Navy. Via Bosamar.com

"Ziggy" Sprague was born in Massachusetts and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1917. He served in the Mediterranean and passed flight training in 1920. During the period 1926-1928 he helped develop arresting gear for aircraft carriers. He helped outfit Yorktown and became her first air officer in 1939.

Sprague was captain of the seaplane tender Tangier at Pearl Harbor at the outbreak of the Pacific war. He was chief of staff to the Gulf Sea Frontier from June 1942 to March 1943 and brought the second Wasp into commission in November 1943, commanding her at the battle of the Philippine Sea. Promoted to rear admiral in August 1944, Sprague commanded Task Unit 77.4.3, which consisted of escort carriers. During the battle of Leyte Gulf, his unit came under direct attack from heavy Japanese surface warships after Halsey's Third Fleet was lured away by Ozawa's decoy force, allowing Kurita to break through San Bernardino Strait. Sprague remained cool and his ships fought with outstanding courage against terrible odds, and most survived when Kurita abruptly broke off the action.

Sprague subsequently commanded escort carrier forces at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He received command of Carrier Division 2, a fast carrier division, in February 1945. Following the surrender, he helped conduct the Pacific nuclear bomb tests in the summer of 1946 and retired in November 1951.

Sprague cultivated an informal and egalitarian attitude towards his men, making time to walk the deck and chat with enlisted sailors. But he was also a thoroughly professional naval aviator who got the best out of his motley crews of greenhorn enlistees. Boatner described him as "chubby, thorough, and conscientious."


Al Doilea Război Mondial [ modificare | modificare sursă ]

În octombrie 1943 a fost numit pe portavionul USS Wasp (CV-18) cu care a participat la invazia Saipanului și la Bătălia din Marea Filipinelor. În data de 9 iulie 1944, înainte de a părăsi nava Wasp a fost promovat contraamiral la vârsta de 48 de ani. În septembrie 1944 a participat la sprijinirea debarcării în Morotai. Cea mai mare realizare a lui Sprague a avut loc în lupta de lângă Samar în Bătălia din Golful Leyte la data de 25 octombrie 1944, unde unitatea comandată de el, Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy III) formată din:

a luptat cu Forța Centrală japoneză net superioară formată din:

    • 4 cuirasate
    • 6 crucișătoare grele
    • 2 crucișătoare ușoare
    • 11 distrugătoare.

    Piloții de pe portavioanele de escortă ale grupării lui Sprague au pus pe fugă cuirasatele și crucișătoarele Forței Centrale, pentru care Sprague a fost distins cu Navy Cross. În data de 19 februarie 1945 Sprague a primit comanda Diviziei de Portavioane 26 pentru invazia insulei Iwo Jima, unde comandând de pe portavionul USS Natoma Bay (CVE–62) a sprijinit debarcarea trupelor americane. În luna următoare și-a mutat pavilionul înapoi pe nava Fanshaw Bay, pentru a participa la invazia Okinawei. În aprilie 1945 și-a mutat pavilionul pe USS Ticonderoga (CV-14), unde a participat la acțiunile militare împotriva insulelor japoneze Kyūshū, Honshū, Hokkaidō. În data de 15 august 1945 japonezii au depus armele, iar Sprague a intrat cu portavionul Ticonderoga în golful Tokio. Sprague s-a retras voluntar la 1 noiembrie 1951 după 34 ani de serviciu, decedând la San Diego de infarct miocardic.


    5. The Pressure Faced by a Rear Admiral When He Discovered That a Powerful Enemy Armada Was Steaming Straight Towards His Tiny Command

    The Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 23 rd &ndash 26 th , 1944, was history&rsquos biggest naval brawl. At its core was a complex Japanese plan that featured many moving parts and attacks from various directions. The intent was to draw off the US Third Fleet commanded by Admiral William F. Halsey, tasked with guarding recent American landings at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines, and send it chasing after a Japanese bait force. With Halsey out of the way, a powerful Japanese naval contingent would fall upon the unprotected US forces there and devastate them.

    Japanese aircraft carriers were dangled as bait for Halsey, and he steamed off with the Third Fleet to sink them. He failed to inform the chain of command what he was up to, or that he was leaving Leyte Gulf virtually defenseless. Left behind was a small fleet of escort carriers &ndash small aircraft carriers too slow to keep up with the main fleet &ndash and destroyer escorts. However, they were armed for ground attack and support duties, and had little in the way of anti-ship weapons. Their commander, Rear Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick &ldquoZiggy&rdquo Sprague (1896 &ndash 1955), was about to face all the pressure in the world when a massive Japanese fleet arrived at his doorstep.


    FACT: One of the U.S. Navy's Most Heroic Stands Was at Leyte Gulf

    At exactly 6:45 on the morning of October 25, 1944, Rear Admiral Clifton A.F. Sprague received a message from one of his pilots on antisubmarine patrol. The admiral recalled that the message went something like this: “Enemy surface force of 4 battleships, 7 cruisers, and 11 destroyers sighted 20 miles northwest of your task group and closing in on you at 30 knots.”

    Admiral Sprague, nicknamed “Ziggy,” was annoyed by the message. He was certain that the sighting report was a case of mistaken identity. “Now, there’s some screwy young aviator reporting part of our own forces,” he said to himself with no small amount of exasperation. The “enemy surface force” was probably just part of Admiral William F. Halsey’s fast battleship group. Actually, Halsey’s Third Fleet was miles away to the north.

    Admiral Sprague shouted into the squawk box, “Air plot, tell him to check his identification,” and went back to work. His six escort carriers, screened by three destroyers and four destroyer escorts—officially known as Task Group 77.4.3, but usually referred to by its call sign, “Taffy 3”—had been flying support strikes for the recent landings on the Philippine island of Leyte for the past eight days. Taffy 3 was operating just east of Samar Island, and Sprague had another full day of patrols and air strikes to schedule.

    Three minutes after the first report, Sprague received another message from the pilot who made the first report. “Identification of enemy force confirmed,” he radioed. “Ships have pagoda masts.”

    At about the same time, a thick pattern of antiaircraft puffs began bursting off to the northwest—another confirmation that the surface force was not Admiral Halsey’s battleships. Enemy gunners were shooting at the pilot who had just spotted them. The pilot, Ensign William C. Brooks of Pasadena, California, was returning the compliment, dropping his payload on an enemy cruiser. The only trouble was that the ensign’s payload consisted of two depth charges—hardly effective weapons against an enemy cruiser. This attack could be seen as a symbol of the battle that was to come—an American David confronting a Japanese Goliath, armed with not much more than a slingshot.

    The force that Brooks had sighted was the middle section of a three-pronged Japanese advance against the American landing beaches at Leyte Gulf. Admiral Takeo Kurita’s Center Force, which was made up of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 11 destroyers, had been hit by air strikes from Halsey’s Third Fleet in the Sibuyan Sea the previous day. Although Kurita had initially withdrawn his force after Halsey’s fleet had damaged several Japanese warships and had sunk the battleship Musashi, he reversed course and made his way through the San Bernardino Strait during the night. Many senior American officers reached the conclusion that Kurita was retreating from the battle, but that was not the case.

    Shortly after Ensign Brooks confirmed that the approaching warships were Japanese, Sprague’s lookouts were able to provide visual confirmation—the unmistakable superstructures of Japanese cruisers and battleships began popping over the northwestern horizon. At 6:58, the ships opened fire. Less than a minute later, colored splashes from the Japanese shells landed astern of Taffy 3. Each Japanese warship used a different color dye marker, which allowed them to spot their own shells and make targeting adjustments.

    Admiral Sprague’s command, Taffy 3, was made up of six escort carriers: Fanshaw Bay, St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, and Gambier Bay along with three destroyers, Heermann, Hoel, and Johnston, and four destroyer escorts, Dennis, J.C. Butler, Raymond, and Samuel B. Roberts. Kitkun Bay and Gambier Bay were actually a separate carrier division, under Rear Admiral Ralph Ofstie, although they were still part of Taffy 3. The heaviest armament on any of these ships was the 5-inch batteries aboard the destroyers and destroyer escorts. Each of the escort carriers also had one 5-inch gun. This was clearly no match for Kurita’s force, which included the 18-inch guns of Musashi’s sister ship, the giant battleship Yamato.

    “Wicked salvos straddled the USS White Plains, and then colored geysers began to sprout among all the other carriers,” Sprague later reported. “In various shades of pink, green, red, yellow and purple, the splashes had a kind of horrid beauty.” A seaman aboard the White Plains remarked, “They’re shooting at us in Technicolor!”

    Sprague was fully aware of his predicament and did not think that his force of “baby flattops” and their escorts would last 15 minutes against the oncoming battleships and cruisers. As soon as the approaching task force was confirmed as Japanese, he “took several defensive actions in quick succession.” He ordered a change in course from north to due east, which pointed Taffy 3 “at full speed toward a friendly rain squall nearby.” The new course also turned his carriers into the wind, and at 6:56 Sprague ordered all carriers to begin launching aircraft for torpedo and bombing attacks against Kurita’s force. A minute later, he ordered the carriers and their escorts to make as much smoke as possible to screen Taffy 3 from the Japanese gunners. A smokescreen offered scant protection against large-caliber enemy shells, but it was better than nothing.

    The carriers began launching their aircraft as soon as it was practical. Admiral Sprague’s flagship Fanshaw Bay, called “Fannie Bee” by her crew, sent her full complement of Grumman TBF Avengers off first, armed with torpedoes. White Plains began by launching Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters and brought her bomb-carrying Avengers up to the flight deck after the fighters were in the air.

    It would have made very little difference to Sprague at that particular moment, but Kurita was having some harrowing thoughts of his own. When lookouts aboard Yamato first spotted the American ships at 6:44, he was as surprised as Sprague by the encounter. No one aboard Yamato could see that the carriers of the enemy task force were escort carriers and not fleet carriers. Kurita had already seen what American carriers could do and was shaken by the unexpected sight of still more of them off Samar.

    He ordered his force to deploy from sailing in columns on course 170 to a circular antiaircraft formation on course 110. Before the command could be carried out, Kurita changed his orders, this time to “General Attack,” which threw his entire fleet into confusion. “No heed was taken of order or coordination,” his chief of staff reported. Instead of forming a battle line with his four battleships and six heavy cruisers, which would have allowed Kurita to bring all of his big guns to bear, he scattered his ships and his firepower. Because of the general attack order, each Japanese ship would operate independently, which dispersed Kurita’s advantage in gunnery.

    Sprague did not know anything about Kurita’s confusion. He only knew that he had a large enemy force bearing down on his lightly armored carriers and escort vessels. At 7:01, he broadcast an urgent request, in plain language, for assistance. Admiral Thomas Stump, commander of Taffy 2, responded immediately. Taffy 2 was the nearest carrier force to Sprague, about 30 miles away. Admiral Thomas Sprague (no relation to Ziggy Sprague) also sent aircraft from Taffy 1, about 70 miles away. Admiral Stump sent words of encouragement to his friend. “Don’t be alarmed, Ziggy,” he shouted over the TBS (Talk Between Ships), “Remember, we’re in back of you—don’t get excited—don’t do anything rash!” His voice went up a level or two every time he spoke, making the officers on Fanshaw Bay’s flag bridge smile in spite of themselves.

    The attacking Avengers went in singly or in small groups. They did not have time to form up in a coordinated attack. Whether they carried torpedoes or bombs, the Avengers made their runs without the benefit of strafing fighters to run interference for them.

    By 7:30, just about every one of Taffy 3’s operational aircraft had been launched. The heavy cruiser Suzuya was one of the first Japanese warships to come under attack. The cruiser was hit several times and, according to one report, was “slowed down.” All aircraft in the Leyte Gulf area were ordered to attack Admiral Kurita’s Center Force. Six Avengers armed with torpedoes and 20 fighters attacked at 8:30, along with aircraft that had already been launched from the escort carriers.

    But these planes were very hurriedly armed and launched and had no time to coordinate their movements, either. Even so, their attacks were aggressive and constant. Most of the Avengers were armed with torpedoes until the supply of torpedoes ran out. Then they were sent out with bombs—any kind of bombs that were available, including 100-pound all-purpose bombs that were designed for hitting small land-based targets.

    After they dropped their bombs, the pilots made dry runs on the enemy ships to distract the Japanese gunners. The commander of Gambier Bay’s air group flew his Avenger through enemy flak for two hours after he dropped his bombs. The pilots of the Wildcat fighters were sent in to strafe “with the hope that their strafing would kill personnel on the Japanese warships, silence automatic weapons, and, most important, draw attention from the struggling escort carriers.” When their ammunition ran out, the fighter pilots also resorted to dry runs to harass the enemy. One pilot made 20 strafing runs, 10 of them without ammunition.


    1920 to 1940 – Naval Aviator

    On December 3, 1920, Sprague joined 33 other classmates at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida as a student pilot. His first flight was on January 11, 1921, when he piloted a Curtiss N-9 aircraft for twenty minutes. Sprague earned the designation Naval Aviator No. 2934 on August 11, 1921. Due to his great proficiency within two months he was designated as Commanding Officer of Aircraft Squadron 3 at Pensacola.

    From March 1922 to November 1923, Sprague was assigned to Aircraft Squadron VS-1 with the Atlantic Fleet based on the seaplane tender . He reported to his next duty station Naval Air Station Anacostia, near Washington, D.C., in November 1923 where he served as a Test Pilot, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer. As a Test Pilot he conducted experimental and research work at the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1923, where he contributed to the development of aircraft carrier catapult systems. From March 1926 to February 1928 he assisted inventor Carl Norden in the laboratory and as a Test Pilot at Naval Air Station Hampton Roads, Virginia, with improvements to the Mark-1 aircraft carrier arresting gear system for and .

    Sprague reported to Lexington in March 1928 where he assumed the duties of Flight Deck Officer and Assistant Air Officer. In January 1929 Lexington along with and Saratoga participated in Fleet Problem IX, a simulated aerial attack on the Panama Canal. Sprague’s tour on Lexington ended in April 1929. Returning to the U.S. Naval Academy in May 1929 Sprague served as Executive Officer of VN-8-D5. On June 10, 1930 he was promoted to lieutenant commander. His tour at the Naval Academy ended in November 1931.

    Sprague served as Squadron Commander of VP-8 in Panama in December 1931 to April 1934. The squadron was based on the seaplane tender homeported at the Norfolk Navy Yard. In 1933 the squadron was moved to Hawaii where Sprague became the first Navy Pilot to fly a thirteen-hour round-trip from Hawaii to Midway Island in February 1934. From May 1934 to July 1936, Sprague served as Air Operations Officer at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia, where his department serviced several aircraft carrier squadrons.

    In July 1936, Sprague was assigned to the newly constructed aircraft carrier as Air Officer. After her commissioning, he piloted the first two landings ever made on Yorktown. In addition, he was the first pilot to test the catapult system on Yorktown. Sprague was promoted to commander in December 1937. He spent all of 1938 managing the Air Department and aircraft squadrons on Yorktown. In February 1939 Yorktown participated in Fleet Problem XX in the Caribbean. Shortly thereafter Sprague left the carrier in June 1939. Sprague was ordered to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, in June 1939 where he spent three months in study before reporting to his first sea command, the 21-year old oil tanker at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington. Sprague commanded Patoka until June 1940 when he was sent back to the Naval War College for two more months of study.


    A Fight Like No Other: The U.S. Navy's Stand At Leyte Gulf Was Truly Heroic

    Key point: World War II had so many famous battles that some have been overlooked.

    At exactly 6:45 on the morning of October 25, 1944, Rear Admiral Clifton A.F. Sprague received a message from one of his pilots on antisubmarine patrol. The admiral recalled that the message went something like this: “Enemy surface force of 4 battleships, 7 cruisers, and 11 destroyers sighted 20 miles northwest of your task group and closing in on you at 30 knots.”

    Admiral Sprague, nicknamed “Ziggy,” was annoyed by the message. He was certain that the sighting report was a case of mistaken identity. “Now, there’s some screwy young aviator reporting part of our own forces,” he said to himself with no small amount of exasperation. The “enemy surface force” was probably just part of Admiral William F. Halsey’s fast battleship group. Actually, Halsey’s Third Fleet was miles away to the north.

    Admiral Sprague shouted into the squawk box, “Air plot, tell him to check his identification,” and went back to work. His six escort carriers, screened by three destroyers and four destroyer escorts—officially known as Task Group 77.4.3, but usually referred to by its call sign, “Taffy 3”—had been flying support strikes for the recent landings on the Philippine island of Leyte for the past eight days. Taffy 3 was operating just east of Samar Island, and Sprague had another full day of patrols and air strikes to schedule.

    Three minutes after the first report, Sprague received another message from the pilot who made the first report. “Identification of enemy force confirmed,” he radioed. “Ships have pagoda masts.”

    At about the same time, a thick pattern of antiaircraft puffs began bursting off to the northwest—another confirmation that the surface force was not Admiral Halsey’s battleships. Enemy gunners were shooting at the pilot who had just spotted them. The pilot, Ensign William C. Brooks of Pasadena, California, was returning the compliment, dropping his payload on an enemy cruiser. The only trouble was that the ensign’s payload consisted of two depth charges—hardly effective weapons against an enemy cruiser. This attack could be seen as a symbol of the battle that was to come—an American David confronting a Japanese Goliath, armed with not much more than a slingshot.

    The force that Brooks had sighted was the middle section of a three-pronged Japanese advance against the American landing beaches at Leyte Gulf. Admiral Takeo Kurita’s Center Force, which was made up of four battleships, six heavy cruisers, two light cruisers, and 11 destroyers, had been hit by air strikes from Halsey’s Third Fleet in the Sibuyan Sea the previous day. Although Kurita had initially withdrawn his force after Halsey’s fleet had damaged several Japanese warships and had sunk the battleship Musashi, he reversed course and made his way through the San Bernardino Strait during the night. Many senior American officers reached the conclusion that Kurita was retreating from the battle, but that was not the case.

    Shortly after Ensign Brooks confirmed that the approaching warships were Japanese, Sprague’s lookouts were able to provide visual confirmation—the unmistakable superstructures of Japanese cruisers and battleships began popping over the northwestern horizon. At 6:58, the ships opened fire. Less than a minute later, colored splashes from the Japanese shells landed astern of Taffy 3. Each Japanese warship used a different color dye marker, which allowed them to spot their own shells and make targeting adjustments.

    Admiral Sprague’s command, Taffy 3, was made up of six escort carriers: Fanshaw Bay, St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, and Gambier Bay along with three destroyers, Heermann, Hoel, and Johnston, and four destroyer escorts, Dennis, J.C. Butler, Raymond, and Samuel B. Roberts. Kitkun Bay and Gambier Bay were actually a separate carrier division, under Rear Admiral Ralph Ofstie, although they were still part of Taffy 3. The heaviest armament on any of these ships was the 5-inch batteries aboard the destroyers and destroyer escorts. Each of the escort carriers also had one 5-inch gun. This was clearly no match for Kurita’s force, which included the 18-inch guns of Musashi’s sister ship, the giant battleship Yamato.

    “Wicked salvos straddled the USS White Plains, and then colored geysers began to sprout among all the other carriers,” Sprague later reported. “In various shades of pink, green, red, yellow and purple, the splashes had a kind of horrid beauty.” A seaman aboard the White Plains remarked, “They’re shooting at us in Technicolor!”

    Sprague was fully aware of his predicament and did not think that his force of “baby flattops” and their escorts would last 15 minutes against the oncoming battleships and cruisers. As soon as the approaching task force was confirmed as Japanese, he “took several defensive actions in quick succession.” He ordered a change in course from north to due east, which pointed Taffy 3 “at full speed toward a friendly rain squall nearby.” The new course also turned his carriers into the wind, and at 6:56 Sprague ordered all carriers to begin launching aircraft for torpedo and bombing attacks against Kurita’s force. A minute later, he ordered the carriers and their escorts to make as much smoke as possible to screen Taffy 3 from the Japanese gunners. A smokescreen offered scant protection against large-caliber enemy shells, but it was better than nothing.

    The carriers began launching their aircraft as soon as it was practical. Admiral Sprague’s flagship Fanshaw Bay, called “Fannie Bee” by her crew, sent her full complement of Grumman TBF Avengers off first, armed with torpedoes. White Plains began by launching Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters and brought her bomb-carrying Avengers up to the flight deck after the fighters were in the air.

    It would have made very little difference to Sprague at that particular moment, but Kurita was having some harrowing thoughts of his own. When lookouts aboard Yamato first spotted the American ships at 6:44, he was as surprised as Sprague by the encounter. No one aboard Yamato could see that the carriers of the enemy task force were escort carriers and not fleet carriers. Kurita had already seen what American carriers could do and was shaken by the unexpected sight of still more of them off Samar.

    He ordered his force to deploy from sailing in columns on course 170 to a circular antiaircraft formation on course 110. Before the command could be carried out, Kurita changed his orders, this time to “General Attack,” which threw his entire fleet into confusion. “No heed was taken of order or coordination,” his chief of staff reported. Instead of forming a battle line with his four battleships and six heavy cruisers, which would have allowed Kurita to bring all of his big guns to bear, he scattered his ships and his firepower. Because of the general attack order, each Japanese ship would operate independently, which dispersed Kurita’s advantage in gunnery.

    Sprague did not know anything about Kurita’s confusion. He only knew that he had a large enemy force bearing down on his lightly armored carriers and escort vessels. At 7:01, he broadcast an urgent request, in plain language, for assistance. Admiral Thomas Stump, commander of Taffy 2, responded immediately. Taffy 2 was the nearest carrier force to Sprague, about 30 miles away. Admiral Thomas Sprague (no relation to Ziggy Sprague) also sent aircraft from Taffy 1, about 70 miles away. Admiral Stump sent words of encouragement to his friend. “Don’t be alarmed, Ziggy,” he shouted over the TBS (Talk Between Ships), “Remember, we’re in back of you—don’t get excited—don’t do anything rash!” His voice went up a level or two every time he spoke, making the officers on Fanshaw Bay’s flag bridge smile in spite of themselves.

    The attacking Avengers went in singly or in small groups. They did not have time to form up in a coordinated attack. Whether they carried torpedoes or bombs, the Avengers made their runs without the benefit of strafing fighters to run interference for them.

    By 7:30, just about every one of Taffy 3’s operational aircraft had been launched. The heavy cruiser Suzuya was one of the first Japanese warships to come under attack. The cruiser was hit several times and, according to one report, was “slowed down.” All aircraft in the Leyte Gulf area were ordered to attack Admiral Kurita’s Center Force. Six Avengers armed with torpedoes and 20 fighters attacked at 8:30, along with aircraft that had already been launched from the escort carriers.

    But these planes were very hurriedly armed and launched and had no time to coordinate their movements, either. Even so, their attacks were aggressive and constant. Most of the Avengers were armed with torpedoes until the supply of torpedoes ran out. Then they were sent out with bombs—any kind of bombs that were available, including 100-pound all-purpose bombs that were designed for hitting small land-based targets.

    After they dropped their bombs, the pilots made dry runs on the enemy ships to distract the Japanese gunners. The commander of Gambier Bay’s air group flew his Avenger through enemy flak for two hours after he dropped his bombs. The pilots of the Wildcat fighters were sent in to strafe “with the hope that their strafing would kill personnel on the Japanese warships, silence automatic weapons, and, most important, draw attention from the struggling escort carriers.” When their ammunition ran out, the fighter pilots also resorted to dry runs to harass the enemy. One pilot made 20 strafing runs, 10 of them without ammunition.


    BOOK REVIEW | Devotion to Duty – A Biography of Admiral Clifton A. F. Sprague

    In a sea of massive egos of the Douglas MacArthur and William “Bull” Halsey type, Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague stood out as someone who shied away from personal publicity. Perhaps that is why he is less well known than many of his noisier contemporaries despite his notable and enormous naval achievements.

    This fine biography describes well the entirety of his lengthy career from childhood to his, too early, death. While not especially long, Sprague’s was a good life very well lived.

    While he was a notably effective naval officer throughout his career, it was his astounding and vitally important success in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the eastern Philippines in late October 1944 that brought him to history’s attention.

    Despite effectively being abandoned by his “superior”, Halsey, who sailed off on an ego tripping wild goose chase in his heavily escorted fleet of “Fleet” carriers, Sprague managed to save most of his small fleet of inadequately supported “Escort” aircraft carriers from a vastly superior Japanese force. In doing so he severely damaged the attacking Japanese fleet.

    Fortunately, this fine author “found” Sprague before history forgot him. He was an important admiral whose natural reticence prevented him from being given the fame he richly deserved in his lifetime. This biography, first published in 1995 and re-issued as a paperback in 2020 very effectively corrects that.


    Everyday Patriot

    Born on January 8, 1896, in Dorchester, Massachusettes, Vice Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick Sprague was a graduate of the Roxbury Latin School.

    Accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at Annapolis, where he earned the nickname "Ziggy", he was actually commissioned a year early due to U.S. involvement in WWI and assigned to the gunboat the Wheeling.

    Vice Admiral Sprague began training as a Naval Aviator, graduating on August 11, 1921, and served as a test pilot, significantly contributing to the development of the aircraft carrier catapult systems and the MARK1 aircraft arresting system.

    Returning to Annapolis, he served as the executive officer squadron VN-8D5 until 1931, when he was assigned to Panama, and then Hawaii. He became the first pilot to fly the 13 hour Hawaii to Midway run, as well as serving as the air operations officer at the Naval Air Station and as air officer of the carrier Yorktown. In 1940 the Navy sent him to the Naval War College, after which he was given the command of the Tangier, in the port of Pearl Harbor. The Tangier survived the attack on December 7, 1941, and actively returned fire.

    For a short time, he was assigned to the defense of the Southeast coast of the U.S. as well as the Naval Air Station at Sandpoint and then was given command of the carrier Wasp, which participated the attacks on the Marcus and Wake Islands, the invasion of Saipan and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

    Promoted to the command of the carrier division 25 in July of 1944, his task unit fought in and helped the surprising US win of the Battle of Samar. In February 1945 he was assigned the command of the carrier division 26 for the Invasion of Iwo Jima and the Invasion of Okinawa.

    After WWII, he served as commander of the Naval Air Group supporting Joint Task Force 1, which ran the nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands, then as chief of Naval Air Basic Training and finally as the Commander of the Alaskan Sea Frontier, becoming the first Naval officer to fly over the North Pole in November 1950.



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  6. Einion

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  7. Akinolkis

    Slaughter links !!!!!!!!!!! Thanks!!!!!

  8. Brandubh

    This is some kind of urbanization



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