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Best Admiral of WWII?

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  • #16
    King and Nimitz for strategy—I don't know who came up with what idea.

    Jury's still out between Spruance and Halsey. Spruance had easy pickings in the Gilberts and Marshalls, but he's earned a high and lasting place in the annals of naval history for his parts at Midway and Phillippine Sea.
    Halsey, meanwhile, kept up a superb offensive in the Solomon Islands on land, sea, and air, and he broke the Japanese willpower in that quarter. AirSols and his task force commanders were excellent and battled veterans if there were any.

    Merrill for surface-ship task force commander. When Halsey said, "Kill All Japs!" Merrill apparently took it as an order.
    "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

    "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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    • #17
      Halsey fell for the Japanese bait at Leyte Gulf and left the landing beaches, the actual Japanese target, almost undefended-except for a small force of light carriers and their escorts. Their actions saved Halsey from a major defeat and disgrace.
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

      Comment


      • #18
        Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Louis Vian was the finest multi-discipline tactical naval commander of WWII, of any nation. Captain of a Destroyer Flotilla at the start of WWII he was promoted to R/Adm. 8 July 1941.

        Vian was a hard man, not one to be loved by his crews, but who in turn commanded destroyer (Atlantic, Altmark, then Bismarck), cruiser (Malta/Med. convoys), air support and amphibious assault (Sicily, Italy), the Eastern Task Force supporting the D-Day landings in Normandy, and finally the RN Pacific Fleet’s Carrier forces, all with success - he was everywhere during the war.


        Vian would retire an Admiral of the Fleet, one of the few non-First Sea Lords to receive the honour, after serving as 5th Sea Lord in charge of naval aviation, then Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet.
        "I am Groot"
        - Groot

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        • #19
          Doesn't the question rather need to be defined more clearly? By WW2, the nature of sea warfare resulted in a new type of Admiral, who was in many ways more of a planner than a warrior.

          From the British point of view, for example, was Andrew Cunningham, a 'fighting' admiral who preferred commanding from the bridge of his flagship to 'soft arsed' accommodation ashore, better than Bertram Ramsay, whose last seagoing command had been HMS Royal Sovereign in 1935, but who brought together the evacuation plan that was Operation Dynamo, and subsequently masterminded Operation Neptune? I suspect it is something of horses for courses.

          I suppose it comes down to fighting admirals compared to amphibious admirals. Probably, H. Kent Hewitt, or Richmond Turner would be candidates in the latter category from the United States' Navy?

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          • #20
            Originally posted by RLeonard View Post

            I vote for Nimitz.

            The Battle of Midway was already won, the dive bombers of VB-3, VB-6, and VS-6 having already worked their mischief on Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu, and VS-5 scouts sent out on Fletcher’s order had already found Hiryu by the time Spruance took the lead after Fletcher’s (who, in case no one noticed, was in overall command) flagship, Yorktown, was disabled. One can readily see who was in charge of what simply by looking at Spruance’s after-action report, which was submitted through Fletcher as ComTF-17 to CinCPac. Of course,one should not forget that that Fletcher’s other hat was ComCruPac which meant that Spruance, by virtue of HIS other hat as ComCruDiv5, worked for Fletcher. Fletcher never relinquished overall command, he merely signaled that he would conform to Spruance’s movements since Spruance still had operational carriers and Fletcher did no longer. For those who understand how these things work, conforming to movements is not the same thing as relinquishing command. And, of course, there's the minor matter of Fletcher at the time being some 40 -odd numbers ahead of Spruance in seniority . . . can't get rid of that.

            The decision, and the right one, made by Spruance to temporarily withdraw to the east as darkness came on after recovering the afternoon Hiryu strikes was the most important decision he made on 4 June. Otherwise the handling of TF-16 strikes over the course of June 4th was botched on several levels by the staff he inherited from Halsey, notably by his chief of staff, Browning. The lack of control, coordination, information, and direction of operations between the staff aboard Enterprise and the Hornet was abysmal.
            I think I agree here: Fletcher gets full credit/blame for Coral Sea and Midway. He put Spruance in charge, or "conformed to his maneuevers" as you say, and he owns every tactical decision Spruance made. Had the American fleet been destroyed, he would have received all the blame, and so would Nimitz. The point is that Fletcher is disregarded because he delegated authority to subordinates even though he was the commanding task force officer at Coral Sea and Midway.

            I see that your quotes are in a different font. Do you have an article it came from, or better yet, do you have a book that gives a history with the tactical analysis of the different battles? You know what you're talking about, and Morrison's naval history is superb but hardly instructive for a newbie to WWII naval tactics/operations.
            "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

            "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by American87 View Post

              I think I agree here: Fletcher gets full credit/blame for Coral Sea and Midway. He put Spruance in charge, or "conformed to his maneuevers" as you say, and he owns every tactical decision Spruance made. Had the American fleet been destroyed, he would have received all the blame, and so would Nimitz. The point is that Fletcher is disregarded because he delegated authority to subordinates even though he was the commanding task force officer at Coral Sea and Midway.

              I see that your quotes are in a different font. Do you have an article it came from, or better yet, do you have a book that gives a history with the tactical analysis of the different battles? You know what you're talking about, and Morrison's naval history is superb but hardly instructive for a newbie to WWII naval tactics/operations.
              Difference in fonts a cut-paste result coming from Word to the message board. This passage is/was my writing, and, truth be told, pretty much off the top of my head. The only thing I looked up the difference in signal numbers, which provide order of precedence, between Fletcher and Spruance in the summer of 1942 (Fletcher, a brand new and last listed Vice Admiral, at # 22 which made him 22nd of 22 Vice Admirals; Spruance, in the top half or the Rear Admirals at # 64, with #’s 23, 24, & 25 not listed, which put him 39th of 99 Rear Admirals). I rarely write of subjects outside the USN in the Pacific, usually confining myself to the aviation end of the business with a, probably, inordinate interest in Midway, mostly because my father was XO of VF-3 off Yorktown.

              As far as that particular affray is concerned, I’ve probably most of the books either directly on the subject and those that dance around it, some closer than others; most of the reports that one can get their hands on (including a couple that no one can get their hands on because I have the originals); and goodness knows how many articles, research papers, theses, and dissertations. Sometimes hard to remember where stuff is. Grey hair, I am convinced, is a sign of oozing brains. Sometimes I agree with what some learned soul has written, sometimes I do not; most often complaints revolve around the broad-brush approach, a lack of details when such are apparently readily available, and presentations that are merely rehashes of what has already been presented in years past . . . lots of scribbling in the margins.

              If you’re looking for some good reads on the subject of Midway, may I suggest you look to
              John Lundstrom’s
              The First Team – Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway
              John Parshall & Tony Tully’s Shattered Sword – The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
              Robert Cressman, Steve Ewing, et. al, A Glorious Page in our History- The Battle of Midway
              And for a treatment of Fletcher untainted by the, IMO, poisoned pen of Morison or the self-justifications of R Kelly Turner, look again to Lundstrom and read Black Shoe Carrier Admiral.
              hmmm . . . I wonder what THIS button does . . . uh oh

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by RLeonard View Post

                Difference in fonts a cut-paste result coming from Word to the message board. This passage is/was my writing, and, truth be told, pretty much off the top of my head. The only thing I looked up the difference in signal numbers, which provide order of precedence, between Fletcher and Spruance in the summer of 1942 (Fletcher, a brand new and last listed Vice Admiral, at # 22 which made him 22nd of 22 Vice Admirals; Spruance, in the top half or the Rear Admirals at # 64, with #’s 23, 24, & 25 not listed, which put him 39th of 99 Rear Admirals). I rarely write of subjects outside the USN in the Pacific, usually confining myself to the aviation end of the business with a, probably, inordinate interest in Midway, mostly because my father was XO of VF-3 off Yorktown.

                As far as that particular affray is concerned, I’ve probably most of the books either directly on the subject and those that dance around it, some closer than others; most of the reports that one can get their hands on (including a couple that no one can get their hands on because I have the originals); and goodness knows how many articles, research papers, theses, and dissertations. Sometimes hard to remember where stuff is. Grey hair, I am convinced, is a sign of oozing brains. Sometimes I agree with what some learned soul has written, sometimes I do not; most often complaints revolve around the broad-brush approach, a lack of details when such are apparently readily available, and presentations that are merely rehashes of what has already been presented in years past . . . lots of scribbling in the margins.

                If you’re looking for some good reads on the subject of Midway, may I suggest you look to
                John Lundstrom’s
                The First Team – Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway
                John Parshall & Tony Tully’s Shattered Sword – The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
                Robert Cressman, Steve Ewing, et. al, A Glorious Page in our History- The Battle of Midway
                And for a treatment of Fletcher untainted by the, IMO, poisoned pen of Morison or the self-justifications of R Kelly Turner, look again to Lundstrom and read Black Shoe Carrier Admiral.
                Thank you. Is there perhaps a book that details naval strategy and tactics as it applies to WWII? I would love to have that knowledge in mind while reading these histories, for obvious reasons.

                But yes, I believe I can begin by reading the after action reports. Spruance’s sounds as good as any.

                And I agree that Morrison writes with a poisoned pen, as it were. He is a colorful writer and sometimes makes Kenney or Fletcher out to be bad guys. He was clearly partisan, and I’ve read that his coverage of Mitscher was overly friendly.
                "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                Comment


                • #23
                  You could look at
                  Lars Celander's How Carriers Fought - Carrier Operations in World War II

                  Haven't read it myself, but you can check it out, see: https://www.amazon.com/How-Carriers-...ustomerReviews and draw your own conclusions.

                  Most, if not all, of my knowledge comes from reports, period directives and doctrine, and the words of more than just a few practitioners before time ran out. When when most people think of Jimmie Thach, they might think of "Thach Weave" and a picture of the gent in an F4F . . . I think of a tall drink of Arkansas water sitting in my parents' living room, shooing away parental objections and taking time to answer the questions posed by an interested youngster. Or someone like Dick Best or Bert Ernest (fellow VMI grad) recounting their experiences at Midway over a leisurely dinner. Frankly i prefer the actual period documents as they provide more flavor, and more, the words of folks who were actually there.
                  hmmm . . . I wonder what THIS button does . . . uh oh

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Spruance is definitely up there. So Is Charles Andrews Lockwood, he did a lot with the sub force and had to deal with bad torpedoes for a large part of the war. He had to show the ordnance people the proof that the torps ran lower than set and failed to explode when they hit the target (unless it hit at a sharp angle).

                    “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” -- Albert Einstein

                    The US Constitution doesn't need to be rewritten it needs to be reread

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                    • #25
                      Lockwood was good too. The whole Pacific Fleet command is intensely interesting. Between new carrier doctrine, the service fleet, and successful amphibious operations, they did well for themselves.
                      "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                      "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by American87 View Post
                        Lockwood was good too. The whole Pacific Fleet command is intensely interesting. Between new carrier doctrine, the service fleet, and successful amphibious operations, they did well for themselves.
                        And that was with a divided command with MacArthur commanding in the Southwest Pacific and Nimitz in the Central Pacific. The Japanese were even more divided in their command structure.

                        The naval logistic system that was established with a very long line of communication from Hawaii was nothing short of genius.
                        We are not now that strength which in old days
                        Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                        Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                        To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Drusus Nero View Post
                          Could Japan have been defeated by bypassing the Phillippines altogether as Nimitz, Halsey, King and Spruance all seemed to feel?
                          I think these COs advocating bypassing the Phillippines altogether might be a myth. The book "COMMAND DECISIONS" has a chapter titled Luzon Versus Formosa that covers the debate:

                          https://history.army.mil/books/70-7_21.htm


                          "It is noteworthy that, with the possible exception of Nimitz, the ranking Army and Navy commanders in the Pacific-the men responsible for executing or supporting the operation-were opposed to the seizure of Formosa. In general, they favored a program calling for the capture of Luzon and a subsequent jump to Okinawa or Japan.

                          In the face of this opinion of commanders on the spot, the consensus of most high-ranking Army and Navy planners in Washington-with Leahy and General Somervell as outstanding exceptions-was that the Formosa-first course of action was strategically the sounder and, therefore, the most desirable course for the Allies to follow in the western Pacific."
                          "The good old hockey game is the best game you can name
                          and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game"

                          - Stompin' Tom Connors - The Hockey Song

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Doveton Sturdee View Post
                            Doesn't the question rather need to be defined more clearly? By WW2, the nature of sea warfare resulted in a new type of Admiral, who was in many ways more of a planner than a warrior.

                            From the British point of view, for example, was Andrew Cunningham, a 'fighting' admiral who preferred commanding from the bridge of his flagship to 'soft arsed' accommodation ashore, better than Bertram Ramsay, whose last seagoing command had been HMS Royal Sovereign in 1935, but who brought together the evacuation plan that was Operation Dynamo, and subsequently masterminded Operation Neptune? I suspect it is something of horses for courses.
                            I think I'd rate Somerville above Ramsey

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by Freebird View Post
                              I think I'd rate Somerville above Ramsey
                              I don't know how you compare the two. Ramsay was a consummate planner, with Dynamo & Neptune on his CV, whereas Somerville was very much a doer, whose preference was for commanding fleets at sea.

                              In October, 1944, however, Somerville became head of the British Naval delegation in Washington, and apparently established a cordial relationship with Ernest King. Anyone (especially anyone British!) who managed that is worthy of an almost limitless degree of respect.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Doveton Sturdee View Post

                                I don't know how you compare the two. Ramsay was a consummate planner, with Dynamo & Neptune on his CV, whereas Somerville was very much a doer, whose preference was for commanding fleets at sea.

                                In October, 1944, however, Somerville became head of the British Naval delegation in Washington, and apparently established a cordial relationship with Ernest King. Anyone (especially anyone British!) who managed that is worthy of an almost limitless degree of respect.
                                Agreed.
                                Ramsey had the benefit of the powerful Home fleet, while Somerville faced a much more powerful and dangerous adversary.

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