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Admiral Spruance and the Battle of Philippine Sea: A Brilliant Victory or a Bungled Opportunity?

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Research paper

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This paper, through historical analysis, supports the argument that Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, Commander Fifth Fleet and Central Pacific Area, accurately assessed the complex circumstances at the Battle of Philippine Sea, and made the correct command decision to defend the amphibious forces, ensuring the success of the amphibious operation. The American victory at the Battle of Philippine Sea 19-20 June 1944 is regarded by military historians as one of the great naval engagements. Perhaps for this reason military experts continue to analyze the battle, focusing on the controversial command decision by Admiral Spruance not to seek and destroy the Imperial Japanese Navy in a decisive battle. Rather, Spruance chose to place highest priority on covering and defending the U.S. amphibious forces that were in the initial phase of the invasion of Saipan. The result of the Battle of Philippine Sea was the near destruction of the Japanese navys air arm, which reduced the Japanese aircraft carrier fleet to a state of impotence. Yet, six of the nine Japanese carriers that participated in the battle remained afloat and operational with the potential to fight another time. Vice Admiral Mark Pete Mitscher, commander of the fast carrier forces under Admiral Spruance, was critical of Spruances tactics, while Fleet Admiral Earnest King, Chief of Naval Operations, was supportive. Their comments highlight the controversy surrounding the Battle of Philippine Sea. In addressing the Spruance debate several areas are reviewed that lend perspective and objectivity to Admiral Spruances decision. They include an overview of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Central Pacific campaign strategy, a summary of U.S. and Japanese campaign objectives in the Marianas, and a brief characterization of key American and Japanese commanders. Following a discussion of the above items, Spruances tactical conduct of the battle is analyzed. Finally, an assessment of Spruances decision is provided.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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