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Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague

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Beta Testers
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9,328 battles

Clifton Sprague was the Commander of Task Unit 77.4.3 (A.K.A.) Taffy III during the Battle off Samar.  This was the last Major Naval Battle of WWII between Japanese & American naval units.  His Task force consisted of 6 slow moving escort carriers (CVEs), 3 Fletcher Class Destroyers (DD), and 4 Destroyer Escorts (DE).   His force was assisting land forces in the taking of the the island of Samar and was taken completely by suprise by on of the largest fleet of Japanese ships ever assembled.  His Taffy 3 group went against 1 Super Battleship (Yamato), 3 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers while armed with weapons designed and intended for air to ground attack.  The largest guns in his group were merely 130mmin caliber had a range of 10 miles and were insufficent to penetrate the armor of any of the Japanese ships except for their destroyers.  The Yamato was armed with 460mm guns and had a range of 25 miles and the Yamato alone displaced more water than Spragues entire task group.  Sprague had launched all of his aircraft to attack the on coming force while retreating south to meet up with other American forces.   The aircraft were loaded for land attack rather than for attacking ships and dropped cluster bombs and rockets on the Japanese. Once they ran out of these they began dropping depth charges on the decks of surface ships, made strafing runs, and pilots even shot their handguns out thier windows. Once they finally ran out of ammo they made "dry runs" at the Japanese imitating a torpedo attack forcing the Japanese to manuver to dodge the torpedos that they infact did not have in a successful effort to slow the Japanese advance on the task force.


Meanwhile his destoyers had been laying down smoke screens to try and cover the task force's retreat into a nearby rain squall to hide them from the Japanese gunners.  The only weapons his group had that could inflict any damage were the torpedos his destroyers and destroyer escorts carried but they were limited to a 5 mile range.  This ment that they had to steam through the gauntlet of Japanese guns with a range of 25 miles.  One thing that kept them floating was that their armor was too thin to detonate the HE rounds of the Japanese shells which passed through both sides of the ships without exploding.


Despite losing all 3 of his destroyers, one DE, and one CVE he was able to confuse and turn away the far superior Japanese forces who in the end scuttled 3 of their heavily damaged cruisers in the retreat.


Sprague had previously served as a gunnery officer in World War 1 and later became a Naval Aviator before his promotion to Rear Admiral.  After the war ended he became the first U.S. Naval Admiral to fly over the North Pole.  His Wikipedia page does little to no justice to the man and treats the Battle off Samar as a small historical footnote despite its being widely considered the greatest naval battle of the war.  I suggest you read "The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" by James D. Hornfischer, and amazing read and what started my hobby of researching naval history.


The history Channel also did a good special on it


You could also consider reading about Captain Evans from the Destroyer Johnston.  He turned and took his ship alone against the entire Japanese fleet crippling and blowing the bow off of a cruiser six times the Johnstons size within the firstr 10 minutes of the batle.

Edited by Dr_Nick_Riviera
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Alpha Tester
14 posts
194 battles

+1; Rear Admiral Sprague and his destroyermen individually and collectively displayed the best the US Navy has to offer.   Very few navies in the world at the time could pull off what Taffy-3 did in those two brutal hours off Samar Island (the Royal Navy for certain; possibly the Italian Navy or the Soviet Navy with the right admiral).

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