Book Review: The Quiet Warrior, A Biography of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance


by Thomas B. Buell

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1987. Pp. 518. Illus., maps, charts, index. $34.95. ISBN:0-870-21562-0

Raymond Ames Spruance lived – and worked – in the shadow of William F. Halsey. Yet, it was Spruance who made perhaps the most critical decisions at the turning point of the war in the Pacific. But no movies have ever told his story. One book, however, does.

Originally published by Little, Brown in 1974, The Quiet Warrior traces Raymond Spruance’s life and career through, summing it up in its title. The work paints a picture of a remarkably consistent Admiral – who used the same cold calculations that turned the tide at Midway as he would use to set up investments that made him a reasonably wealthy man in his later life. Buell’s book is much like the Admiral it portrays – straightforward and unpretentious. If anything the little details it reveals about the Admiral’s conduct are fascinating. Spruance was a man not given to emotion – his first reaction after a kamikaze hit on his flagship (an event that occurred twice) was to ascertain the damage, and then to check the plane’s wreckage for a code books.

If anything, Buell’s biography paints a picture of an Admiral who applied brainpower to any solution, and who grasped part of the Powell Doctrine before the Powell doctrine was even pronounced: That of applying overwhelming force against an enemy. Buell’s biography covers every major campaign, from Spruance’s task as the commander of the cruisers for Halsey’s task force, to commanding Task Force 16 at Midway, to serving as the Commander of the Fifth Fleet from 1943 to the end of the war The book does suffer from its age (it was written and printed about the time that the Spruance-class destroyers were being built and commissioned). It certainly lacks the benefit of the now-voluminous information about Allied code breaking effort that was not declassified until after it was published. That said, The Quiet Warrior is still a worthy examination of America’s most unheralded naval commander.rc=> Reviewer: Harold C. Hutchison   

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