Rear Admiral Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague

His ears stick out, like Jughead in those Archie comics. His hair is thinning, and he has a professorial kind of face.

He was the commander of Taffy 3, the name the navy gave to the 13 ships under his command, whose function was to escort six air carriers. Each carrier carried a complement of 30 planes; he had to get them into the air as soon as possible.

His first command after he knew his unit was under attack was order his ships to head eastward, on heading 090. That would bring “a strong wind rushing from bow to stern over his carrier decks — he needed a headwind of twenty-two knots to get a fully-loaded Avenger airborne.” And there was a chance that, if he headed east for open water, the other commanders could come to his aid.

He radioed his command. “All as one, the helmsmen of twelve of Taffy 3’s thirteen ships turned to the right, bringing their ships on an eastward heading.” So did the carriers.

The pilots scrambled to get into their planes.

Sprague issued an alert: Come in please. Come in please . . . To any or all: We have enemy fleet consisting of BBs and cruisers fifteen miles astern closing us. We are being fired on.

NOTE: Admiral Sprague has a memorial in San Diego. See various likenesses of him on Instagram.


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