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The Two Spragues

May 2024
1min read

The portfolio of Albert Murray’s combat art that ran in February/March of 1982 includes a marvelous portrait of Admiral Thomas L. Sprague. The caption describes him as having engaged a vastly superior Japanese force off Samar on October 25, 1944. You have the wrong Admiral Sprague. Clifton “Ziggy” Sprague was the commanding officer in that fight.

Mr. Pierett is quite right. It was Rear Admiral Clifton Sprague who took in his escort group “Taffy-3”—six small escort carriers and seven destroyers and destroyer escorts—against four Japanese battleships and a clutch of heavy cruisers. “I didn’t think we’d last five minutes,” he said, but “I thought we might as well give them all we’ve got before we go down.”

Admiral Thomas Sprague’s escort group “Taffy-1” was 130 miles away at the time, but it, too, had a busy day; on the way to help his friend “Ziggy,” Thomas Sprague’s group suffered the first Kamikaze attack of the war.

In the meantime the Japanese broke off and withdrew. Clifton Sprague wrote: “I heard one of the signalmen yell, ‘Goddamnit, boys, they’re getting away!’ I could not believe my eyes, but it looked as if the whole Japanese Fleet was indeed retiring … I could not get the fact to soak into my battle-numbed brain. At best, I had expected to be swimming by this time.”

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