23. Spruance became a fleet commander for most of the rest of the war
Following the victory at Midway, Admiral Spruance served as Nimitz’s Chief of Staff. In September he was assigned as Deputy Commander in Chief. Eventually, Nimitz created an arrangement in which Spruance and Halsey alternated in command of the Central Pacific Campaign’s Naval units. When Spruance commanded the steadily growing American Naval forces, they were called Task Force 58, Fifth Fleet. During periods of Halsey in command it was Task Force 38, Third Fleet. Spruance commanded Fifth Fleet when it destroyed the Japanese fleet anchorage at Truk, in which 44 Japanese ships and 250 aircraft were destroyed.
He was also in command at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, where the US Navy broke the back of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s air fleet. The Americans sank three aircraft carriers and destroyed over 600 Japanese aircraft. Although Halsey was better known to the public, which he ensured by maintaining close relations with reporters, Spruance’s periods with the fleet were greater contributions to the American victory in the Pacific. Some historians believe Spruance was too cautious, others that Halsey was too aggressive. There is no debate however regarding the magnitude of the victory over the Japanese at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, known to the pilots who participated in it as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.