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Buell, in his biography of Spruance, The Quiet Warrior , provides some context. The admiral uncharacteristically had expounded on the subject to a friend while they were off Iwo Jima, where the battle was raging. “Spruance had Halsey in mind—among others—because Halsey recently had given an interview that was more flamboyant than usual,” Buell wrote.

Potter’s take on Halsey, as contained in the original Proceedings article, agitated former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Robert Carney enough that he wrote a response, which we’ve included as a sidebar. Carney had served as Halsey’s chief of staff during the latter half of the Pacific war.

Carney’s predecessor in that role, Captain Miles Browning, is the complex and controversial subject of Alan Rems’ article, “Out of the Jaws of Victory.” A naval-aviation savant with a caustic disposition, Browning served as Spruance’s chief of staff at Midway while Halsey was temporarily sidelined. The captain earned praise for his role there, and historian Samuel Eliot Morison later credited him with advising Spruance to give the order that likely decided the battle’s outcome.

But according to Rems, Browning’s Midway performance was anything but laudatory. Thomas Buell had uncovered the facts, which he’d initially heard from Spruance’s former flag lieutenant, retired Captain Robert Oliver. As Buell revealed in his U.S. Naval Institute oral history, he had shown Oliver a draft of his Midway chapter from The Quiet Warrior . The captain’s reaction: “That’s not the way it happened at all.” Oliver then gave his account of the battle, which the author incorporated into the book.

“I can still remember when he started talking about Miles Browning,” Buell recalled. “He was very, very hesitant. He said, ‘I don’t know quite how to tell you this. It’s very, very touchy. But I have to tell you about the confrontation that Spruance had with Miles Browning and the aviators.’” In his article, Rems recounts this story as well as many other eye-opening anecdotes about a gifted naval officer who proved to be his own worst enemy.

Richard G. Latture




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