2014 Naval History Essay Contest Winner
Transformational leadership at the Battle of Vella Gulf changed the course of the Pacific War—and molded U.S. destroyer developments to this day.
Leading transformative change is always difficult and generally requires the drive from those at the top of an organization. Doing so from more junior positions inside an organization such as the U.S. Navy requires a special type of leader. The late Vice Admiral Frederick Moosbrugger was just such a leader. Today, he is best known as namesake for the USS Moosbrugger (DD-980), a Spruance-class destroyer in service from 1978 to 2000. However, in mid-1943 he was neither high-ranking nor well known, but just one of hundreds of obscure commanders serving across the vast Pacific. That summer, the South Pacific was a tough time and place for the U.S. military. World War II’s final outcome was far from certain, the triumphant conclusion still over two years of hard fighting away.