When Vice Admiral Halsey was hospitalized just prior to the Battle of Midway (June 3-6, 1942), Rear Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, a non-aviator, was ordered to take his place. In the ensuing battle the United States Navy lost one carrier while sinking all four of the Japanese fleet carriers. The US. victory came largely from the toughness of the fighting force, Spruance’s combination of coolness plus his caution at just the right moments. The sinking of the Japanese carriers essentially ended the Japanese dominance in fleet power in the Pacific. Rear Admiral Spruance (1886-1969) is little known to most Americans and yet historian Samuel Eliot Morison believed he was one of the greatest fighting and thinking admirals in American naval history. Rear Admiral Bitoff will tell us about the man and his accomplishments and illustrate his presentation.
Presenter John Bitoff donned a uniform at age 17 and retired it at age 55. His service encompassed the Korean War, the Cuban Missile crisis, the Vietnam War and at the end of the first Gulf War. He spent 14 years in sea-going assignments including command of destroyers, and as an admiral, command of the combat logistics ships in the Pacific Fleet. He completed graduate study in International Relations and Human Resources Management. His most significant Washington assignment was Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He later served as the Director of Plans and Policy on the staff of the Commander in Chief US Forces in Europe. During this assignment the admiral was responsible for designing the implementation modalities for the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with the Soviet Union.
In the wake of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake he led the Navy’s rescue and recovery effort in the greater Bay Area with more than 10,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. In the early 1990s he was charged with integrating women aboard ships in the US Third Fleet. Upon retirement in 1992 he was appointed Director of Emergency Services for the City and County of San Francisco where he was responsible for the coordination of police, fire and emergency medical services.
This is a return engagement for our speaker, Rear Admiral John Bitoff, who is known to many of you for the talks he gave on his experiences living in Italy and on the life of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.