A Sailor's Story: Vice Admiral Clifton "Ziggy" Albert Frederick Sprague

Born on January 8, 1896, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Vice Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick Sprague was a graduate of the Roxbury Latin School.

Accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at Annapolis, Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague earned the nickname "Ziggy," he was actually commissioned a year early due to U.S. involvement in World War I and assigned to the gunboat the Wheeling.

Vice Admiral Ziggy Sprague began training as a Naval Aviator, graduating on August 11, 1921, and served as a test pilot, significantly contributing to the development of the aircraft carrier catapult systems and the MARK1 aircraft arresting system.

Returning to Annapolis, Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague served as the executive officer of squadron VN-8D5 until 1931, when he was assigned to Panama and Hawaii. He became the first pilot to fly the 13 hours Hawaii to Midway run and served as the air operations officer at the Naval Air Station and as air officer of the carrier Yorktown. In 1940 the Navy sent him to the Naval War College, after which he was given the command of the Tangier in the port of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of World War II. On December 7, 1941, the Tangier survived the attack and actively returned fire.

For a short time, Vice Admiral Ziggy Sprague was assigned to the defense of the Southeast coast of the U.S. and the Naval Air Station at Sandpoint. Finally, Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague was given command of the carrier Wasp, which participated in the attacks on the Marcus and Wake Islands, the invasion of Saipan, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Promoted to the command of the carrier division 25 in July of 1944, his task unit fought in and helped the surprising U.S. win the Battle of Samar. In February 1945, Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague was assigned the command of the carrier division 26 for the Invasion of Iwo Jima and the Invasion of Okinawa.

After World War II, he served as commander of the Naval Air Group supporting Joint Task Force 1, which ran the nuclear tests on Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands, then as chief of Naval Air Basic Training, and finally, as the commander of the Alaskan Sea Frontier, becoming the first Naval officer to fly over the North Pole in November 1950.

Vice Admiral Ziggy Sprague retired from the U.S. Navy in November 1951 and died of a heart attack on April 11, 1955. He rests at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

Her online photography gallery can be found at shop.takethebackroads.com


Like my page? Please consider supporting my work by visiting my sponsors, my webshop, or by buying me a cup of coffee!