down: July 30, 1979
Launched: February 16, 1980
Commissioned: March 21, 1981
Decommissioned: June 2, 1995
Fate: stricken September 4, 1997
to Turkey (lease) on August 27, 1997
TCG Gaziantep (F-492); in service in Turkish Navy
Clifton Albert Frederick ("Ziggy") Sprague (1896-1955) was a World
War II-era officer in the U.S. Navy.
Sprague was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and attended the Boston Latin
School, and the United States Naval Academy. He became a naval aviator after
his graduation from the Academy.
At the beginning of World War II, Sprague was a Commander, and was commanding
the Tangier (AV-8) at Pearl Harbor during the attack. He also served as
captain of the Wasp (CV-18). He is most famous for his actions during the
Battle off Samar in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
As the commander of one of three escort carrier groups assigned from the 7th
Fleet to support the landings ("Taffy 3" as it was known), Sprague
became engaged with the powerful Japanese "Center Force" with only
three destroyers and six destroyer escorts supporting the group. The
commander of "Taffy 2" came into aircraft range, and helped drive
off the Japanese ships. However, the Center Force was disorganized and
uncoordinated, where it fell apart. The pilots off his ships bombed, strafed,
and made dry runs on the battleships and cruisers of the Center Force. For
the leadership he displayed in this incident, he received the Navy Cross.
After the war, Sprague served as commander of a naval district. He died in
1955 from heart disease.
on 21 March 1981, CLIFTON SPRAGUE became the sixth FFG 7 Class ship to join
Destroyer Squadron Eight home ported in Mayport, Florida. During Combat
Systems Ship Qualifications Trials from July to August 1981, CLIFTON SPRAGUE
conducted a missile-firing exercise, scoring four out of four hits on target
drones. This early success was a weather vane of future ship performances.
In June 1982, Commander Destroyer Squadron Eight presented the Battle
Efficiency "E" Award to CLIFTON SPRAGUE. At just over a year in
service, she became the first FFG 7 Class ship in the Atlantic Fleet to win
On 10 November 1982, CLIFTON SPRAGUE headed south to assume duties as
Caribbean Ready Ship, where she was called upon to assist other naval units
during hostilities in Grenada.
CLIFTON SPRAGUE headed for her new home port of Philadelphia and service with
the Naval Reserve Force, in November 1984. In January 1985, Commander Naval
Surface Group Four presented a Meritorious Unit Commendation to CLIFTON
SPRAGUE for outstanding performance during hostilities in Grenada.
The ship departed Philadelphia in February for READEX 1-85. During the
hostilities phase of the exercise, CLIFTON SPRAGUE scored a perfect three out
of three hits on target drones during a missile-firing exercise.
In April 1985, she sailed south to participate in Exercise UNIVERSAL TREK 85,
stopping in Key West to embark a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment. Upon
completion of the exercise, CLIFTON SPRAGUE proceeded to Mayport to prepare
for Operation SOLID SHIELD. During the exercise, she rescued two Belgian
Sailors from a life raft. In May 1985, she was awarded the COMNAVSURFLANT
Battle Efficiency "E" Award.
In April 1986, CLIFTON SPRAGUE departed Philadelphia to participate in
FLEETEX 2-86. The ship performed many duties during FLEETEX, including ASW,
torpedo firing, and carrier escort with the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59).
On 4 November 1986, CLIFTON SPRAGUE was once again selected by COMNAVSURFLANT
as the Battle Efficiency "E" Award winner for Naval Surface Group
Four. This was the second consecutive Battle "E" awarded to the
ship, and the third "E" in only five years since commissioning.
After an extensive overhaul period in Philadelphia, and Combat Systems
Testing during the Spring and Summer of 1987, CLIFTON SPRAGUE departed
Philadelphia in October 1987 for Central American operations, which included
port visits in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Panama, Jamaica, and Honduras. In
December, CLIFTON SPRAGUE received a Blue "E" Efficiency Award in
all areas of supply.
1988 was marked by a high operational tempo, starting with Operation SAFE
PASS in February. The exercise involved escorting freighters during simulated
wartime conditions. In April, CLIFTON SPRAGUE participated in FLEET WEEK in
New York City, where over 4,000 visitors toured the ship. CLIFTON SPRAGUE
conducted a Chief of Naval Operations Special Operation in Panama City,
Florida during May and June, which involved anti-mine warfare testing. The
rest of the year was filled with Midshipmen Training, Vandal Missile Exercises,
and Operation Propulsion Plant Examination preparations.