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First Name: Arleigh

Last Name: Burke

Birthplace: Boulder, CO, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Albert

Date of Birth: 19 October 1901

Date of Death: 01 January 1996

Rank or Rate: Admiral

Years Served: 1923 - 1961
Arleigh Albert Burke

Graduate, U.S. Naval Academy, Class of 1923

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


Admiral Arleigh Albert "31-Knot" Burke
U.S. Navy - WWII

Early Years

Arleigh Albert Burke, the first of six children and grandson of a Swedish immigrant, was born on a farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Boulder, CO, on 19 October 1901. He attended a one-room elementary school through the eighth grade and then went to high school in Boulder. During his teen years, Arleigh decided that farming wasn't for him so he sought, and received, a congressional appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy. He entered the Academy in June 1919 and graduated on 7 June 1923; ranking 71st in the class of 413. On the afternoon of his graduation, Arleigh married Roberta Gorsuch of Washington, DC, in the Naval Academy Chapel. Roberta became his beloved wife, best friend, and lifelong companion.

Prewar Years

Following his commissioning as an Ensign in the U. S. Navy, Burke's first duty assignment was aboard the battleship USS Arizona (BB-39), where he served for five years. During his time on the Arizona, she was based in Southern California and made occasional cruises to the Caribbean and Hawaii during major U.S. Fleet exercises. His next duty was aboard the fleet auxiliary ship USS Procyon (AG-11), which served as the flagship of Commander Fleet Base Force, U.S. Battle Fleet, until she was decommissioned on 1 April 1931.

Then came assignments aboard the heavy cruiser USS Chester (CA-27); fleet auxiliary USS Antares (AG-10); and fleet auxiliary USS Argonne (AS-10). Now assigned to shore duty, Burke completed postgraduate study in Ordnance Engineering and served two tours in the Bureau of Ordnance. In June 1937, Burke was ordered to his first destroyer as prospective Executive Officer of USS Craven (DD-382), under construction in Boston Navy Yard.

In August 1938 - early in his sixteenth year of commissioned service (during which he earned a Master of Science in Engineering at the University of Michigan) - Burke was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and in June 1939 took command of destroyer USS Mugford (DD-389), sister-ship to Craven. During his tour, Mugford excelled in gunnery and participated in the development of high speed night gunnery and torpedo attack tactics. After little more than a year in command, Burke was relieved and sent to the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, DC, and that is where he was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite his persistent requests for sea duty, he remained ashore there until the end of 1942.

World War II

Burke would spend the remainder of the war in the South Pacific. He was awarded Command of Destroyer Division 43 in January 1943 and hoisted his flag on the destroyer USS Waller (DD-466) which, two months later, blew up a Japanese destroyer in the Central Solomon Islands. In May, he was moved to Command Destroyer Division 44, aboard flagship USS Conway (DD-507), where he was wounded while escorting convoys in the Solomons. Captain Burke took over Destroyer Squadron 12 in August 1943 and Destroyer Squadron 23 in October. In addition Burke commanded one of the squadron's two divisions, Destroyer Division 45, with his flag in USS Charles Ausburne (DD-570).

In October, Burke was detached from DesRon 12 and ordered to command DesRon 23. At that time, Squadron 23 consisted of eight new and very green Fletcher-type destroyers, the Charles Ausburne, Claxton, Dyson, Stanly, Spence, Converse, Thatcher and Foote. Burke named the squadron the 'Little Beavers' based on the little Indian character from Red Ryder comic books. In a letter to Fred Harmon, creator of Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Burke gave the following explanation regarding why he chose to use the Little Beaver character and name for his squadron.

"You perhaps will be interested in the reason our squadron chose your estimable character to represent our squadron. We wanted an emblem which would be truly American. We wanted one which would represent aggressiveness and daring, which indicated fighting ability and always retained a sense of humor. One of our torpedo men suggested Little Beaver because in the particular sketch which he drew, Little Beaver was cheerfully placing his arrows in the most appropriate portion of Japanese anatomy. Little Beaver filled the bill. We are very proud of our Little Indian and we credit him with a great deal of the exceptional good fortune which we have enjoyed. He not only helps to damage the enemy but he seems to be the angel on the masthead: he keeps our casualties low."

During the next four months Squadron 23 participated in 22 separate engagements and destroyed one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships and approximately 30 aircraft. Between operations, the U.S. surface combatants under Burke practiced high speed tactics at night an area where, thus far, the Japanese had excelled.

Burke was a leader in this effort (he first began training on these tactics while in command of the USS Mugford in 1939) and used these actions in the battle of Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, in early November. Later that month, in the Battle of Cape St. George at New Ireland, Burke again led his destroyers in night torpedo attacks on Japanese surface forces. This battle is regarded by many naval historians as the perfect naval engagement. Burke was awarded the Navy Cross for "extraordinary heroism in operations against an armed enemy" in the Battle of Cape St. George.

The ships of the time were capable of 34 knots, but while enroute to a rendezvous prior to that battle, a boiler casualty had limited his group's top speed to 30 knots. When the fleet commander signaled him to make best speed, they mustered an extra knot and he answered "Proceeding at 31 knots" Due to his response, thereafter Burke's nickname was "31-Knot" Burke. Originally a taunt, it captured the imagination of the press and the public and conveyed the image of a dashing, hard-charging combat commander - which was a very accurate description of Arleigh Burke.

Early in 1944, the decision was made to bypass Rabaul in favor of the Admiralty Islands, 300 miles farther west. DesRon 23 supported landings at Cape Gloucester, in the Green Islands, and participated in the bombardment of Rabaul and its backup base at Kavieng. On the morning of 22 February, Burke's destroyers sank a large Japanese naval tug and rescued 73 survivors. When the captain, who had chosen to fight rather than capitulate, was not among the survivors, Burke ordered a brief prayer service in his honor, an action which gained him great respect in post-war Japan.

Burke, to his great surprise, received orders in March to report to Commander Carrier Division 3, Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher, as Chief of Staff. Mitscher had recently become Commander Fast Carrier Task Forces Pacific (CTF 58) and was one of the great naval leaders of WW II. Burke was disappointed in the assignment, which took him away from his beloved destroyers. Mitscher was equally disappointed to find that his highly capable aviator Chief of Staff was to be relieved by a surface officer. (Admiral Ernest King had directed that a surface officer commanding a fleet or task force must have an aviator chief of staff and vice versa.)

Mitscher and Burke soon formed an exceptionally close relationship that endured throughout the war and into the postwar years. While serving with this famed carrier force, Burke was promoted to the temporary rank of Commodore. During the next fifteen months, TF 58, with four carrier task groups, roamed the Western Pacific striking enemy airfields, shipping, and industrial facilities, in their island strongholds. These strongholds were located in the Philippines; on Formosa and Okinawa; and in the Japanese home islands. The task force participated in all the major actions of the Pacific war. In June it was the assault on the Marianas - Guam, Tinian, and Saipan. In October it was the Battle of the Philippine Sea; the return to the Philippines; and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The invasion of the Carolines and the capture of Iwo Jima took place in February and March of 1945; and the invasion of Okinawa occurred in April and May.

On the morning of 11 May, Mitscher's flagship, USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), was operating in the vicinity of Okinawa. An A6M Zero appeared from a low cloud, dived toward the flight deck and dropped a 551 pound bomb, which went through the vessel and exploded in the sea. The Zero then crashed onto the flight deck, destroying parked planes full of fuel, causing a huge fire. The remains of the Zero went over the deck and dropped into the sea. A scant 30 seconds later, a second Zero, piloted by Ensign Kiyoshi Ogawa, plunged into a suicide dive. The Zero went through the antiaircraft fire, dropped another 551 pound bomb, and crashed into the flight deck near the control tower. (Kamikazes were trained to aim for the island superstructure.) The bomb penetrated Bunker Hill's flight deck and exploded. Gasoline fires flamed up and several explosions took place. Flag spaces, including the flag office and radio central, were hard hit and a large number of the TF 58 staff was killed. Burke led the effort to rescue survivors, helping to drag the wounded and injured men from radio central. The ship suffered the loss of 346 men killed, 43 missing, and 264 wounded. (Although badly crippled, Bunker Hill managed to return to Bremerton via Pearl Harbor.)

Because of the severity of the damage to Bunker Hill, Mitscher, Burke, and the remainder of the staff transferred to USS Enterprise (CV-6). Three days later Enterprise, too, was hit in a kamikaze attack and put out of action. The staff again shifted flagships, this time to USS Randolph (CV-15).

On 28 May 1945, Mitscher, Burke, and the staff of TF 58 were relieved and departed for the U.S. For them, combat operations had ended. Burke, who had earlier been promoted to the wartime rank of Commodore, reverted to his permanent rank of Captain and was reassigned to the Navy Department in Washington to head a new section for defense against kamikaze attacks. He was there when the war ended.

Postwar Service

After a brief tour in the Bureau of Ordnance, in early 1946 Burke returned to sea with Vice Admiral Mitscher as Chief of Staff of the Eighth Fleet, which was being formed for duty in the Mediterranean. In midsummer, plans for deployment of the fleet were placed on hold and Mitscher was ordered to relieve Admiral Jonas Ingram as Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT), which he did in September. Burke continued to serve as his Chief of Staff until February 1947 when Mitscher, who had been ill throughout much of the war and had never regained his health, suffered a heart attack and died. Thus ended the long, close relationship of two of the great naval combat leaders of WWII.

Burke, reassigned to the Navy's General Board in Washington after Mitscher's death, recognized that his experience had been limited, by necessity, to the skills of fighting a war. He undertook a serious plan of broadening his understanding and knowledge of history, economics, science, politics, and international relations. He foresaw a need to study and define the future national security interests of the United States, and the role of the Navy in pursuing those interests. This eventually led to an all-embracing paper, completed in mid-1948, entitled "National Security and Naval Contributions for the Next Ten Years." The paper itself had little impact but it greatly contributed to Arleigh Burke's development as a strategic thinker, and to his reputation.

In July 1948, Burke took command of the light cruiser, USS Huntington (CL-107), then deployed to the Sixth Fleet. After less than six months in command, he received an unexpected set of orders to report immediately to the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in Washington to head the OPNAV section which dealt with matters concerning unification of the armed services.

There he became a key player in what was to become known as "the revolt of the Admirals." A primary issue was the strategic role and relative capability of the Air Force B-36 bomber vis-à-vis the Navy's proposed supercarrier. In hearings before the House Armed Services Committee in October 1949, Secretary of the Navy Mathews led off by supporting Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson's position favoring the B-36 and relegating Navy aviation to a secondary role. He was followed by Commander-in-Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT), Admiral Arthur Radford; by the naval leaders of WWII - King, Nimitz, Halsey, Spruance and others including Burke; and by the CNO, Admiral Louis Denfield. The naval officers uniformly took issue with the SECDEF and SECNAV position. (Burke and his small staff had been instrumental in orchestrating the Navy position.) Following the hearings, Secretary Mathews forced Admiral Denfield into retirement prior to completion of his term and attempted to remove Burke's name from the promotion list to Rear Admiral. This latter action was over-ruled by President Truman. The Committee Report of 1 March 1950 offered no opinion on the B-36 / aircraft carrier dispute and concluded that the government should accept the advice of the military professionals of each service regarding weapons.

By the time the Committee report was issued, the new CNO, Admiral Forrest Sherman, had disbanded Burke's OPNAV office and Burke had been reassigned as the Navy representative on the Defense Research and Development Board. He was promoted to Rear Admiral on 15 July 1950 and, in August, ordered to the staff of Commander, Naval Forces Far East as Deputy Chief of Staff. The Korean War was, by then, in its third month and there was an urgent need for a senior officer with warfighting experience on the staff (as well as for a trusted emissary who could, and would, report directly to Admiral Sherman on the conduct of operations. Burke did this, but with the full knowledge of VADM Joy, COMNAVFE.) Burke arrived on station just in time to participate in the planning for the Inchon landing and for support of the subsequent drive north to the Chinese border. The UN offensive ended in November when the Red Chinese armies crossed the Yalu River and drove the Allied Forces back down the peninsula. The battle line eventually stabilized in mid-January just south of Seoul.

After a brief sojourn in command of Cruiser Division Five, Burke was again ordered to Korea on "temporary duty" to join the UN team, headed by VADM Joy, which was appointed to negotiate an armistice with the North Koreans. He remained in this assignment as one of the two principal negotiators for the UN until a cease fire line was established in November.

Returning to Washington, Burke assumed duty as Director of the Strategic Plans Division in OPNAV. Following the inauguration of President Eisenhower in January 1953, and the introduction of the "New Look" defense policy, Burke was again called upon to define and defend the Navy's roles, missions, and command structure and philosophy. He remained until March 1954, when he was relieved and reassigned as Commander, Cruiser Division Six. He was there for the rest of the year until ordered to duty as Commander Destroyer Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMDESLANT). Four months later, in May 1955, he was selected over 99 officers senior to him - every four and three star officer in the Navy and a number of senior two star officers - to relieve Admiral Robert Carney as the Chief of Naval Operations.

Upon becoming CNO on 17 August 1955, Admiral Burke could look back upon a naval career of 32 years in which he had served his apprenticeship at sea, completed postgraduate study and acquired technical expertise in shore assignments, demonstrated brilliance and achieved fame as a wartime commander, gained broad experience in the application of military power and, through self-study, in the wider fields of history, economics, politics, and national security affairs.

He was a tough taskmaster who insisted on the best efforts of his people and was intolerant of laxity and poor work. He worked extraordinarily long hours and demanded the same from his staff. He believed that an overworked staff was more productive than one that worked routine hours. He was modest, however, about his own achievements and loyal to his associates. One of his greatest attributes was his ability to set clear objectives and goals and then allow his subordinates leeway to achieve them without interference or undue supervision. He was well and thoroughly prepared to lead the Navy. He was reappointed to a second two year term in 1957, a third in 1959, and declined a fourth in 1961.

One of Burke's first and foremost priorities as CNO was the development of a solid propellant fleet ballistic missile. He established the Special Projects Office, appointed RADM William Raborn as head, and gave him wide latitude to accomplish the objective. Polaris was the result. Burke deserves extra credit for promoting the Polaris missile program at a time when others in the Navy were very skeptical of the idea of launching a missile from a submarine.

As CNO, Admiral Burke was fully involved in the Eisenhower administration's discussions of "how much is enough?" concerning the number of U.S. nuclear submarines needed for deterrence. Burke reasoned that a force of around 40 Polaris submarines (each with 16 missiles) was a realistic number. Burke also pointed out that land-based missiles and bombers were vulnerable to attack, which made the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance dangerously unstable. By contrast, nuclear subs were virtually undetectable and invulnerable. He was very critical of "hair trigger" or "launch on warning" nuclear strategies, and he warned that such strategies were "dangerous for any nation."

He supported the prickly Admiral Hyman Rickover in the development of a nuclear Navy, so the construction of nuclear powered surface ships - carriers, cruisers, and destroyers, became a priority while he was CNO. The guided missile cruiser USS Long Beach (CG-9) and carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) were authorized and built; the destroyer USS Bainbridge (CGN-25) and guided missile destroyer USS Truxtun (CGN-35) followed. He pressed for conversion of cruisers to employ guided missiles and their introduction in other ships to defend against air attack.

Antisubmarine warfare programs were accelerated and an Atlantic Fleet Antisubmarine Defense Force was established to test and evaluate sensors and weapons, and to develop tactics and coordination of air, surface, and submarine forces. He took strong measures to ensure that the Navy achieved, and maintained, a high state of readiness. He was the chief spokesman for the Navy and was tireless in his efforts to educate the public on sea power and the Navy. He functioned as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and continued his fight, not always successfully, against further centralization in the Department of Defense.

On 25 July 1961 in ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy, Admiral Burke was relieved as the Chief of Naval Operations and transferred to the Retired List on 1 August 1961. Today, he remains the longest serving CNO in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Medals, Awards & Badges

Navy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with 2 Gold Stars
Legion of Merit with Combat Valor Device and 3 Gold Stars
Silver Star Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Theater Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 2 Silver Stars and 2 Bronze Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Philippine Liberation Ribbon
Korean Service Medal
United Nations Service Medal
Surface Warfare Officer Badge

Foreign Awards:

Ui Chi Medal and Presidential Unit Citation from the Republic of Korea
Order of the Rising Sun, First Class by the Government of Japan
Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav from the Norwegian King

Navy Cross Citation:

For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service...as the commander of a destroyer squadron operating in the Northern Solomon Islands area during the period from midnight October 30 to noon November 2, 1943. (His) squadron, as a part of a task force, participated in the first bombardment of the Buka-Bonis area and in the first daylight bombardment of the Shortland area... During the night of November 1-2, a heavier gunned Japanese naval force was met and decisively defeated with the loss to the enemy of one cruiser and four destroyers sunk, and an additional two cruisers and two destroyers damaged. The action contributed much to the success of our operations at Empress Augusta Bay. Thereafter, a heavy air attack by sixty-seven enemy dive bombers was fought off with a total of seventeen enemy planes being destroyed...

Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation:

For exceptionally meritorious service to the Government of the United States in a duty of great responsibility as Commanding Officer of a Destroyer Division and subsequently a Destroyer Squadron operating against enemy Japanese forces in the South Pacific Area from early February to 1 December 1943. Throughout this period, Captain Burke led his forces in many offensive operations... His indomitable fighting spirit and great personal courage contributed directly to the success of our forces in that area and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation (Second Award):

"For... outstanding service...as Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force, Pacific, during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War from 15 December 1944 to 15 May 1945... Commodore Burke was in large measure responsible for the efficient control under combat conditions of the tactical disposition, the operation, the security and the explosive offensive power of his task force in its bold and determined execution of measures designed to force the capitulation of the Japanese Empire...throughout the seizure of bases at lwo Jima and Okinawa, including two carrier strikes on Tokyo, a carrier strike on the Kure Naval Base, and engagement with the Japanese Fleet on 7 April, in which several hostile man-o-war were destroyed by our aircraft..."

Navy Distinguished Service Medal Citation (Third Award):

Admiral Burke was presented a Gold Star in lieu of a third Distinguished Service Medal by President of the United States John F. Kennedy at the White House on 26 July 1961.

Legion of Merit with Combat Valor Device Citation:

For exceptionally meritorious conduct...as Commander Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three, in action against enemy Japanese forces northwest of the Bismarck Archipelago, at Kavieng, New Ireland, and Duke of York Island, February 17 to 23, 1944... (He) expertly directed his squadron in destroying two Japanese naval auxiliary vessels, one large cargo ship, a mine layer, four barges and inflicting severe damage on enemy shore installations and subsequently effected a skillful withdrawal without damage to his vessels...

Legion of Merit with Combat Valor Device Citation (Second Award):

"For exceptionally meritorious conduct...as Chief of Staff to Commander, Carrier Task Force, Pacific Fleet, from March 27 to October 30., 1944... (He) planned and executed a long series of successful offensive operations in support of the reduction of the other perimeter of Japanese defenses in New Guinea, the Carolines, the Marianas, Halmshera, and the Philippine Islands. Largely as a result of Commodore Burke's superb professional skill, tireless energy and coolness of decision throughout these operations and during repeated air attacks carried out in strength against heavily fortified strongholds in enemy-controlled waters, the Pacific Fleet has been brought within range of the Japanese Empire itself to continue our relentless drive against the enemy."

Legion of Merit with Combat Valor Device Citation (Third Award):

From September 1950 until May 1951, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Far East, and, for "exceptionally meritorious conduct (in that capacity) from September 3, 1950 to January 1, 1951..." he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a third Legion of Merit. The citation further states:

"Bringing a sound knowledge of Naval Administration and professional skill to his assigned task, Rear Admiral Burke reorganized the rapidly expanded staff to meet its ever increasing responsibilities and, through his unusually fine conception of the essentials of modern warfare, materially improved the mutual functioning of the operation, plans and intelligence sections of the staff...(and) contributed immeasurably to the success of Naval operations in the Korean theater..."

Legion of Merit with Combat Valor Device Citation (Fourth Award):

While serving as Commander Cruiser Division Five from May to September 1951, and also as a Member of the Military Armistice Commission in Korea, Admiral Burke was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a fourth Legion of Merit by the Army (Headquarters U.S. Army Forces, Far East) by General Order #5, as follows:

"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services as a delegate with the United Nations Command (Advance) in Korea, from July 9 to December 5, 1951. Admiral Burke's keen discernment and decisive judgment were of inestimable value in countering enemy intransigence, misrepresentation and evasion with reasoned negotiation demonstrable truth and conciliatory measures. As advisor to the Chief Delegate on all phases of the Armistice Conferences, he proffered timely recommendations for solutions of the varied intricate problems encountered. Through skillful assessment of enemy capabilities, dispositions, and vulnerable abilities and brilliant guidance of supporting Staff officers (he) significantly furthered progression toward success of the United Nation's first armed bid for world peace."

Silver Star Medal Citation:

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area, May 11, 1945. When the flagship on which he was embarked was hit by two enemy suicide dive bombers, Commodore Burke proceeded to a compartment in which personnel were trapped by fire and heavy smoke, and succeeded in evacuating all hands. When the flagship to which he had removed his staff was in turn hit by a suicide plane on May 14, he again arranged for the transfer of his command to a new ship. In spite of all difficulties, he maintained tactical control of the Task Force throughout, thereby contributing materially to the success of the operations..."

Letter of Commendation

"For distinguishing himself in action with the enemy, while serving as a Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force, Pacific on May 11, 1945. When the ship in which he was embarked was hit by two enemy aircraft...with utter disregard for his personal safety, (he) efficiently organized the evacuation of endangered personnel. His courage together with his prompt and efficient action was responsible for saving these men..."

Presidential Unit Citation to Destroyer Squadron 23


For extraordinary heroism in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Solomon Islands Campaign, from 1 November 1943 to February 23, 1944... Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three operated in daring defiance of repeated attacks by hostile air groups, closing the enemy's strongly fortified shores to carry out sustained bombardments against Japanese coastal defenses and render effective cover and fire support for the major invasion operations in this area ... The brilliant and heroic record achieved by Destroyer Squadron Twenty-three is a distinctive tribute to the valiant fighting spirit of the individual units in this indomitable combat group of each skilled and courageous ship's company...

Other Presidential Unit Citations

Admiral Burke was also entitled to wear the Presidential Unit Citation presented to the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17); the Presidential Unit Citation presented to the USS Lexington (CV-16); and the Navy Unit Commendation presented to the USS Enterprise (CV-6). Those vessels were, at various times during his period of service, flagships of the Fast Carrier Task Forces in the Pacific.

Post-Retirement Activities & Honors

The USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), named for Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, is the lead ship of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. She was laid down by the Bath Iron Works company at Bath, ME, on 6 December 1988, and launched on 16 September 1989 by Mrs. Roberta Burke. The Admiral himself was present at her commissioning ceremony on 4 July 1991, held on the waterfront in downtown Norfolk, VA. During the commissioning, Admiral Burke issued a characteristic challenge to the ship's crew. "This ship is built to fight," he said. "You'd better know how."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom was presented to Admiral Burke by President Gerald Ford on 10 January 1977.

Admiral Burke, himself of Swedish descent, was the senior representative of the United States of America on the funeral of King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden in 1973.

The character portrayed by actor Carroll O'Connor in the 1965 film, In Harm's Way, starring John Wayne, was modeled after Admiral Burke.

The Assisted Living section of the Vinson Hall Retirement Community in McLean, VA, is named the Arleigh Burke Pavilion in his honor.

Thunderbird Park of Boulder, CO was renamed Admiral Arleigh A. Burke Memorial Park in 1997. In October 2001, a dedication of the memorial was held, featuring a 12-foot, 26,000-pound anchor from a World War II destroyer, a memorial wall containing a bronze relief sculpture of the admiral and a plaque with his biography.

The Navy annually awards the Arleigh Burke Fleet Trophy to "the ship or aircraft squadron from each coast selected for having achieved the greatest improvement in battle efficiency during the calendar year, based upon the Battle Efficiency Competition." Winning the Battle "E" is not a prerequisite.

In 1962, Admiral Burke co-founded the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC, with David Abshire.

The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp pane on 4 February 2010, honoring distinguished sailors. In addition to Admiral Burke, the other persons on the stamp pane were Admiral William S. Sims, Lieutenant Commander John McCloy, and Officer's Cook Third Class Doris Miller.

Death & Burial

Admiral Arleigh Albert Burke died at the age of 94 on 1 January 1996, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. He was survived by his wife of more than 72 years, Roberta "Bobbie" Burke. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery, in Annapolis, MD and, in accordance with his wishes, his headstone bears a one-word epitaph, Sailor. Upon her death in 1997, Roberta was buried next to her husband.

Final Remarks by Author

It is interesting that the man that many consider the father of the modern U.S. Navy, Admiral Arleigh Burke, came from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, far from any ocean. Yet, as a sea warrior, outstanding battle commander, strategist, and unparalleled service leader, Burke had an impact on the course of naval warfare that is still felt today.

This brief biography for the Military Hall of Honor follows Burke's distinguished career from his early days at the Naval Academy through his dramatic destroyer operations in the Solomons (where he earned his nickname "31-Knot"), to his participation in the crucial carrier operations of World War II.

It also examines Burke's postwar service as a United Nations delegate to the Korean truce talks and his unprecedented six-year tenure as Chief of Naval Operations from 1955 to 1961, where he was a strong advocate of carrier aviation, nuclear propulsion, and a major force in developing the Navy's Polaris missile program.

He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian honor, in 1977. And on the 4th of July 1991, he became the first living U.S. Navy officer to have a class of ship named after him-the Arleigh Burke guided missile destroyers.

Here are two details that reveal much about this great warrior's character.

1. Of all the military awards, medals and honors he received, none was more cherished by Burke than this one that came early in his naval career: In 1928, while serving aboard USS Procyon (AG-11), he was commended for the "rescue of shipwrecked and seafaring men."

2. On the morning of 22 February 1944, Burke's destroyers sank a large Japanese naval tug and rescued 73 survivors. When the captain, who had chosen to fight rather than surrender, was not among the survivors, Burke ordered a brief prayer service in his honor, an action which gained him great respect in post-war Japan.

America should be eternally grateful that Arleigh Burke elected to forego farming and chose instead to become a Sailor.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
The ships of the time were capable of 34 knots, but while enroute to a rendezvous prior to that battle, a boiler casualty had limited his group's top speed to 30 knots. When the fleet commander signaled him to make best speed, they mustered an extra knot and he answered "Proceeding at 31 knots" Due to his response, thereafter Burke's nickname was "31-Knot" Burke. Originally a taunt, it captured the imagination of the press and the public and conveyed the image of a dashing, hard-charging combat commander - which was a very accurate description of Arleigh Burke.

Honoree ID: 54   Created by: MHOH




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