Jeremy Michael Boorda

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Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda
Jeremy M. Boorda.jpg
Jeremy M. Boorda – Chief of Naval Operations
Born (1939-11-26)November 26, 1939
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
Died May 16, 1996(1996-05-16) (aged 56)
Washington, D.C.
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
(Section 64, Lot 7101 Grid MM-17)
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1956–1962 (enlisted)
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg Admiral
Commands held USS Parrot (MSC-197)
USS Farragut (DDG-37)
Carrier Battle Group Commander embarked in USS Saratoga (CV-60)
Commander, Battle Force Sixth Fleet
Chief of Naval Personnel
Allied Forces Southern Europe
U.S. Naval Forces, Europe
Chief of Naval Operations
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Bosnian War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit (3)
Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Navy Commendation Medal
Navy Achievement Medal

Jeremy Michael Boorda (November 26, 1939 – May 16, 1996) was a United States Navy admiral who served as the 25th Chief of Naval Operations. Boorda is notable for being the first American sailor to have risen through the enlisted ranks to become the Chief of Naval Operations. Boorda committed suicide in 1996, aged 56. He was reported to have been distraught over a media investigation into two Combat Distinguishing Devices he had worn for several years since his service in the Vietnam War.

Early life and education[edit]

Boorda was born in South Bend, Indiana to Jewish parents, Gertrude and Herman Boorda. His family moved to Momence, Illinois, where his father had a dress shop. His grandparents had immigrated from Ukraine.[1]

Boorda dropped out of high school to enlist in the United States Navy in 1956 at the age of 17; it provided a structure he at first disliked but came to use.[1] He attained the rate of Personnelman First Class. Boorda served a variety of commands, primarily in aviation. His last two enlisted assignments were in Attack Squadron 144 and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 11. [2]

Marriage and family[edit]

When he was nineteen, Boorda married Bettie Moran, a Christian. Their first son David was born with severe disabilities. They had two more sons, Edward and Robert, and a daughter named Anna.[1]

Naval career[edit]

Boorda was selected for potential commissioning under the Integration Program in 1962, by which non-commissioned men were admitted to the navy's Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon graduation, Boorda was commissioned as an officer in August 1962. He first served aboard USS Porterfield (DD-682) as combat information center officer at the rank of lieutenant junior grade. After attending Naval Destroyer School in Newport, in 1964 was assigned as weapons officer, USS John R. Craig (DD-885), which included service off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He then served as commanding officer of USS Parrot (MSC-197).

Boorda's first shore tour was as a weapons instructor at Naval Destroyer School in Newport. In 1971, after attending the U.S. Naval War College and also earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, he assumed duties as Executive Officer, USS Brooke (DEG-1), which included his second tour off the coast of Vietnam. That tour was followed by a short period at the University of Oklahoma and an assignment as head, surface lieutenant commander assignments/assistant for captain detailing in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Washington, D.C..[citation needed]

From 1975-77, Boorda commanded USS Farragut (DDG-37). He was next assigned as executive assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs), Washington, DC. He relieved the civilian presidential appointee in that position, remaining until 1981, when he took command of Destroyer Squadron Twenty-Two. In 1983-84, he served as executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Personnel/Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel and Training. In December 1984, he assumed his first flag officer assignment as executive assistant to the chief of naval operations, remaining until July 1986. His next assignment was commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group Eight in Norfolk, Virginia; he served as a carrier battle group commander embarked in USS Saratoga (CV-60), and also as commander, Battle Force Sixth Fleet in 1987.

In August 1988, Boorda became Chief of Naval Personnel/Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel and Training. In November 1991, he received his fourth star and in December 1991, became Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe (CINCSOUTH – Naples, Italy) and Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe (CINCUSNAVEUR – London). As CINCSOUTH, Boorda was in command of all NATO forces engaged in operations enforcing United Nations sanctions during the Yugoslav wars.

On February 1, 1993, while serving as Commander in Chief, Allied Forces Southern Europe, Boorda assumed the additional duty as Commander, Joint Task Force Provide Promise, responsible for the supply of humanitarian relief to Bosnia-Herzegovina via air-land and air-drop missions, and for troops contributing to the UN mission throughout the Balkans. On April 23, 1994, Boorda became the 25th Chief of Naval Operations, the first who was not a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the first of Jewish descent.[citation needed]

Seaman to Admiral[edit]

Boorda was a product of an enlisted-to-officer commissioning program in the early 1960s. This program known as the Integration Program was designed to provide an opportunity for enlisted personnel who possessed outstanding qualifications and motivation for a naval career to obtain a commission. Boorda was the first Chief of Naval Operations to have risen from the enlisted rates, one of only four such modern service chiefs (the others being Air Force General Larry D. Welch, General Alfred Gray, USMC and Army General John Shalikashvili). Upon assuming this position, Boorda immediately re-established the historic program, naming it "Seaman to Admiral", as part of a STA-21 initiative for young sailors to earn their commission and become naval officers. Boorda believed "people should have the opportunity to excel, and be all they can be, even if they don't get a perfect or traditional start."[3]


Boorda was particularly interested in C4I initiatives to place command and control, communications, computers and intelligence assets on naval ships. Essentially this manifested itself as more robust combat information systems, with improved satellite and communication links, as well as place more defensive assets on traditionally non-combatant ships such as support vessels. Boorda initiated efforts during the proposal phase for the future LPD-17 amphibious class to be fitted with first-class C4I suites, radars, communications, and defense systems-anti-torpedo, anti-missile, and anti-NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) - along with blast-hardened bulkheads that will absorb and dissipate much more punishment than is possible with present designs. This effort was a departure from past efforts which relied on simply assigning a destroyer or cruiser to provide these functions for amphibious forces.[4] The ship was commissioned January 14, 2006, nine years after Boorda's death.

Enlisted advancement system[edit]

Boorda also spearheaded efforts to change the U.S. Navy's officer fitness report, enlisted evaluation and enlisted advancement systems. The new systems were more systematic and consistent. The systems also allowed a more concise rating of an officer's or sailor's advancement potential. This rating allowed a command to mark only 20% of officers or sailors as "early promotes", and set strict grading criteria for each evaluatory mark. The new system linked each promotion marking to the advancement system.[5]

Littoral oceanography[edit]

Boorda signed a policy for naval oceanography (the first such revision in 10 years), which emphasized, among other things, that, in addition to deep-water missions, naval oceanographers must master the complicated tangle of the oceanographic/geographic subject areas that make up the science of the littorals, or near-shore areas, as well as the complex weather patterns characteristic of any coastal area.

Boorda's vision brought the navy's new focus on littoral operations into alignment with naval projection policies. But this new program also created a large backlog of high priority oceanographic, hydrographic, and geophysical survey requirements. To meet those requirements, the navy expanded its oceanographic efforts from traditional platforms (ships, boats, planes) to new technologies (satellites, remote sensors, etc.), and efforts to work with other national and international agencies.[6]

Stan Arthur incident[edit]

In the wake of the Tailhook scandal, Boorda faced hostility from a majority of naval flag officers who reportedly believed he had betrayed the Navy by allying himself with Clinton administration demands for reform of the Navy's officer corps. Naval aviators, in particular, were incensed by the treatment of Stan Arthur (Vice Chief of Naval Operations and senior Naval aviator), whose nomination for the post of commander, United States Pacific Command was withdrawn by President Clinton at the behest of U.S. Senator David Durenberger.[7]

Senator Durenberger raised questions over Arthur's possible mishandling of sexual harassment allegations brought by one of the Senator's constituents, Rebecca Hansen, a female student naval aviator who was attrited from flight training.[8][9]

The administration expected protracted hearings to ensue over Arthur's nomination, and the Pacific Command position to remain unfilled during this period. Arthur decided to retire from the navy on February 1, 1995 as a four-star admiral. Boorda issued an unusual public defense of Arthur and his decision not to fight for the nomination, saying that "Stan Arthur is an officer of integrity ... who chose to take this selfless action ... in the interests of more rapidly filling a critical leadership position. Those who postulate other reasons for the withdrawal are simply wrong."[8]

Military awards[edit]

Boorda's decorations and awards include:

Surface Warfare Officer Insignia.png
Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png Award star (gold).pngAward star (gold).png
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Surface Warfare Officer Insignia
1st Row Defense Distinguished Service Medal
2nd Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal with two 516" gold stars Legion of Merit with two 516" gold stars Meritorious Service Medal with one 516" gold star
3rd Row Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Joint Meritorious Unit Award
4th Row Navy "E" Ribbon Good Conduct Medal with one 316" bronze star Navy Expeditionary Medal
5th Row National Defense Service Medal with one 316" service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal
6th Row Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three 316" service stars Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon Vietnam Campaign Medal


Boorda died on May 16, 1996 after shooting himself twice in the chest.[10] The autopsy results were never released to the public. Boorda reportedly also left two suicide notes, neither of which was released publicly, but were said to have been addressed to his wife and to his public information officer.[11] He was reported to have been distraught over a media investigation, led by decorated U.S. Army veteran David Hackworth of Newsweek, into two Combat Distinguishing Devices (Combat "V"'s) he wore on two service ribbons representing the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal on his uniform. The Navy and Marine Corps Combat "V", is a miniature bronze letter V (Valor) worn on specific decorations indicating valor or direct exposure to combat (in the Army, the "V" Device is worn to denote valor only). Photographs of Boorda in uniform showed him wearing the "V" device on two of his service ribbons on his uniform in the 1980s. However, Boorda actually stopped wearing the two "V" devices on these two service ribbons about a year before the allegations were made, after he was informed he wasn't authorized to wear them.

Reports at the time of Boorda's suicide indicated that his wearing of the two Combat "V"'s on the two service ribbons had not been an intentional deception on his part, but had been an unintentional mistake that resulted from his following verbal instructions delivered to commanders by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt when he was Chief of Naval Operations, as well as conflicting interpretations of Navy award regulations.[12] Newsweek later reported that "Hackworth believed that wearing an undeserved combat valor pin was a grave matter of honor in the military, 'the worst thing you can do.'" The suicide took place without Boorda having ever met with the Newsweek reporters regarding the two authorized medals he was awarded, and before anyone had published anything on the matter.[13]

External audio
You may watch the memorial service for Admiral Boorda at Washington National Cathedral on May 21, 1996[14]

Boorda was said to have been worried that the issue would cause more trouble for the U.S. Navy's reputation. Former CNO Elmo Zumwalt, who was Boorda's commander during the Vietnam War and who verbally authorized the "V" devices for Boorda and many other sailors, wrote a letter to the effect that Boorda's wearing of the devices was "appropriate, justified and proper."[15] However, wearing the Combat Distinguishing Device on a decoration required written authorization for the device on the award citation, which required personally receiving enemy fire in combat.[citation needed]

Boorda's headstone at Arlington National Cemetery located at Section 64, Lot 7101, Grid MM-17.

At the time of his death, Boorda was survived by his wife, Bettie Moran Boorda, four children and eleven grandchildren. A public funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral[16][17] that was broadcast nationally by CNN[18] with tape delay broadcast on the C-SPAN network.


In June 1998, then Navy Secretary John Dalton put into Boorda's file a letter from Admiral Zumwalt stating it was 'appropriate, justified and proper' for Boorda to attach the small bronze combat V's to the ribbons on his uniform." According to the Associated Press, "the Navy also modified Boorda's record to list the V's among his other decorations... recognition that they were earned."[19] In the same year, however, one of Boorda's sons requested a formal review of his father's service record. In a decision dated June 24, 1999, the Board for Correction of Naval Records, the ultimate arbiter of whether or not Boorda was entitled to wear the Combat "V" on both medals, determined that despite the additions to Boorda's personnel file, he was not.[20]


Boorda has two sons and one daughter-in-law who are naval officers. He has three grandsons who served in the U.S. military: Peter Boorda was a petty officer in the United States Coast Guard, Andrew Boorda is an armor officer in the U.S. Army, and Phillip Boorda is an amphibious assault vehicle officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Andrew and Phillip are twins, and like their grandfather, both graduated from the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Boorda has a step-grandson who also graduated from the University of Rhode Island and is a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army.[citation needed]

After marrying a Christian, Boorda and his wife raised their children as Protestants.[citation needed] Boorda was buried with a tombstone marked with the Star of David,[21] which is one of several emblems of belief that can be placed on a tombstone at the request of the veteran or their family.[22]


  1. ^ a b c Obituary for Jeremy M. Boorda,, May 17, 2011; accessed November 17, 2014.
  2. ^ United States. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. Military Personnel and Compensation Subcommittee (1990). Hearings on National Defense Authorization Act, for fiscal year 1990--H.R. 2461 and oversight of previously authorized programs before the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, first session: Military Personnel and compensation Subcommittee hearings on, personnel authorizations : hearings held March 1, 8, 16, April 11, 18, and May 16, 1989. U.S. G.P.O. p. 111. 
  3. ^ Seaman to Admiral Commissioning Program Overview,; accessed November 18, 2014.
  4. ^ Brill, Jr., Arthur P. (1997). "An interface with the warfighters". Sea Power. 
  5. ^ Navy Seeks Even Keel For Ratings A New System To Grade Sailors,; accessed November 18, 2014.
  6. ^ "Seapower/Oceanography". Sea Power. 1998. 
  7. ^ "Frontline: The Navy Blues: Admiral Boorda's 'In Basket'". PBS. October 1996. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  8. ^ a b Eisman, Dale (1994-08-27). "Admiral Once Nominated to be Pacific Forces Chief Will Resign in February; He was Accused of Mishandling A Navy Sexual Harassment Case.". The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk). 
  9. ^ Harris, John F. (1994-07-16). "Navy Chief Defends Switch on Promotion; Nominee Lost Top Pacific Posting to Fears of Lengthy Confirmation". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ Shenon, Philip (1996-05-17). "His Medals Questioned, Top Admiral Kills Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  11. ^ "Navy Report Omits Suicide Notes". The New York Times. 1996-11-02. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  12. ^ Staff writer; no by-line (June 25, 1998). "Navy agrees admiral was entitled to wear combat decorations". Associated Press. 
  13. ^ For the Hackworth quote and Newsweek's analysis of its role see Jonathan Alter's "Beneath the Waves", Newsweek via, May 27, 1996 online; accessed November 18, 2014.
  14. ^ " - Memorial service for Jeremy M. Boorda, May 21, 1996". 
  15. ^ "Jeremy Michael Boorda, Admiral, United States Navy". Retrieved 2009-03-01. Navy Secretary John H. Dalton placed in Boorda's file a recent letter from Elmo Zumwalt Jr., the chief of naval operations during the Vietnam War, that asserts it was 'appropriate, justified and proper' for Boorda to attach the small bronze Combat V's to the ribbons on his uniform. 
  16. ^ "Memorial Services set for Admiral Boorda at Washington National Cathedral". 
  17. ^ "The Death of an Admiral". 
  18. ^ "Admiral Boorda Memorial Service". 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Findings of the Board for Correction of Naval Records,; accessed November 18, 2014.
  21. ^ As shown in gravestone photo File:Boordajeremy.jpg.
  22. ^ "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers". National Cemetery Administration. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 


  • Kotz, Nick (December 1996). "Breaking Point". Washingtonian (Washington Magazine, Inc.). p. 94. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Frank B. Kelso II
United States Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by
Jay L. Johnson