Jeremy Michael Boorda
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, the highest-ranking billet in the U.S. Navy.
Boorda, a Vietnam War veteran, died in May 1996, at the age of 56, when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The reason for his suicide was reportedly that he was upset about a media investigation into the legitimacy of his having worn on his uniform two service ribbons with bronze "V" (valor) devices which were generally perceived to indicate heroism in combat. Boorda had earned the two medals during the war represented by the ribbons, but there were questions about whether the two devices on the decorations were authorized. Although Boorda participated in combat situations off the coast of Vietnam and had been given permission to wear the devices, it was determined before and after he died, that he did not meet the Navy's combat requirements to wear the devices. Boorda had removed the two ribbon devices on his uniform almost a year before he died and was generally perceived as having made a good faith error in believing he was authorized to wear the devices, as opposed to an intentional effort to be deceptive.
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.
When he was nineteen, Boorda married Bettie Moran. Their first son David was born with severe disabilities. They had two more sons, Edward and Robert, and a daughter named Anna. Boorda and his Christian wife raised their children as Protestants.
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 appreciate. He finished high school while in the Navy and 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.
Boorda was selected for potential commissioning under the Integration Program in 1962, by which enlisted sailors were admitted to the navy's Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Boorda was commissioned as an ensign upon graduating in August 1962. He first served aboard USS Porterfield (DD-682) as combat information center officer at the rank of lieutenant junior grade. In 1964, he attended the Naval Destroyer School in Newport.
In October 1964, Boorda was assigned as weapons officer aboard the destroyer, the USS John R. Craig (DD-885). The destroyer deployed to Vietnam in March 1965 and participated in combat missions and operations off the coast of Vietnam until it departed for San Diego on August 11. On August 15, Boorda was recommended for the Navy Commendation Medal by his commanding officer on the John R. Craig. On August 28, the Commander in Chief, U.S Pacific Fleet, approved a lesser award, the Secretary of the Navy Commendation for Achievement (the service ribbon awarded to him was redesignated the Navy Achievement Medal in July 1967). The citation read: for meritorious service while serving as Weapons Officer in USS JOHN R. CRAIG (DD 885) while operating in combat missions supporting the Republic of Vietnam from 10 April to 10 August 1965.
After the destroyer arrived in San Diego in September, Boorda served as commander of USS Parrot (MSC-197). His first shore tour was as a weapons instructor at Naval Destroyer School in Newport. In December 1971, after attending the U.S. Naval War College and also earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, Boorda assumed duties as Executive Officer, USS Brooke (DEG-1), a guided missile destroyer. In October 1972 the Seventh Fleet, including Boorda's ship departed for Vietnam; his second tour began in November 1972 and ended on February 19, 1973. On April 8, the commanding officer of the Brooke recommended Boorda for the Navy Commendation Medal (without the Combat "V"). The medal was approved by the Commander, Seventh Fleet, and the citation read: for meritorious achievement as Executive Ofiicer while attached to and serving in USS BROOKE (DEG 1) from 15 December 1971 to 20 February 1973 including combat operations.
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.. 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.
On February 24, 1996, he attended the christening and launching of the USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) at the Avondale Shipyard located on the west bank of the Mississippi River near New Orleans, Louisiana. Boorda personally greeted 73 members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, and over 600 other military and civilian honorees who also were invited.
Seaman to Admiral
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."
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. The ship was commissioned January 14, 2006, nine years after Boorda's death.
Enlisted advancement system
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 evaluation mark. The new system linked each promotion marking to the advancement system.
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.
Stan Arthur incident
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.
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 had not successfully completed flight training.
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 on February 1, 1995. 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."
Boorda died on May 16, 1996 in the garden outside of his home at the Washington Navy Yard. Boorda reportedly left two typed and unsigned suicide notes in his home, neither of which was released publicly, but were said to have been addressed to his wife and to his public information officer.
He was reported to have been distraught over a media investigation led by decorated U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran David Hackworth of Newsweek, into two miniature bronze letter "V" (valor) devices which Boorda had worn for years on two of his uniform's service ribbons (in the Army, the "V" Device is worn on a ribbon to denote a specific decoration was awarded for valor in combat, and in the Navy and Marine Corps, the Combat "V" is worn on a ribbon to denote a specific decoration was awarded for heroism in combat or direct exposure to combat).
Photographs of Boorda in uniform showed him wearing the "V" devices on his Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal ribbons in the 1980s. However, Boorda actually stopped wearing the two "V" devices on these two service ribbons about a year before the Hackworth investigation, after Boorda had been informed by the Navy that he was not 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 during the Vietnam War by Admiral Elmo Zumwalt when he was Chief of Naval Operations, as well as conflicting interpretations and updating of Navy award regulations. Newsweek later reported that "Hackworth believed that wearing an undeserved combat pin for valor was a grave matter of honor in the military, 'the worst thing you can do.'"
Boorda's suicide took place shortly before he was to have met with two Newsweek reporters that day regarding his wearing of the "V" devices. 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 Combat "V"s for Boorda and many other sailors, wrote a letter to the effect that Boorda's wearing of the devices was "appropriate, justified and proper." However, wearing the Navy's Combat Distinguishing Device (Combat "V") on a specific decoration that may authorize the device, requires written authorization for the device on a printed award citation.
|You may watch the memorial service for Admiral Boorda at Washington National Cathedral on May 21, 1996|
Boorda was survived by his wife, Bettie Moran Boorda, four children and eleven grandchildren. Boorda was interred at Arlington National Cemetery on May 19, 1996 with a tombstone marked with the Star of David, though there was some question about whether he considered himself Jewish, or had converted to another religion. On May 21, a public memorial service was held at the Washington National Cathedral that was broadcast nationally by CNN 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 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." However, later that year, one of Boorda's sons requested a formal review of his father's service record. In a decision dated June 24, 1999, the Department of the Navy Board for Correction of Naval Records, the ultimate arbiter of whether or not Boorda was entitled to wear the Combat "V", determined that despite the additions to Boorda's personnel file, he was not.
Boorda's military decorations and awards include:
Admiral Jeremy M. Boorda Award
The Navy's annual Admiral Boorda award was established and first awarded in 2003. The award recognizes a Navy military and civilian individual. The 2015 award will be given to those who have made significant contributions towards Navy personnel readiness either through research or analysis or the direct application of analytical results to policies and laws.
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.
- Obituary for Jeremy M. Boorda, nytimes.com, May 17, 2011; accessed November 17, 2014.
- 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.
- Findings of the Board for Correction of Naval Records, boards.law.af.mil; accessed November 18, 2014.
-  Pearl Harbor-Gram, May, 1996
- Seaman to Admiral Commissioning Program Overview, nrotc.ou.edu; accessed November 18, 2014.
- Brill, Jr., Arthur P. (1997). "An interface with the warfighters". Sea Power. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
- Navy Seeks Even Keel For Ratings A New System To Grade Sailors, scholar.lib.vt.edu; accessed November 18, 2014.
- "Seapower/Oceanography". Sea Power. 1998. Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
- "Frontline: The Navy Blues: Admiral Boorda's 'In Basket'". PBS. October 1996. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- 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).
- 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.
- Shenon, Philip (1996-05-17). "His Medals Questioned, Top Admiral Kills Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
- "Navy Report Omits Suicide Notes". The New York Times. 1996-11-02. Retrieved 2008-12-26.
- Newsweek, Beneath the Waves, 5/26/96
- Photo of Boorda (wearing two Combat "V"'s) published by the Naval History and Heritage Command on September 1, 2015 for the Navy's CNO Centennial Celebration in May 2015 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-31. Retrieved 2016-04-09. Retrieved April 9, 2016
- Staff writer; no by-line (June 25, 1998). "Navy agrees admiral was entitled to wear combat decorations". Associated Press.
- For the Hackworth quote and Newsweek's analysis of its role see Jonathan Alter's "Beneath the Waves", Newsweek via questia.com, May 27, 1996 online; accessed November 18, 2014.
- "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.
- "C-SPAN.org - Memorial service for Jeremy M. Boorda, May 21, 1996". c-span.org.
- As shown in gravestone photo File:Boordajeremy.jpg.
- "Memorial Services set for Admiral Boorda at Washington National Cathedral". Archived from the original on 2012-10-25.
- "The Death of an Admiral".
- "Admiral Boorda Memorial Service".
- "Navy Calls Boorda's Awards Earned  AP, News Archives
- Military Times
- America's Navy, 4-18-2003
- America's Navy, 3-25-2015
- Kotz, Nick (December 1996). "Breaking Point". Washingtonian. Washington Magazine, Inc. p. 94.
Frank B. Kelso II
|United States Chief of Naval Operations
Jay L. Johnson