Naval Historical Center
805 Kidder Breese Street SE
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060
Scope and Content Note
Admiral Arleigh Burke met Roberta Gorsuch, the future Mrs. Burke, at a dance at the U.S. Naval Academy in December 1920 during his second year at the Academy. The correspondence in this collection begins after this initial meeting and continues through their courtship and marriage in June 1923. After a gap of two months, the letters resume in September with Ensign Burke's assignment to USS Arizona and continue through March 1926. There is irregular correspondence during 1934, when Burke was a Lieutenant assign4d to Argonne and 1938 when he was executive officer of Craven. Regular correspondence resumes in 1943 when Commander Burke is assigned to duty in the Pacific and continues throughout his two-year tour as Commander of Destroyer Division 43, 44, 12, and 23, and as Chief of Staff assigned to First Carrier Task Force, Pacific. Corresondence from after World War II is fragmentary. There are scattered letters written during his tour of duty as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Eighth Fleet; as Chief of Staff to Commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; as commanding officer of USS Huntington; as Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations; as Chief of Staff to Commander Naval Forces, Far East; as Commander, Cruiser Division 5; and as a delegate to the Military Armistice Commission in Korea.
At the end of the collection is a group of folders containing miscellaneous family correspondence. These include letters from Mrs. Burke to her family and Admiral Burke during the 1920s, letters to Mrs. Burke from friends, a commission of one of Mrs. Burke's ancestors signed by Abraham Lincoln, and a letter from Admiral Burke's mother to him in response to his announcement of his engagement.
The content of Admiral Burke's correspondence deals with both personal and professional matters and provides an intimate view of his early career. The letters from his Naval Academy years deal with events and life at the academy and include narratives of his summer midshipman's curises on Michigan and North Dakota. He wrote frequently about his thoughts concerning his future in the Navyand about the various rumors circulating at the Academy concerning the number of men in his class to receive commissions and the pay rates for Ensigns. The correspondence from his first assignment in 1923 and 1924 relates his struggle to balance his love of the Navy with his separation from Roberta due to sea duty.
The early World War II letters contain little information concerning the actions he participated in due to the censor restrictions. The letters deal primarily with his everyday routines, friends he has seen, and his reactions to news from home written to him by Mrs. Burke. By 1945, however, the censorship had loosened and he wrote more detailed letters concerning his impressions of combat and of the Japanese.
The post-war letters go into some details of his work and day-to-day activities, with occasional comments on military and civilian personalities he met at various parties and official functions. He frequently described and commented on the current military situation in Korea and on his frustrations over the negotitations with the North Koreans.
This collection should be cited as Papers of Arleigh and Roberta Gorsuch Burke, Operational Archives Branch, Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.
2 cubic feet