Portrait of Admiral Arleigh A. Burke
Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN
Arleigh Albert Burke was born far from sea in Boulder, Colorado on 19 October 1901. On 8 June 1923, he graduated from the US Naval Academy and was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. He married Miss Roberta Gorsuch of Washington, DC.
Throughout his professional career, Admiral Burke had prepared himself for combat with the enemy having served in battleships and destroyers, and earning a Master of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Michigan. Then, when World War II came, he found himself, to his great disappointment, in a shore billet at the Naval Gun Factory [Washington Navy Yard] in Washington, DC. After persistent effort on his part, he received orders to the South Pacific where, under Admiral Halsey, he successively commanded Destroyer Division 43, Destroyer Division 44, Destroyer Squadron 12, and Destroyer Squadron 23. This latter squadron, known as the "Little Beavers," covered the initial landings in Bouganville in November 1943, and fought in 22 separate engagements during the next four months. During this period, the "Little Beavers," were credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft.
From Destroyer Command in the South Pacific, he reported in March of 1944 as Chief of Staff to Commander, Fast Carrier Task Force, Admiral Marc Mitscher. While serving with this famed carrier force, Burke was promoted to Commodore, and participated in all its naval engagements until June 1945 shortly before the surrender of Japan. He was aboard both USS Bunker Hill CV-17) and USS Enterprise (CV-6) when they were hit by Japanese suicide planes during the Okinawa campaign.
At the outbreak of the Korean war, Admiral Forrest Sherman, then Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), ordered Admiral Burke to duty as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander Naval Forces, Far East. From there, he assumed command of Cruiser Division Five, and in July 1951 he became a member of the United Nations Truce Delegation to negotiate with the People's Republic of China and North Korea to establish military armistice in Korea. After six months in the truce tents, he returned to the Office of Chief of Naval Operations where he served as Director of Strategic Plans Division until 1954.
In April 1954, he took command of Cruiser Division Six, and in January 1955 assumed command of Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet in which capacity he served until he succeeded Admiral Robert B. Carney as CNO in August 1955. Burke served an unprecedented three terms as CNO duty before being transferred to the Retired List on 1 August 1961.
Arleigh Burke’s life as a civilian continued to be busy and fulfilling. Following several months of needed inactivity, he entered the business world by agreeing to join the boards of several major corporations, including the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and Texaco Oil. In addition, he worked to establish the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Serving as its chairman for some fifteen years, Burke helped craft it into a respected Washington “thinktank”.
Burke died on New Year’s Day, 1996 at the age of 94. Eulogized by President William Clinton and both current and former senior Navy leaders during a service at the Naval Academy Chapel on 4 January, he was buried at the Academy’s picturesque cemetery at Hospital Point.
Admiral Burke received numerous combat awards during his forty-two years in the Navy including the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart. But none wase more cherished than two awards which came early in his career. In 1928 while serving aboard USS Procyon (AK-19), he was commended for the "rescue of shipwrecked and seafaring men," and in 1939 while serving in his first command, USS Mugford (DD-389), he was commended when his destroyer obtained an unprecedented perfect score during short-range battle practice, thereby winning the Destroyer Gunnery Trophy for 1939-1940.
Source: Adapted from "Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, United States Navy, Retired" [biography, dated 29 Jan 1962] in Biographies, 20th century collection, Navy Department Library.
Related Documents in the Navy Department Library
Notes from Commander Wilhide on the original message from Admiral Burke via Moon Relay to Admiral
Hopwood - i.e., from Naval Communication Station, Washington, DC, to Naval Communication Station, Pearl Harbor,
"Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty" certificate to Admiral Burke from Vice Admiral Hayward, no date.
Certificate of appointment as Ensign dated 4 March 1924, signed by President Coolidge.
Certificate of appointment as Lieutenant dated 2 October 1930, signed by President Hoover.
Certificate of appointment as Lieutenant dated 31 December 1930, signed by President Hoover.
Crossing the Line certificate dated 22 October 1937 on USS Craven (DD-382).
Certificate of appointment as Lieutenant Commander dated 23 January 1939, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt.
Certificate of appointment as Commander dated 16 February 1943, signed by President Franklin Roosevelt.
Certificate of appointment as Captain dated 1 May 1943.
Message from Admiral William Halsey to Burke, regarding Burke's command of DESRON 23, dated 21 March 1944.
Form letter dated 12 July 1946 regarding his commission in the regular Navy.
Form letter dated 12 April 1948 regarding his permanent appointment.
Crossing the Line certificate, Order No.1 & 2, dated 30 September 1948 on USS Huntington (CL-107).
Certificate of appointment as Rear Admiral dated 15 July 1950.
Happy Birthday certificate from crew of USS "Apple Orchard," [The "Apple Orchard" was a nickname for the armistice negotiations site at Mansan-Ni, Korea, located south of Panmunjom.] dated 19 October 1951.
Form letter dated 12 May 1952 regarding his permanent appointment as Rear Admiral.
Certificate as honorary member of Destroyer Force US Atlantic Fleet, dated 17 June 1955.
Certificate of enrollment in the Mine Force US Atlantic Fleet, dated 25 February 1956.
Plank Owner certificate dated 7 September 1956, USS Barry (DD-933).
Copy of typed letter to Captain Maynard dated 22 April 1957, thanking him for his support of Admiral Burke's nomination to be Chief Naval Operator of Nuclear Reactor Simulator. License No. 1 included in collection.
Certificate designating Admiral Burke Naval Ordnance Engineer dated 29 May 1957.
Ephemera - typed "Old Goats" quote with personnal handwritten note from Admiral Burke, after 1957.
Typed letter signed to Captain Crump, dated 12 November 1958, regarding his command of USS Assurance (MSO-521).
Guest ticket to Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Annual Dinner in Honor of Veterans in Congress, dated 3 February 1959
Certificate of appointment as Chief of Naval Operations dated 12 August 1959, signed by President Eisenhower.
Honorary Plank Owner certificate dated 17 September 1959, USS Providence (CLG-6).
Document relating to Admiral Burke's receipt of the Silver Quill Award for 1960.
Certificate naming Mrs. Burke Destroyer Lady of the Destroyer Force, US Atlantic Fleet, dated 5 July 1960.
Certificate making Burke an Honorary Member of the Amphibious Force US Pacific Fleet, dated 20 October 1960.
Deep Dive Diploma dated 15 November 1960.
Certificate from state of Nebraska making Admiral Burke an Admiral in the state's navy, dated 25 April 1961.
Certificate titled Realm of Project Mercury Recovery Program, dated 5 M
Typed, signed farewell letter "To the Officers and Men of the United States Navy," dated 10 July 1961.
Certificate titled Esteemed Order of Bearers of the Master Key to the Panama Canal, dated 15 July 1961.
Certificate from state of North Carolina making Admiral Burke an Admiral in the state's navy, dated 24 April 1962.
Certificate titled Testimonial of Appreciation for "Distinguished Service on the Board" of Foster Wheeler Corporation, dated 25 March 1974.