No flag officer in the US Navy in the twentieth century spent more time contemplating and practicing strong, effective leadership than Arleigh Albert Burke. An outstanding World War II destroyer combat commander whose delegation of command and initiative to subordinates led to South Pacific victories, Burke was also an imaginative organizer and leader of combat staffs in Fast Carrier Task Force 58/38 in 1944-45, and in US naval forces in the Korean War. From 1955 to 1961, Burke’s actions in Cold War crises and his innovations in policy and programs as the last Chief of Naval Operations to actually command the fleets, shaped the service’s course for much of the rest of the century.
A Colorado boy imbued with integrity, self-discipline and strong principles by his farmer father and teacher mother, Burke graduated Annapolis in 1923, the very year the US Naval Academy faculty compiled the first textbook on naval leadership. That book listed the essential qualities of a naval officer as personal dignity, honor, courage, truthfulness, faith, justice, earnestness, assiduity, judgment, perseverance, tact, self-control, and simplicity. At the top of the list, however, was loyalty: to country and service, but especially “up and down” to one’s seniors and one’s juniors. Loyalty up and down was critical because of the natural independence and self-reliance of the American sailor, who came from a society with no established system of rank and caste. Naval officers had to earn the respect of their men through strong leadership. This philosophy became ingrained in Burke during five years in battleship Arizona, working jobs from inspecting and cleaning the battleship’s double bottoms, to leading a division that manned a fourteen-inch gun turret.
Even as a young officer, Arleigh Burke understood that technology was constantly transforming the navy, and that he needed in-depth knowledge, both technical and professional, to succeed. During three years as an ensign and lieutenant (j.g.), he completed the Naval War College correspondence course in strategy and tactics whose textbook, The Estimate of the Situation and the Order Form, provided a mental template for tactical and operational decision-making. He also pursued postgraduate specialization in ordnance, and spent three years at the “P.G.” School at Annapolis, visiting ordnance field activities and at the University of Michigan where in 1931 he received an MS in Chemical Engineering, becoming a design and production specialist in ordnance explosives. This background exposed Burke to the most advanced navy technologies of his time, and would prepare him as CNO to promote the development of nuclear weapons, nuclear power, and guided and ballistic missiles. It would also lead him to support broader educational opportunities for naval officers, including the post graduate scholarships that came to bear his name.
While technical assignments with the Bureau of Ordnance dominated Burke’s early career, his abilities as a seagoing leader came to the fore in destroyers in 1937-1940. He led his first command, USS Mugford, to the destroyer gunnery trophy in 1939, by taking the initiative to make Mugford a gunnery “school ship” for training other destroyer crews. Rather than resent the extra work, his crew loved the challenge, especially when Captain Burke let them take the ship to sea out of San Diego with no officers directing them. As a C.O. Burke learned that “[I]f you’ve got power, use it and use it fast, and the time to make a decision is as soon as the problem presents itself.” He took that lesson into combat.
Kept in an ordnance assignment in Washington for a year after Pearl Harbor, Burke arrived in the Solomon Islands in March 1943, in command of a destroyer division. Within two months, he had completed a total reassessment of the surface warfare tactics employed in the night actions off Guadalcanal the previous year. The “doctrine of faith” he proposed to his cruiser task force commander, Rear Admiral A.S. “Tip” Merrill, called for the destroyer screen to engage the enemy force as soon as it was sighted without waiting for orders. Tested by others in combat that summer, these tactics were employed by Burke commanding Destroyer Squadron 23 in victories at Empress Augusta Bay and off Cape St. George in November. Burke’s physical courage, and a tactical genius that allowed him to carry the battle “plot” in his head and warn him of untoward enemy actions won him the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Medal and gave DesRon 23 the only Presidential Unit Citation awarded a destroyer squadron.
Burke completed the war as Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher’s chief of staff in Task Force 58 in the campaigns for New Guinea, the Marianas, Palaus, Leyte, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In this job, he was one of the first surface officers to learn “the bird man’s lingo” and become trusted by the naval aviators that were now leading the war in the Central Pacific. He worked immensely hard to master the ability to understand and direct forces rather than platforms. This experience would stay with him for the rest of his career and lead him to believe that pride in one's naval warfare specialty, was “fine as long as the aim to make the specialty better is based on the larger desire to make the whole Navy stronger.” But when an officer became an admiral, he should be “a Flag Officer in the broadest sense of the term--one who can command forces.” While chafing at being away from his own combat command, he exhibited a knack for reducing staff paperwork, and for making plans and action reports clear and brief. He also developed an understanding of intelligence as key to achieving victory that served him well for the remainder of his career. When the war ended, Burke was assigned as director of research and development at the Bureau of Ordnance but Admiral Mitscher brought him back as his chief of staff in 1946 to organize America’s first Cold War striking fleet, and then to run the demobilizing Atlantic Fleet.
The next nine years saw Burke exercise his staff leadership much more than his proven talent for command at sea. Although he had a cruiser command in 1948 and cruiser division commands in 1951 and 1954, it was in the Navy Department in Washington and the headquarters of Naval Forces, Far East, in Tokyo that Burke’s abilities in organization and communication stood out. One other key leadership quality also emerged: his commitment to long range planning, manifested in his ability to envision the future navy and its requirements. While serving on the Secretary of the Navy’s senior advisory body, the General Board, in 1947-1948, he led the first effort to articulate the role of the navy in national security over the next decade. In 1949, he ran Op-23, the Organizational Research and Policy Division of the Office of the CNO, where he marshaled Navy arguments to fend off legislative proposals for reducing the Navy’s role in national defense and during congressional hearings over increased unification of the armed services. This assignment was followed by tours as deputy chief of staff for operations to the Commander of Naval Forces, Far East, during the first year of the Korean War, six months on the first United Nations Truce Negotiating Team, and two years as director of the Navy’s strategic plans in the Pentagon championing the importance of preparing for limited wars.
Burke’s comprehensive approach to leadership was articulated in a study of discipline and command he conducted for the Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in early 1950. In his report he championed the continuing need for loyalty to and interest in subordinates, tightness in command, and stability in personnel assignments and operations. He also championed the widest dissemination of information about sailor’s jobs, their command and the service, to ensure that all hands understood what the service stood for and was doing. Burke believed that only in this way would “a dignified pride and self-respect” in the Navy and oneself and willingness to make personal sacrifices for the group good be achieved. When President Eisenhower promoted Rear Admiral Burke over 92 flag officers from Commander of the Atlantic Fleet’s Destroyer Force to become Chief of Naval Operations in August 1955, these views shaped the way that he ran the service. He started a monthly “flag officers’ dope” newsletter to spread the word, traveled widely throughout the fleet at home and overseas, and promoted the Navy’s story, including through the new medium of television. He argued that: "We have to maintain in ourselves, and imbue our juniors with an ardor to keep our Navy in front. We must pass along a willingness to think hard--to seek new answers --to chance mistakes--and to 'mix it up' freely in the forums and activities around us to promote knowledge. From that knowledge we can inspire our country to have faith in us--not because the organization of the military forces is the only place to put our national faith, but because we have discharged our responsibilities in such a manner that we have justified confidence in the effective manner in which we operate.”
Burke’s combat and Washington experience allowed him to meet multiple challenges as CNO, including crises over Suez in 1956, Lebanon, Indonesia and Taiwan in 1958, and Berlin in 1959, as well as to undertake the transformation of the fleet. He championed nuclear power in all future US submarines as well as in aircraft carriers and surface combatants, created the Fleet Ballistic Missile Program that brought Polaris submarines from drawing board to deployment in five years, backed missiles for air defense, and started communications and intelligence programs, particularly satellites, that transformed the way the Navy communicated and tracked potential adversaries. He also strongly emphasized the professional bonds among navies by establishing the Naval Command Course at the Naval War College that continues to bring senior foreign naval officers to Newport and expand allied and friendly links among naval officers.
As CNO, Burke understood that the United States Navy was an immense bureaucracy, and that it was very hard, if not impossible, to communicate his desires, much less make his commands felt. In order to get things accomplished in the Pentagon, he decided it was “not wise to give a direct order” because if he did he would have to check whether it was carried out. Instead, he called the action officers to his office and convinced them of the importance of what he wanted. If the officer was “alert and enthusiastic” he could be counted on to follow through and do the necessary checking. This was "the main reason why" Burke believed that as CNO he could "influence things but I must get things done by persuasion and sometimes things do not get done which I think should be done." One tool Burke invariably employed in convincing his subordinates was good humor. His communications downward to sailors and with his deputy CNOs and his fleet commanders and upward to the Secretary of Defense and even the President are filled with good natured, self-effacing humorous comments that did much to get the CNO’s points across.
An almost superhuman stamina, and a determination to persevere in doing all he could to advance the mission and fortunes of the US Navy at home and abroad, marked Burke’s six years as CNO and indeed his entire career. He was known to regularly work seven days a week, and to inspire his seniors and encourage his subordinates to do all they could to match him. Yet his service was marked with a personal humility that kept his ego in check. In fact, Burke’s letters and papers from 1945 on reveal that he was prepared for, and even looked forward to retirement, and in fact had decided by 1954 that he would prefer not to be named CNO. Nevertheless, each of the three times that President Eisenhower called upon Burke to serve as CNO, his sense of duty trumped his personal desires.
Burke’s ultimate conception of leadership in the Navy may best be summarized by a 1958 statement of philosophy that he put forward in arguing against increased unification of the armed forces. It highlights the special nature of leadership in a seagoing organization, where the environment demands large measures of self-reliance, flexibility and independence of thought and action: "We believe in command, not staff. We believe we have 'real' things to do. The Navy believes in putting a man in a position with a job to do, and let him do it--give him hell if he does not perform--but be a man in his own name. We decentralize and capitalize on the capabilities of our individual people rather than centralize and make automatons of them. This builds that essential pride of service and sense of accomplishment. If it results in a certain amount of cockiness, I am for it. But this is the direction in which we should move."
At the time of his death, half a century after the end of World War II, Arleigh Albert Burke was best remembered by both naval officers and naval historians as the United States Navy's premier destroyerman.1 His bold and innovative combat style as Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23 during the night engagements of Empress Augusta Bay and Cape St. George won him a Navy Cross and a permanent place in naval legend. Burke's contributions to twentieth century American naval history, however, go far beyond his wartime exploits in destroyers. His multi-faceted career began on battleships but finished with battles to build and maintain super carriers, nuclear powered submarines, the Polaris missile and the Navy's role in space. Even during World War II, he spent more time on the staff of the commander, fast carrier Task Force 58 helping to shape naval aviation than he did in destroyers. Burke commanded destroyers in the South Pacific for just over thirteen months from February 1943 through March 1944; during the last five he commanded DESRON 23. He was chief of staff to Vice Admiral Marc Mitscher in Fast Carrier Task Force 58/38 from March 1944 through June 1945.
In fact, during his thirty-eight years commissioned service, Burke spent more time ashore than at sea. He had command at sea for a total of only two and a half years before being selected for Rear Admiral in December 1949, and then served barely seventeen more months in three subsequent sea-going flag command assignments. By contrast, Burke spent a total of eight years in four shore tours with the Bureau of Ordnance between 1929 and 1945, and nine years in three different posts in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations after World War II. The last six of these were spent as CNO, in an unprecedented and unequalled three terms in the Navy's top uniformed post.
It is not surprising that Arleigh Burke's wartime surface combat exploits have overshadowed his postwar accomplishments creating and defending navy strategy and programs. Valor in battle signals a strength of will and character that tends to grow larger as the years pass, plus success in combat conveys a sense of conclusive accomplishment. Peacetime achievements ashore are difficult to measure and their impact is all too easily buried in paperwork, bureaucracy and secrecy. Yet physical courage in combat is not always accompanied by the strength of mind and moral courage needed to defend and advance both institutional interests and strategic principles in bureaucratic skirmishes over money, people or ideas. As impressive as Burke's combat victories were, it was in his long hours ashore fighting bureaucratic battles where he achieved his most lasting impact on the Navy. His postwar service helped insure that the nation would continue to exploit the strategic advantages of the oceans, and that the Navy could keep its own counsel on budgets, programs and personnel, if not operations. To a remarkable degree, in fact, the story of Arleigh Burke's naval career is the story of the U.S. Navy in the mid-twentieth century.2
Arleigh Burke became a naval officer under rather unusual circumstances and drove himself hard to prove he had not taken on more of a challenge than he could handle. Born 19 October 1901 on the family farm three miles east of Boulder, Colorado, he was the grandson of a Swedish immigrant, Anders Petter Bjorkegren, who shortened his name to Gus Burke before becoming the first baker in Denver. Arleigh's father, Oscar, was a farmer who wanted his first-born son to inherit his property and his dreams. Burke's mother, Clara Mokler, was of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, and put a high premium on education. She encouraged her son to follow his own destiny rather than limit his vision to the 180 acres Oscar owned, or rented and hoped to buy. To his father's distress, young Arleigh went to State Preparatory High School in Boulder in 1916 and pursued a college course. Encouraged by his teachers, inspired by the history books he read, and stimulated by the outbreak of the First World War, he developed an interest in a military career.
The flu epidemic of 1918 closed high school during his junior year. After a brief sojourn on a threshing crew, seventeen year-old Arleigh decided to compete for an appointment to the Naval Academy. The night before his congressman's competitive exam, he rode into Boulder because it looked like snow the next day and slept in the stable with his horse. The snow became a blizzard. Many students who were academically far better prepared stayed home, but Arleigh took the test and got the appointment. With school still closed, he studied for the Academy entrance examination with the help of his teachers and some University of Colorado professors, and for a few months attended a cram school run by a former congressman in Columbia, Missouri. He passed the exams, and, barely escaping quarantine when his father contracted smallpox, boarded the train east. Burke entered the Naval Academy class of 1923 on 26 June 1919.
Midshipman Burke, the farm boy who had always hated the smell of cows, felt immediately at home in the Navy. He enjoyed competing "in just such an organization in which the rules were strict, known and observed."3 Painfully aware of his inadequate schooling, and the flukes that had brought him to the Academy, he threw himself into his studies, determined to make the grade. He was not an outstanding student, an uncommon athlete nor an obvious, charismatic leader, but he quickly won the respect of his classmates. Energetic and dependable, he used his capacity for hard work and self-discipline to establish a solid record. At graduation, he stood a respectable 70th in a class of 412.
One notable success at Annapolis was the courtship which began on a blind date during his Third Class (sophomore) year. Roberta Gorsuch was the Kansas-born and raised daughter of a Washington businessman, and Burke felt immediately drawn to her. She was pretty, playful, kind, candid, and easy to talk to. "Bobbie" stood only five feet tall, but in strength of character, intelligence, and determination, she was fully a match for the six foot midshipman. She quickly came to occupy a great deal of Burke's free time and attention. Her puckish sense of humor could shake him loose from the black moods which sometimes plagued him, and her inner serenity and strength, rooted in a Christian Science faith he admired but did not share, steadied and reassured him. Worried that duty at sea would take him from her side for too long, First Classman Burke even requested a commission in the Marine Corps in December 1922, following a rousing address by Major General Commandant John A. LeJeune. Bobbie's lack of enthusiasm for this abrupt change in plans, and Burke's own growing naval ambitions led him to withdraw the request a month later.4 Arleigh and Bobbie were married on graduation day, June 7, 1923, and she was to prove a loyal and energetic partner and ally for more than seven decades.
The Navy that Ensign Burke entered was an institution in transition. In many ways, the U.S. Fleet that trained and exercised off America's coasts and concentrated in annual Fleet Problems defending the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, the West Coast or Hawaii was a huge operational laboratory for the testing of technology and the training of the officer corps that would lead the Navy through World War II and beyond. The battle line reigned supreme in the beginning, but through the 1920s and 1930s, carrier and patrol aviation, long range fleet submarines, and the amphibious Fleet Marine Force would be adopted, evaluated and improved. By the end of the interwar period, of 381 ensigns commissioned in 1923, only 193 remained on active duty. Forty of these had become naval aviators while another forty-four had qualified in submarines.5 For Burke himself, however, gunnery, fire control and explosives held sway; he became a member of the so-called "Gun Club" of the Bureau of Ordnance.
Even before commissioning, Midshipman Burke had written his bride-to-be of the thrill he felt when the big guns had been fired during his summer midshipman cruise and of how he hoped to "get a full knowledge of ordnance so that we may have a chance to take a P.G.[postgraduate work]."6 Like eighty percent of his classmates, Ensign Burke went to battleship duty as his first assignment so that he could receive "intensive education in the practice of [his] profession at sea."7 He spent five years in USS Arizona learning the basic skills of a sea-going officer. This modern day "school of the ship" provided the 40 Ensigns in Arizona's 60 line officer wardroom with practice in deck seamanship, steam engineering, gunnery and in leading American sailors as division officers. Battleship wardrooms at this time were among the largest single congregations of line officers in the Navy, surpassed only by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington with 65 on duty, and the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where 68 served, 14 as staff and 54 as students.8 During Burke's tour in Arizona, he grew impatient in his progress and flirted in 1925 with becoming qualified in lighter-than-air aviation, and the following year with becoming a specialist in aerology. Dissuaded by his seniors, he kept working on his qualifications in gunnery, particularly fire control in the plotting room for the battleship's main armament and in 1927 applied for postgraduate training in ordnance. Rejected, he transferred to the auxiliary Procyon, applied again, and was accepted in 1929 for "p.g." work in ordnance engineering at the Navy's Postgraduate School at Annapolis.
After a year of classroom and laboratory work, and being tutored in college chemistry to meet graduate admission requirements, Burke moved on to the University of Michigan where he received a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering in June 1931. He then spent another year touring Navy and Army ammunition and explosive production facilities before returning to the fleet as main battery officer on the heavy cruiser Chester. Burke's postgraduate training qualified him as a full member of the elite and influential corps of line technical specialists who staffed and led the Bureau of Ordnance. The bureau's senior leadership often came to run not just the bureau but the Navy itself; two former chiefs of the bureau, William D. Leahy and Harold R. Stark, became CNOs in the interwar years. BUORD designated him a "Design and Production Specialist" in ordnance explosives, and would largely control his service for the next decade. After eleven months in Chester, Burke became assistant and then Officer-in-Charge of the Battle Force Camera Party recording fleet target practice, and during 1935-1937 ran BUORD's ammunition section in Washington.
In May 1937, he began his first tour in (and a lasting love affair with) destroyers, when he became prospective executive officer of Craven then building in Quincy, Massachusetts. Battleships had been Burke's traditional sea duty preference up to 1934, but with dozens of new DDs being added to the fleet, the smaller ships offered more opportunities for command, and significant new challenges in shiphandling and leadership. Burke spent two years in Craven, and then was appointed to his first command, Mugford, another new destroyer. Lieutenant Commander Burke was one of only five officers selected early to command one of the new ships instead of a World War I four-stack DD. He was assigned to the division of a tough, veteran shiphandler and tactician, Commander F.E.M. "Red" Whiting, who demanded audacity at sea as well as technical competence. Burke's command tour was a triumph. The ship won the Destroyer Gunnery Trophy for 1939-1940 as a result of an unprecedented perfect score--36 shots, 36 hits--in short range battle practice, and received the "E" in engineering competition and the "C" for communications. Whiting's last fitness report declared Burke to be "a leader of the highest type" and predicted "he will go far in the Navy."9 For his part, Burke later told Whiting "I think that I learned some very important lessons under your guidance, the most important one being that when you have got anything to do, the time to do it is right now. If you've got power, use it and use it fast, and the time to make a decision is as soon as the problem presents itself."10
The Bureau of Ordnance reclaimed Burke in May 1940, sending him to the Naval Gun Factory in the Washington Navy Yard as an inspector of anti-aircraft and broadside gun mounts. This may have seemed like purgatory, but the job was critical to ensuring the success of the now-mobilizing United States Navy. There were only 220 ordnance specialists in the entire officer corps, and Burke was one of only 46 who were specialists in design and production. More than eighty inspectors were needed ashore to run ordnance production, train officers and inspect output in guns, torpedoes and ammunition. Not even the attack on Pearl Harbor could break the Gun Factory's hold on Burke. Burke submitted a request for sea duty every week for more than a year after war began only to be told he could not be spared. Finally, on 10 January 1943, with a relief at last found and trained, Commander Burke left for the Pacific.
Arleigh Burke had become a highly proficient naval officer during his nineteen year career. A good deal smarter than he liked to let on, he had a tremendous capacity for hard work and overcame severe educational handicaps to rise to the technical peak of his profession as an ordnance specialist. His gunnery officer in Mugford noted that Burke "may have been endowed with gifts beyond other men, but that is not important, for he developed the numerous ones he had to a superb degree by continuous persistent application with a firm determination to do anything he did very well."11 If war had not come in 1941, Burke would still have enjoyed a solid reputation in the service as an officer marked by his superiors as one of the Gun Club's future leaders. But combat demanded more than the technical mastery of the interwar years. While Burke's seniors valued his technical abilities, his subordinates already recognized his talent for command. Burke's engineer in Mugford evaluated his captain as follows: "One had to have an intimate knowledge of all line duties, engineering, gunnery, seamanship, navigation, shipbuilding, tactics, communications, up keep, repair, logistics. These are the ingredients for command. He had these plus a little extra: enthusiasm for, trust in, and loyalty to his subordinates."12
Despite his superb pre-war performance in Mugford, Commander Burke was unprepared for surface combat with the Japanese Navy and had a year's worth of combat lessons to learn. Assigned initially as Commander, Destroyer Division 43, he spent much of his first months in the South Pacific on his flagship Waller reading action reports and talking with veterans of night actions in the bitter campaign for Guadalcanal which had just ended. Ostensibly assigned as screen commander to Rear Admiral A.S. "Tip" Merrill's cruiser task force, Burke's four destroyers were often dispersed on a variety of assignments. As a unit, they spent long days on escort duty, where Burke relearned anti-air and anti-submarine screening operations as modified by wartime experience. His first combat mission, bombarding the airfield at Vila in Kula Gulf with Merrill's cruisers on 6-7 March 1943, was a success, but Burke was chagrined that his command had not operated more smoothly because he had not worked through detailed combat procedures in advance with his flag captain. He set to work to create a night surface battle doctrine that would remedy such deficiencies.
By early May, building on the lessons of the Guadalcanal campaign and the views of DESDIV 43's captains, Burke had developed a new approach to the use of destroyers in a cruiser task force. Standard practice was to station destroyers as a submarine screen at night, and require them to scramble into battle formation ahead and astern of the cruisers only after the enemy was sighted. Burke proposed that all destroyers should routinely be stationed ahead of the cruisers, in battle formation, from just after sunset until shortly before sunrise, with permission to engage as soon as an enemy was sighted. Burke wanted his ships used as offensive weapons of opportunity, capitalizing on speed and surprise. He believed that if the destroyers were authorized to attack as soon as the enemy was sighted, they could disrupt or disable a small force, or distract a superior one with torpedo salvoes, giving the cruisers time to withdraw. The crucial problem was whether task force commanders would delegate the initiative in opening fire.13 Admiral Merrill agreed to take the risk, but Burke was transferred before he could test his tactics in combat.
In late May Burke took command of Destroyer Division 44, and in August became Commander, Destroyer Squadron 12. Again he found his ships assigned to a variety of escort duties, and was almost never able to operate them as a unit. By late July, his combat doctrine had further evolved. Burke now envisioned night engagements using two parallel columns of destroyers attacking sequentially. Alerted by radar, these columns would carry out successive torpedo attacks on an unsuspecting enemy, maximizing surprise. Burke was unable to implement his ideas in combat, but in early August, his Naval Academy classmate Frederick Moosbrugger took Burke's plan and used it in the Battle of Vella Gulf where six U.S. destroyers sank three Japanese DDs without a loss.14
On 19 October, Burke was ordered as Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23, rejoining Admiral Merrill's Task Force 39 in time for the invasion of Bougainville. Merrill agreed to allow Burke's now-proven tactical concepts to govern his night surface actions. The Battle of Empress Augusta Bay on 1-2 November saw Merrill's four cruisers and Burke's eight new Fletcher-class DDs confront four Japanese cruisers and six destroyers sent to disrupt the invasion. Burke's division of four DDs stationed ahead of the cruisers opened the action by firing 25 torpedoes and then turned away while the cruisers opened fire. Burke then found it impossible to regroup and rejoin the cruisers as the battle turned into a melee. At one point, Burke mistook his other destroyer division for the enemy, and fired several salvos at them, all of which missed. Despite its mishaps, the Americans sank two enemy ships and damaged four against one U.S. ship damaged and three Americans dead. The lessons of the battle, Burke observed, were the importance of surprise, the necessity of having a clear battle plan, and the importance of allowing destroyers to operate independently. In particular, "it is necessary that [commanders] realize the value of time. It's the only commodity which you can never regain."15
DESRON 23 spent November covering the amphibious forces in Empress Augusta Bay or escorting convoys up to the beachhead. During a brief respite, Burke and the skipper of his flagship, Charles Ausburne, Commander L.K. "Brute" Reynolds, spotted the painting of a little American Indian boy a torpedoman was putting on his mount. Intrigued, they asked what it meant and after being told "it was an American symbol," Burke asked to use it for the squadron. Ausburne's crew had already begun calling themselves "beavers" because of their busy operations schedule. Someone suggested the Indian be named "Little Beaver," after "Red Ryder's" sidekick in the popular cowboy comic strip, and the nickname stuck. DESRON 23 forever after was known as the "Little Beavers." For Burke, the Colorado farm boy who had ridden horses since he was four, the nickname was a perfect match.
On the afternoon of 24 November, after repairs to a troublesome boiler on the destroyer Spence that had restricted ship (and squadron) speed to 30 knots, Burke reported to Admiral Halsey's South Pacific headquarters that his ships were proceeding at his preferred non battle formation speed of 31 knots to a late evening rendezvous southeast of Bougainville. In response to an "ULTRA" radio intelligence report of a "transportation operation to Buka by destroyers" that night, Halsey's operations officer, Captain Ray Thurber, recalling Burke's previously impaired formation speed, prepared an op order: "Thirty One Knot Burke get athwart the Buka Rabaul evacuation line about 35 miles west of Buka. If no enemy contacts by 0300 Love [Local Time], 25th, come south to refuel same place. If enemy contacted you know what to do." Prepared by prior messages and operations for such an action, Burke found the new orders "ideal. ...they gave us all the information we needed, and how we did the job was entirely up to us."16
The ensuing Battle of Cape St. George, where DESRON 23's five destroyers engaged five Japanese DDs, began at 0141 on the 25th, when radar detected surface contacts 22,000 yards to the east. Burke led his three leading ships at the enemy at 25 knots while the other two DDs stood by in support. Burke's attack came as almost a complete surprise. Two enemy screen destroyers were hit and one sank immediately. Accelerating to 33 knots, Burke now began a stern chase after the three destroyer transports while the two supporting DDs finished off the Japanese ship still afloat. At 0215, on a hunch, Burke ordered a radical course change, thereby avoiding a Japanese torpedo spread. In an hour long running gun battle, a third enemy destroyer was sunk. Unscathed but low on fuel and ammunition and closing St. George's Channel leading to the enemy base at Rabaul, Burke reversed course at 4 AM and headed for home. The Thanksgiving day victory made Burke and DesRon 23 famous. Congratulations poured in from Admirals Merrill, Halsey, Nimitz, and King and General MacArthur, while the name of "31 Knot Burke" spread throughout America. A subsequent analysis by the Naval War College described Cape St. George as "an almost perfect action" and one "that may come to be considered a classic."17
After a year in the combat zone, Burke did not want to return to shore duty in BUORD. He hoped to stay in DESRON 23 through the spring, but this was not to be. Burke was initially slated for shore duty at Pearl Harbor, training new destroyer skippers for combat, to be followed by a new surface command, possibly one of the new squadrons of 2200 ton destroyers. His life changed forever as a result of a decision by Admiral Ernest J. King as Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, on 11 March 1944. King directed that "aviator flag officers having surface officers under their command have non aviator line officers as chiefs of staff."18 Rear Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, Commander Carrier Division Three, and Fast Carrier Task Force 58, was given a list of four surface line captains, including Burke, from which to choose. Mitscher, a pioneer naval aviator and air combat commander, resented the order and refused to deal with it. Captain Truman Hedding, his existing chief of staff, picked Burke because of his combat record and on the advice of Mitscher's departing operations officer, C.D. "Don" Griffin, who had been Burke's shipmate in 1932-33.
Burke transferred to Mitscher's flagship, the carrier Lexington, on 27 March. Mitscher did little to make his new chief of staff feel welcome in his job. Burke wrote home "I don't know my job and there are many things I should know I don't and I feel lost." With Hedding's encouragement, Burke threw himself into "learning the bird man's lingo." He flew as much as possible, and got "lots of training in handling the Fleet." He struggled to "get into the habit of dealing with forces instead of ships and planes instead of guns." It was not until early May 1944, however, that Burke "really cracked the ice" with the aviator admiral as a result of Burke's short, concise plans, tailored to the needs of those doing the fighting.19 The admiral even began to permit Burke to introduce some innovative air tactics in the plans for coming operations. Burke still found the job tedious and longed to command destroyers again. He responded enthusiastically to a proposal by Commander, Destroyers, Pacific, to form a two squadron force that Burke could lead on forays in the North Pacific but the scheme never solidified. He later noted that during his fifteen month tour as Mitscher's chief of staff, "I have never worked so hard in my life, either before or since, and I don't believe any other person on that staff did either."20
As Burke proved himself, Mitscher let him handle nearly all the details of Task Force 58's administration, planning and operations. By the time the carriers began the Marianas campaign in June, the destroyer captain and aviator admiral cemented a relationship based on mutual respect and an aggressive combat spirit. They would stay together until the end of Mitscher's life. Burke shared the aviators' frustrations in June when Admiral Raymond Spruance, commanding the U.S. forces in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, failed to appreciate the capabilities of the fast carriers to operate west of the Marianas against the Japanese fleet while guarding against an end run by the enemy against the amphibious forces off Saipan and Tinian. When Halsey took tactical command of the fast carriers during the Leyte operation in October, there were new frustrations. Halsey often bypassed Mitscher, failing to consult him during major strategic turning points in the Battle for Leyte Gulf. In preparation for the Iwo Jima and Okinawa campaigns, Burke co-authored a comprehensive set of instructions on fast carrier operations, the first of its kind, to guide the task force in the coming months. He survived the winter 1945 operations in support of the invasion of Iwo Jima and against the Japanese homeland, and the bitter spring campaign for Okinawa, "the longest sustained carrier operation of World War II." From 18 March until late May, elements of Task Force 58 were "under almost continuous attack." "The complete course in suiciders, including the postgraduate course" drove Mitscher and Burke from flagship Bunker Hill on 11 May when two kamikaze hits killed 352 men, including 13 of Mitscher's staff. A kamikaze strike forced them off Enterprise to the Randolph three days later.21
Mitscher found Burke's work outstanding and twice recommended that his chief of staff be promoted to Rear Admiral, at least four years ahead of his contemporaries. Both times Burke objected because "in fairness to a lot of other people and to the Navy I feel that I do not deserve this promotion now" and because "I can't think of any way the Navy could get any more out of me if I wore two stars."22 In November 1944, however, Burke was promoted to one star rank as a Commodore, a rank contingent upon his billet as Mitscher's chief of staff. By 1945, however, Burke was tired of pushing papers. He continued to feel out of place, and the disdain of aviators for most surface officers galled him. But he was by now convinced that carriers were the future of the Navy and was "resigned to a happy and early retirement." Before retiring, however, he wanted one more crack at the enemy in his own cruiser command, and a postwar stint as Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy.23
After the Okinawa operation in June 1945, Burke was assigned to Fleet Admiral King's COMINCH staff in Washington as part of newly formed Section F49, working to attempt to counter the kamikaze problem. When Japan surrendered, he was at a desk in Washington. The war had changed him and his prospects significantly. In 1941, Burke was a promising technical officer, one of the Navy's conservative brain trust in BUORD. In 1945, he was one of the war's most successful surface combat commanders and was also one of the very few "black shoes" accepted by the "brown shoes" of naval aviation. When Mitscher became Deputy CNO for Air in August, he asked Burke to be his deputy. Burke declined, arguing that Mitscher needed a career aviator in the post, and that even if he took flight training he would always be resented as an usurper. He promised he would be available to serve Mitscher when he went back to sea.
It was with that condition that Burke returned to the Bureau of Ordnance in the fall of 1945 as Director of Research and Development. His responsibilities included overseeing guided missile development and service on the military advisory committee to the head of the atomic bomb project. He remained there until early 1946, when Mitscher, now a full admiral, went to sea in command of the U.S. Navy's first postwar striking fleet. The new job entailed building a force to deploy to the Mediterranean waters in a crisis, and Mitscher and Burke took a revealing three week tour of Western Europe that summer. In October 1946, Mitscher became commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet and Commodore Burke again went with him as chief of staff. There he struggled to maintain readiness in the face of a rapidly shrinking, demobilized navy. Admiral Mitscher died in February 1947. By that time, Burke's service reputation was such that he was regarded by many, including Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal, as a potential Chief of Naval Operations.
Arleigh Burke's prewar technical and wartime tactical accomplishments did not necessarily equip him to take on the political and technical complexities of the emerging Cold War as a strategic planner. His only formal training in strategy and tactics was a Naval War College correspondence course he had completed in 1926-1929. For the remainder of his career, however, Burke would be assigned to positions of increasing complexity and responsibility in strategic planning and programming. His engineering skills and operational experience plus his wide array of connections across the Navy's technical and warfare communities provided him with a solid foundation upon which to build a comprehensive view of how a modern navy could contribute to national strategy. He encouraged his seniors and subordinates, through long working hours, to do the same, and incorporated their ideas and findings into an expanding strategic concept.
Burke's first planning assignment was a fifteen month stint in 1947-1948 as a member of the General Board which advised the Secretary of the Navy on matters of high policy. Here he worked on a range of projects, from studies of the shore establishment and development of force requirements for the first Joint Chiefs of Staff long range war plan, to a project Burke personally originated on "The National Defense and Navy Contributions Thereto Over the Next Ten Years." This last involved a broad ranging survey of active and retired flag officers and selected civilian experts, and resulted in a report, substantially drafted by Burke himself, which laid out a comprehensive and pessimistic assessment of the service's responsibilities and prospects, given a powerful continental power, the Soviet Union, and declining U.S. defense budgets. Following his tour with the General Board, Burke spent an enjoyable five months in command of the light cruiser Huntington on cruise to the Mediterranean and South Atlantic. In December 1948, he returned to Washington for his first tour in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) as director of the Organizational Research and Policy Division (Op-23).
Burke's tour in Op-23 was arguably the most controversial of his naval career. It brought him face to face with the difficult and exasperating problems involved in the unification of the armed services and the resulting often bitter competition over budget dollars, roles and missions prerogatives, and strategic concepts that he would fight through the remainder of his service in the Navy. Much of his work involved providing the CNO and the high command of the Navy with assessments of the reorganization schemes that resulted in the National Security Act Amendments of 1949, including a far ranging analysis that strongly rejected the establishment of an American national General Staff. In the summer and early fall of 1949, however, Op-23 was assigned to support a high level task force charged with preparing the Navy's testimony for the House Armed Services Committee hearings into charges that there had been possibly illegal conduct in the procurement of the Air Force's B-36 bomber, and on the wider implications of the Truman administration's budget constrained defense policy under unification. Op-23, working with Admiral Arthur Radford, Commander in Chief, Pacific, coordinated the Navy's efforts to defend the Navy's and Naval Aviation's place in national defense and challenge a developing national military strategy dependent upon what the Navy believed was a flawed, inadequate, and immoral Air Force plan for an atomic air offensive against seventy Soviet cities to realize initial military objectives.
During the resulting "B-36" and "Unification and Strategy" Hearings which came to be known as "The Revolt of the Admirals," Burke was tarred in the press with accusations that he was running an anti-unification, anti-Air Force "secret publicity bureau" and Op-23 was subjected to a Navy Inspector General investigation ordered by Secretary of the Navy Francis Matthews. The investigation showed no improper conduct, but that December, after Burke was unanimously approved "below the zone" by the Rear Admiral selection board for promotion, Matthews, with the apparent concurrence of Defense Secretary Louis Johnson, requested that Burke's name be removed from the flag list and the name of a more senior officer substituted. It took the intercession of President Truman, at the behest of his naval aide and Burke classmate Robert Dennison and the new CNO, Admiral Forrest Sherman, to see it reinstated.24
In June 1950 Rear Admiral Burke was serving as the Navy secretary of the Defense Research and Development Board, on what would prove to be his last engineering assignment, when the Korean War broke out. Admiral Sherman dispatched him to Tokyo to be his personal troubleshooter as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander, Naval Forces, Far East. There Burke oversaw strategic and operational planning for exploitation of the Inchon invasion and the defeat of North Korea. After the Chinese intervention, he helped plan the evacuation of U.S. forces under the Communist onslaught. Burke also initiated planning for the maritime rearmament of Japan, an effort that instilled in him an understanding of and increasing commitment to the development of maritime allies for the Cold War competition against the Soviet Union and its allies. A stint as Commander, Cruiser Division Five on the gun line off Korea in spring 1951 was cut short that July when he was assigned to the first United Nations delegation to the truce talks with the Chinese and North Koreans. The prolonged wrangling over agendas and demarcation lines while Americans died in bitter battles angered and frustrated Burke. In addition, he was dismayed to find that the secret allied negotiating positions were repeatedly being anticipated--he believed as a result of espionage--by the Communists. This face-to-face confrontation made a lasting impression, convincing him that "the only thing the Communists pay any attention to is power," and that sustaining the Cold War and waging and winning limited wars on the Eurasian periphery were as important to the success of U.S. military policy as deterring or fighting a general nuclear war with the U.S.S.R.25
Burke returned to Washington in December 1951 to serve as director of the Strategic Plans Division of OPNAV. This was one of the most important jobs open to a junior flag officer. While many occupants of that post found themselves overwhelmed by the paperwork, Burke impressed both seniors and subordinates with the energy and initiative he devoted to preparation of countless papers for consideration by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council, and Navy operational commanders worldwide. He directed the development of a rationale for U.S. aircraft carrier force levels for a prolonged Cold War; pushed the creation of options for naval operations to defeat the Soviet Union in the event of war; directed the preparation of a long range strategic estimate that could be used to guide naval strategic and operational planning, which identified challenges short of all-out war with the USSR as the greatest security problems facing the United States in the future; and personally drafted the Navy's critique of the Eisenhower administration's emerging policy of "massive retaliation" for the CNO in December 1953.26
In April 1954, the CNO, Admiral Robert B. Carney, ordered Burke back to sea as Commander, Cruiser Division Six. His two years in the Pentagon had left him both exhausted and disheartened about the direction of national strategy and the deteriorating state of the peacetime Navy. When a friend from his year at the University of Michigan offered Burke a civilian job, he seriously contemplated leaving the service. He was not sure he was suited to high command and doubted that he could do better than Carney at solving the myriad problems confronting the navy. "I am not sure I would wish to be CNO, even if it were made available to me" he wrote his old division commander, "Red" Whiting.27 Carney, on the other hand saw Burke as an outstanding candidate for further promotion. In January 1955, he put him in command of the Atlantic Fleet Destroyer Force, and was prepared to send him to Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean the following year.
Burke's advancement came a good deal sooner than Admiral Carney expected. Secretary of the Navy Charles Thomas had decided not to reappoint Carney, and wanted as his replacement a vigorous, younger officer with a strong technical background and outstanding leadership skills to reenergize what he saw as a demoralized navy. When flag officers were polled as to what admirals they felt were best qualified to be CNO, Burke's name turned up on every list. On 10 May 1955, Thomas offered the CNO position to Rear Admiral Arleigh Burke. Burke was startled and somewhat dismayed by the offer. There were 92 active duty flag officers senior to him on the Navy Register, more than 80 of whom were potential candidates for the post, and he thought his sudden rise might create bad feeling. In addition, he was not sure if he was suited to the job. He warned Thomas that he had a bad habit of speaking his mind, as during the "Admiral's Revolt" period in 1949, which might land him in trouble, but which he would not give up. Finally, he felt he could not accept the post without Carney's full support. Carney had doubts about the wisdom of such an accelerated promotion, but none about Burke's abilities, and offered his warm endorsement. On 17 August 1955, Burke became the fifteenth Chief of Naval Operations.
His first few weeks in office were not propitious. The new CNO found himself at odds with Secretary of the Navy Thomas, Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson, and President Eisenhower over the issue of the draft. Burke was convinced that the draft was the only way for the Navy to meet its manpower goals, and was unwilling to accept the Eisenhower administration's recent ruling that it would not be reinstated. He requested an oval office meeting where he presented his case. Eisenhower agreed to reverse his decision, but after the meeting he expressly warned Burke never again to put his commander-in-chief in such an embarrassing position. Eisenhower treated Burke with cool formality for many months afterwards, but eventually came to value the soundness of the new CNO's counsel, as well as the direct manner in which he was inclined to offer it. By the time Burke was reappointed to a second two year term in 1957, he had become a valued and influential member of the Eisenhower team.
Burke served as CNO through 1 August 1961, an unprecedented and unmatched three terms and nearly six years in office. During that time, he made contributions to the service ranging from the adoption of formal mess dress uniforms for both male and female officers, and the renovation of buildings at the Naval Academy a few rooms at a time until complete funding could be achieved, to sponsoring nuclear power for aircraft carriers and surface combatants, changing the submarine building programs to insure that all future submarines would be nuclear powered, and starting the Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile program. In particular, he fulfilled Secretary Thomas's goal of aggressively pursuing the development and procurement of advanced technology systems, including surface to air, air to air, and air to surface missiles, advanced jet fighters and attack aircraft including the F-4 Phantom, the A-6 Intruder, and the A-5 Vigilante; and brought the Navy into the computer age with the development and initial procurement of the Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS) for command and control of air and naval forces.
Much of what Burke accomplished as CNO was done within the context of the most intense competition among the armed services for peacetime defense funds in the nation's history. The Navy consistently came in second behind the Air Force, which received nearly half of all defense dollars during the Eisenhower years. Debates in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (of which Burke was now a member) over strategic plans for the use of U.S. forces in war, particularly general war with the Soviet Union, and over procurement objectives in support of those plans were blunt and prolonged. More was at stake than just forces and funding; the central issue in the debate was nothing less than the American approach to waging war.
The position taken by Burke and the Navy was fundamentally at odds with that of the Air Force, and also differed in many ways from that of the Eisenhower administration. Much of the nation's defense expenditures in the mid-1950s was being devoted to the problem of general nuclear war between East and West. U.S. war plans, which through the early 1950s had envisioned a U.S.-U.S.S.R. war as a protracted multi-phase conflict lasting months or years where naval forces could play an important role, had been changed in 1955-1956 and now anticipated a rapid two phase war, with an short, massively destructive, thermonuclear first phase, and a second phase of "indeterminate duration." As CNO, Burke worked hard to insure that the U.S. Navy was at the forefront of development of the capability for fighting a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union, including nuclear tipped surface to air guided missiles and the ASROC rocket-powered nuclear depth charge. Antisubmarine warfare represented his highest priority, building on the capabilities of the new and expanding SOSUS (Sound Surveillance) fixed passive low frequency sonar detection system to help establish surface, maritime patrol aviation and submarine barriers to prosecute Soviet submarines and deny the enemy navy access to the open oceans. In addition, as he wrote British First Sea Lord Louis Mountbatten, "it will be one of the major tasks of carrier striking forces in the early days of a general war to find and destroy" Soviet "submarine hideaways" in "coves and bays away from any other profitable fixed targets" where he expected the U.S.S.R. to "deploy all of her operational submarines" and their tenders.28
But Burke also believed that the developing nuclear stalemate between the superpowers would lead to a situation where "it is my opinion that not even a mad Russian would think of starting a nuclear war unless he has some chance of profit and there is no chance of profit if his own country is largely destroyed in retaliation. The USSR would have nothing to gain and certainly the free nations would have nothing to gain."29 Burke had "long felt that the ultimate solution of the Communist problem" would "come from internal strains and tensions which will so change the USSR, evolutionary or revolutionary, that it will cease to be an international threat." A "last desperate gamble by the dictators to retain their power" leading to global war had to be guarded against, but this could be prevented by maintaining a "deterrent force so carefully dispersed yet strategically concentrated that initiation of war will be Russia's suicide while the free world can survive with some residuum of people and power."30
The U.S. and its allies would be well advised to prepare for a broader set of military contingencies: "What is more apt to occur [than a general war with the Soviet Union] are local wars which both the Free World and the USSR will take great pains to prevent expanding into general war. This means precise delivery of weapons suitable under the circumstances existing. It will mean the quick positive delivery of sufficient force but not in excess of that required for a particular situation. It will mean accepting something less than unconditional surrender."31
Burke believed that the navy held the key to both these strategic challenges. A sea-based nuclear force would be much less vulnerable than the Strategic Air Command's land-based bombers and missiles and could achieve the same deterrent effect as the larger SAC force because its weapons would be harder to target and destroy. This would permit the Defense Department to shift resources from the general nuclear war mission into preparations for limited and local conflicts. Furthermore, in the unlikely event that the United States was forced into a nuclear war, the relative invulnerability of sea based missiles would mean that they could be withheld and used selectively, freeing the U.S. from the "use it or lose it" doomsday scenarios which dominated Air Force nuclear war planning. This strategy of "finite deterrence, controlled retaliation" was the fruit of Burke's years as a strategic planner, and provided the context for many of his most important decisions as CNO.32
Long before "finite deterrence" was fully articulated, Burke took the first steps toward creating the tools which would make it possible. Only two months after taking office, in October 1955, Burke moved to aggressively implement a tasking from the National Security Council, and directed the Navy to proceed as rapidly as possible to achieve a sea-based intermediate range ballistic missile. Burke's directive ran counter to the advice of many of his top subordinates in OPNAV, who argued that such a project was too technically complex and too expensive to be justified. Confident that the technical difficulties could be overcome, he appointed Rear Admiral William F. Raborn to head a Special Projects Office that would work jointly with the Army in developing a liquid fueled missile to be fired from converted merchant ships. The next summer, while the successful development of ballistic missiles was still far from assured, Burke directed the Navy staff to investigate a "minimal target system, the threat of destruction of which would deter the USSR." Burke would use the resulting study in the Joint Chiefs of Staff to argue against the escalating requirements of the Air Force for thermonuclear weapons to attack the Soviet Union, as well as for the bombers (and later intercontinental ballistic missiles) to deliver them.33
In the fall of 1956, as a result of progress made in developing solid fuel propulsion and lighter nuclear warheads, the Navy split its Fleet Ballistic Missile Program, now-codenamed Polaris, off from the Army and looked to development of a submarine based missile force. In January 1957, breaking with the long-standing practice of treating naval nuclear forces as threats against only "targets of naval interest," Burke directed that the developing Polaris system be considered a "national" deterrent system. That November, the Polaris development schedule was accelerated so as to produce a deployed submarine armed with 1200 mile missiles by 1961. Finally, in early 1958, Burke released a long range concept for "The Navy of the 1970 Era" that called for 40 ballistic missile submarines to serve as the navy's deterrent to all-out war, while 15 attack carriers would be used as the service's "primary cutting tool" to forestall or fight in limited conflicts.
By 1959, Burke clearly was looking to Polaris as a potential replacement for most of SAC's bomber and missile force, but at a much reduced cost for the nation as a whole. A study of alternative targeting, which had the potential to move the nation's war plans away from a largely preemptive massive first strike effort aimed at Soviet military and civilian targets across the board, toward an exclusively retaliatory target list of highest priority targets only was underway in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If the "alternative undertaking" was adopted as the nation's primary strategy in war, finite deterrence might become a reality. The first Polaris submarine, USS George Washington, with its 16 ballistic missiles, was on track to its first deployment in the fall of 1960, thereby setting the stage for development of a controlled retaliation strategy.
The cost to the navy of implementing Burke's alternative to national nuclear strategy was high, however. The service's annual budget hovered at $11 to 13 billion through 1961, far short of the $16 to 17 billion Burke calculated would be needed to produce a modernized U.S. fleet by the 1970s. This meant that many promising programs, including the Triton and Regulus II cruise missiles and the P6M Seamaster long range jet seaplane had to be cancelled. The necessity of such trade-offs troubled Burke. A 1957 study projected that Navy force levels would fall to 693 ships by 1971, far short of the 927 required for wartime missions, if funds were committed to the development of Polaris, to making all future construction submarines nuclear powered, and to introducing nuclear power into all future aircraft carriers and some surface combatants.34 Nevertheless, the CNO was determined to press forward with the effort to broaden national military strategy.
Arleigh Burke understood that "we have to work hard to maintain the Navy as a viable instrument of power--power which is needed by the United States, which is understood, and which can grow and change." He told a fellow admiral "We have to maintain in ourselves, and imbue our juniors with an ardor to keep our Navy in front. We must pass along a willingness to think hard--to seek new answers --to chance mistakes--and to 'mix it up' freely in the forums and activities around us to promote knowledge. From that knowledge we can inspire our country to have faith in us--not because the organization of the military forces is the only place to put our national faith, but because we have discharged our responsibilities in such a manner that we have justified confidence in the effective manner in which we operate."35
"We Believe in Command, Not Staff"
Burke's persistence in challenging prevailing assumptions about the nature of the threats facing the United States and how best to confront them was based on a philosophy of leadership rooted in navy traditions and experience. Naval officers achieved the pinnacle of their careers in command at sea, a role which necessarily required a high degree of individual initiative and responsibility. Because of this, the service had evolved a system of decision making more consciously decentralized than might have been workable in the other services. Many of Burke's initiatives as CNO were intended to encourage preservation of this leadership tradition.
Upon becoming CNO in 1955, he established "Flag Officers Dope," a monthly classified newsletter to all flag officers in the Navy, to acquaint them with important events and proposals as well as the rationale behind his decisions and actions. In 1956, he instituted a multi-media "Spirit of the Navy" presentation to provide naval personnel with an understanding of the foundations of the service and its role in the nation's history. Appreciating the new power of television to reach the general public and improve the Navy's image, he encouraged service support of such classic television series as "Navy Log", "Silent Service," and "Men of Annapolis." In 1958, he created the Naval Leadership Program which emphasized the importance of individual responsibility and individual contributions in meeting the many challenges the Navy was facing. In addition, he took steps to encourage increased postgraduate education for all naval officers in the social sciences as well as natural and technical sciences. At the Naval Academy, Burke established a postgraduate scholarship that came to bear his name which would allow a few highly motivated, excellent midshipmen, after one year at sea, to go to civilian graduate schools for a Ph.D.
"We believe in command, not staff," he wrote in 1958.
"We believe we have 'real' things to do. The Navy believes in putting a man in a position with a job to do, and let him do it--give him hell if he does not perform--but be a man in his own name. We decentralize and capitalize on the capabilities of our individual people rather than centralize and make automatons of them. This builds that essential pride of service and sense of accomplishment. If it results in a certain amount of cockiness, I am for it. But this is the direction in which we should move."36
Nevertheless, he pointed out, "there has to be a good deal of conformity in any organization or it will go off in all directions." The challenge was to create a sense of common purpose, without stifling individual drive and initiative. This was not easy in the postwar navy, where rivalry between the different branches of the service was sometimes intense, especially in competition for high command. It was quite natural, Burke noted, for an outstanding naval aviator to "believe that there is no other group in the whole world that does as much for the defense of the United States," and for submariners committed to nuclear power and the Polaris program to "become a little too enthusiastic sometimes and believe that only they are really needed in a Navy." Such pride, he observed, was "fine as long as the aim to make the specialty better is based on the larger desire to make the whole Navy stronger. All these elements are essential and they are needed. If any one element of the Navy were to be eliminated the whole Navy would suffer and the enemy could concentrate on the one element which we did not have and win their war, regardless of what the other people could do."
He knew that those who had to pick the service's future leadership "cannot afford the luxury of bias for or against any group of people." He hoped that "there would come a time" when "it will be possible to have [most Navy commands] commanded by any line officer--aviator, submariner or ordinary surface officer." He "personally believe[d] also that by the time a man makes Flag Officer he should lose his designation, no matter what it is, submarines, aviation, or anything else, and become a Flag Officer in the broadest sense of the term--one who can command forces."37
As CNO, Burke had only limited power to move the Navy in the directions he wanted. By the time he took office, the OPNAV bureaucracy was large and unwieldy. In 1923, when Burke received his commission, the Office of the CNO was staffed by 65 line officers plus a handful of staff officers and a few civilians. In 1955, there were more than 630 officer billets in OPNAV. The same growth was evident at all levels. Whereas there were only 26 officers in the Bureau of Ordnance in Washington when Burke came to the Explosives Section in 1935, by the 1950s every bureau employed hundreds of uniformed and civilian personnel. Burke was very much aware that he could not just command things to happen in Washington. He had to exercise leadership, not just authority. The key to such leadership was loyalty, communication and the delegation of responsibility.
Burke was part of a generation of naval officers who had been taught that loyalty was the most important of the "essential qualities of a naval officer," and "loyalty up and loyalty down" epitomized how naval officers should conduct themselves with both subordinates and seniors.38 As CNO, he felt "thwarted by the absence of simple, undistorted communications downward, as well as up." He was "never fully as knowledgeable of any one subject as I feel I should be" and regretted that "I never seem to have time to get the full story from the action officers." In order to get things done in the Pentagon, Burke felt that "it is not wise for me to give a direct order. If I do, then I must do my damnedest to make sure that it is carried out." Instead, "what I try to do is to call the action officers up to my office. This causes some complications right away because I bypass people. The action officer is supposed to tell his people what has happened and tell them what I think should be done. If the action officer is alert and enthusiastic and also believes that it should be done, it will get done, because he will follow through and he will do the checking." [Emphasis in Original.] This was "the main reason why" as CNO Burke believed he could "influence things but I must get things done by persuasion and sometimes things do not get done which I think should be done."39
In spite of such constraints and frustrations, Burke was a remarkably effective leader, capable of inspiring and persuading his bureaucracy. He was a master of the memo, able to tweak, cajole and encourage his subordinates with pointed commentary and teasing good humor. In an era before computers and satellite communications, he kept his fleet commanders informed of what they needed to know by message, "Flag Officers' Dope" or lengthy letter as appropriate. His top leadership in OPNAV (as well as future historians) benefitted from his memoranda for the record of more than 150 meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Armed Forces Policy Council, and National Security Council, which he circulated as information or for action as appropriate. His occasional rages were legendary, but infrequent. For the most part he motivated his staff by setting an example of hard work and devotion to the service, and by willingness to generously share the credit for any successes that came his way.
Burke's approach to leadership and his strategic vision of the importance of naval power in waging the Cold War came together in his efforts to build strong and lasting relationships with navies allied with the United States. This strategy began to take shape in 1950-1951 when, while serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander, Naval Forces, Far East, in Japan, he was instrumental in helping to lay the ground work for the establishment of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. The commitment continued to grow through his tour as director of the Strategic Plans Division in OPNAV in 1952-1954 as he worked to provide friendly naval forces with loans or transfers of ships and equipment under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. As CNO, he looked to supporting the West German, Japanese, Nationalist Chinese and many South American navies through ship and equipment assistance. It was Burke who, in 1959-1960, established the annual UNITAS cruise and at-sea anti-submarine warfare exercises with South American navies. He also built strong personal relationships with, among others, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten, the British First Sea Lord and then Chief of the Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Frederich Ruge, chief of the naval forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, Vice Admiral Zenshiro Hoshina of Japan, and Admiral Henri Nomy of the French Navy. Believing there was a professional bond and code of conduct among naval officers that transcended nationality, Burke established the Naval Command College at the Naval War College in 1956. The Naval Command College was designed to bring together outstanding and rising senior officers from allied and friendly nations to study naval power, work out problems, and develop bonds of trust and understanding. The Naval Command College has been among Burke's longest lasting accomplishments; it continues to thrive at Newport and to expand navy to navy contacts beyond the end of the Cold War.
The Last CNO
Arleigh Burke was the last Chief of Naval Operations to command the fleets. As "executive agent" under the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Burke could direct the Commanders-in-Chief of the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets (CINCLANT and CINCPAC) and the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean (CINCNELM) where to move their forces in times of peace, crisis and war. In addition, Burke as CNO had direct control over the sensitive submarine reconnaissance operations that gathered intelligence on the Soviet Navy and Soviet homeland.40
During the Suez Crisis in October-November 1956, when England, France and Israel attacked Egypt in response to Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal, Soviet Premier Khrushchev, beset by rebellion in Hungary and turmoil in Poland, threatened to send "volunteers" to aid Egypt and rain nuclear rockets on Egypt's attackers. U.S. policy looked to end the conflict and defuse the potential NATO crisis. Burke ordered the Sixth Fleet into the Eastern Mediterranean. When the fleet's commander, Vice Admiral C.R. "Cat" Brown, inquired of the CNO "whose side am I on?", Burke shot back "take no guff from anyone."41 Burke concluded from the crisis that "as usual, only naval forces could take the military action that was required when the situation broke" and that his direct operational control of the fleets maximized their ability to respond quickly.42 The following year, Burke twice moved the Sixth Fleet into the Eastern Mediterranean to deal with crises in Jordan and Turkey. A Washington columnist observed of these operations, "Our armed forces divide the chores. Whenever trouble brews, the navy gets the first assignment--and the Air Force gets the first appropriation." A delighted CNO passed the newspaper clipping on to the Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense with two comments: "We didn't plant it" and "It's true."43
During 1958, two crises occurring in rapid succession on opposite sides of the globe once again demonstrated the value of having naval forces ready to respond. In May 1958, President Camille Chamoun of Lebanon notified the United States he might need U.S. help to defend against a possible Syrian invasion. Determined not to be caught unprepared, as the British had been by the Suez crisis, Burke dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean, and added two Marine battalion landing teams to the one already in the area. A coup in Iraq in mid-July led Chamoun to request immediate U.S. support. President Eisenhower's order to land the Marines allowed Burke only thirteen hours for implementation, rather than the twenty four the CNO had said he needed. Nevertheless, the fleet put the first marines ashore the next morning, and sent in reinforcements over the next few days. The lesson of Lebanon, Burke believed, was that the command system worked:
Since the CNO was in command of the Fleets, I was responsible to the JCS and to the President for the readiness and movement of the Fleets. I followed President Eisenhower's and the JCS directives but it was up to me to have the Fleets positioned and ready for action whenever and wherever they were needed.
So I moved the Sixth Fleet and made other necessary preparations including reinforcing it for any emergency--or at least for some of them. Naturally everybody was informed, but I did not have to wait until the end of weeks of debate before getting ready. It was a very flexible command system in which action could be taken very fast. It was a decentralized system.44
The crisis in Taiwan Straits followed closely on the operation in Lebanon. In late August 1958, the People's Republic of China launched a heavy artillery attack against the Nationalist Chinese-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu, less than twelve miles off the coast of mainland China. Burke believed that the Nationalists could defend the islands against a protracted siege if they had American aid, and argued strongly that the United States was obligated to help. Despite criticism in Washington that the islands had little strategic importance and their defense might lead to nuclear war, Burke argued that to refuse to defend them against the Communists was intolerable: "If we retreat under fire and retreat under pressure, where does that leave us in the eyes of the rest of the world--and our own eyes?"45 Burke believed that the U.S. had to be ready to use tactical nuclear weapons if Chinese forces attempted to invade Quemoy, but he did not expect the crisis to go that far. Shifting forces from the Mediterranean and the U.S., the CNO moved to reinforce the Seventh Fleet with three attack aircraft carriers, two cruisers, additional destroyers, and more nuclear strike aircraft. From August until the end of the year American warships surveilled the mainland, and escorted Nationalist convoys resupplying the islands. The shelling continued into early October, but no invasion was attempted, and the crisis quietly faded.
Even as Burke was directing these critical operations in the Mediterranean and Western Pacific, events were transpiring in Washington to bring an end to the Chief of Naval Operations' operational control of the nation's naval forces. Proposals for increased unification, or even merger, of the armed services and creation of an American general staff had been presented by various individuals and organizations during the 1950s. In April 1958, President Eisenhower sent a special message to Congress calling for reorganization of the Defense Department to consolidate the power of the Secretary of Defense and reduce the authority of the civilian and military heads of the individual services. In particular, direct control of operating forces would be transferred from the service chiefs to the President and the Secretary of Defense. The Joint Staff was to be enlarged, and the Chairman's power over it enhanced. The role of the Joint Chiefs was to be redefined, so that they would function as a unit, with their primary responsibility being to act as joint advisers to the Secretary of Defense, rather than as heads of their own services.
Burke acknowledged the need for reform measures to clarify the responsibilities of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense and increase coordination in combined operations. Nevertheless, he had serious reservations about Eisenhower's plan. Burke was reluctant to see operational command of the U.S. Navy removed from the control of the Chief of Naval Operations. Only naval officers, he believed, were familiar enough with the unique requirements of operations at sea to direct them with the dispatch which was needed in far flung crisis situations. He was deeply worried about the prospect of a unified military service, in which command of naval forces might fall to an army or air force officer who knew nothing about seafaring. Too many mistakes would be made, which would threaten the success of complex and critical operations. In addition, Burke liked the existing structure of the JCS which he saw as a forum where diverse views were argued. A microcosm of democracy where balance was maintained, it prevented "singlemindedness, one concept domination, one interest, one strategy, one military posture, one weapon."46 He worried that expansion of the Joint Staff could eventually lead to creation of a national general staff powerful enough to quash debate over strategy and tactics, and allow a move toward complete merger of the armed services. Unable to convince Eisenhower to alter the plan, Burke offered as much support as he could in hearings before Congress, but also explained his reservations freely enough to provoke a storm of criticism from those who thought he owed the president an unqualified endorsement. Convinced that he would not be reappointed when his term expired, Burke took a certain grim pleasure in riding out the storm. He had no political ambitions, and would not mind being fired for defending the navy, he explained to a friend, and that "gives me a freedom of action which is quite a powerful asset."47
The Defense Reorganization Act of 1958 became law on 6 August 1958 and its provisions were gradually implemented into 1959. Despite its passage, Burke was able to claim a minor victory in what the act did not do: it did not provide for the de jure or de facto establishment of a national general staff, nor did it lay the groundwork for eventual merger of the armed services. One important battle was lost, and it was one Burke had been resigned to losing. The Chief of Naval Operations was removed from direct operational control of the Fleets, although his office did retain control over planning operations and thereby setting operational parameters.
The loss of control over fleet operations created more of a problem for his successors than it did for Burke. After his first difficult year, Burke enjoyed an unusually close relationship with Eisenhower. He was an effective member of the administration's foreign policy team, working harmoniously not only with military commanders but with the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency as well. As the voice for the Navy in meeting foreign policy problems from civil wars and domestic unrest in Indonesia, 1957-1958, Cuba in 1957-1960, and the Congo in 1960, he exercised considerable influence on foreign policy decisions. During military preparations for dealing with a possible Soviet and East German closure of Western access to Berlin in 1959, Burke proposed the possibility of naval countermeasures against Soviet maritime chokepoints in the Norwegian Sea, Baltic, and Mediterranean/Black Sea as a means of applying pressure on the Soviets from areas where the U.S. had military leverage. This proposal set in motion planning for Maritime Contingencies that remained in effect through the unification of Germany in 1990.48
By 1958, even as Burke was raising questions about the Defense Reorganization Act, Eisenhower began dropping the CNO notes addressed to "Arleigh." In February 1959, the president presented Burke with a bottle of scotch as congratulations for the launch of a Vanguard satellite. Burke's public affairs officer, Commander C.R. "Buck" Wilhide, drafted a humorous reply, in which an increasingly inebriated Burke expressed his thanks for the gift. The final paragraph ended: "Mush quitnow an fine anodder bodel odish delic iuocius boos." When Wilhide next checked, he was horrified to find that Burke had signed the letter in a mock drunken scrawl and sent it to the White House. The President, rather than being offended, delightedly thanked Burke for "a much needed chuckle." Arleigh Burke was the last Chief of Naval Operations to have such a personal relationship with the President of the United States.49 In 1959, when Burke let it be known that he did not wish to be reappointed for a third term, since he feared he might be getting into "a rut" after four years which "doesn't help the Navy any," Eisenhower refused to part with him. He told Burke flat out that it was his duty to accept reappointment. He was an indispensable part of the team.50
Despite the President's respect for Burke, the Eisenhower administration continued to whittle away at the flexibility of U.S. military strategy, in direct opposition to the CNO's long-standing positions that diversity of weapon systems and flexibility in strategic planning were critical to national security. The strongest blow was delivered in the summer and fall of 1960 when Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates decided to consolidate nuclear war planning in a Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff located at Strategic Air Command headquarters in Omaha. Gates, as well as the President, regarded the move as a compromise. The Air Force wanted operational control over all strategic nuclear delivery systems, including Polaris, in a combined but Air Force dominated strategic command. Gates's decision was designed to address Air Force concerns by eliminating wasteful and dangerous duplication in war planning while stopping short of removing the Polaris from Navy control. Burke found the compromise unacceptable, and said so to the president. The proposed JSTPS would put SAC in a position to dominate national war planning. Requirements for nuclear weapons would be determined based on SAC's first strike targeting concepts, excessive criteria for damage to be attained in a war, and conservative operational factors. A firm floor would be established below which strategic forces requirements could not fall. When Eisenhower backed Gates in August, Burke quickly moved to send some of the Navy's best officers to Omaha to join the staff and try to guard against SAC's targeting excesses. Even with these efforts, however, the National Strategic Target List and Single Integrated Operational Plan produced in the fall of 1960 basically doomed the Navy's "finite deterrence" concept and second strike targeting "alternative undertaking" from ever controlling national nuclear strategy and policy. Burke feared that this would severely limit the nation's future strategic flexibility as ballistic missiles came of age and limited wars proliferated around the Eurasian periphery.
In the fall of 1960, Burke told President Eisenhower that he wanted to retire at the end of his third term as CNO. In early January 1961, before the new Kennedy administration came to power, planning commenced for a CNO change of command that summer. Although John F. Kennedy asked Burke if he would consider serving another term, Burke was convinced that this "job was nothing I wanted to continue."51 He respected the new President, his brilliant if inexperienced Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, and the new Navy Secretary, John Connally, but he found himself uncomfortable with many of the policy assumptions of the new administration, and their style of management. He was irked by the systems analysis approach to developing defense policy and strategy, and by the arrogant attitudes of junior officials in the Defense Department, who seemed to feel, he thought, that civilian control of the military meant any civilian was the superior of any military officer. Kennedy did away with many of the systems Eisenhower had established for assigning responsibilities and communicating decisions, finding them too confining, but never clearly specified what would take their place. Burke often found himself at a loss to understand just what the president wanted from him.
Two episodes in the spring of 1961 topped off Burke's sense of frustration. The first was the administration's conduct of the planning, execution and subsequent investigation of the Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-backed and trained Cuban exiles of Fidel Castro's Cuba. Burke and the other Joint Chiefs had serious doubts about the military feasibility of the CIA plan, but were never given the opportunity to fully assess it, nor were they asked to approve it. Under pressure from Secretary of State Dean Rusk, the landing site was switched from a friendly and isolated village on Cuba's south coast to the Bay of Pigs. The JCS did not like the switch, but even though they reviewed the plan a number of times and commented on specific aspects, they did not object to the president. The chiefs felt they had no choice but to do their best to make the plan work since that was what the president appeared to want. Kennedy on the other hand seems to have interpreted their silence as approval. The landing took place on 16-17 April 1961. After a last minute decision was made to withhold supporting American air strikes in order to improve deniability, Burke, who was not told of the decision until too late, now knew the invasion was headed for disaster. To the CNO it seemed intolerable that the United States was willing to send a fighting force into danger with totally inadequate support or logistical planning. Helpless to avert the debacle, all he could do was pray for the lives of the men doomed by American bungling.52
Burke's anger over the Bay of Pigs reflected in part his firm belief that communist governments could be overthrown by popular uprising, if the spark could be successfully lighted. The invasion by Cuban exiles might have worked, if the United States had been willing to stand behind them. In the spring of 1961, he pushed for such a national commitment to the defense of Laos against communist pressure from the Pathet Lao. Training the Laotian people to defend themselves would be the first step, but, he argued, the United States must be prepared to intervene with its own forces, including tactical nuclear weapons, if necessary. The military difficulties involved in mounting an American war effort in a distant, land locked country were enormous, but if the United States were committed to defeating communism, it must be prepared to take the necessary risks. War is not a game to be dabbled in, Burke warned; it is a deadly serious business. Willingness to use all necessary military force might make the use of any military force unnecessary. Lack of commitment, on the other hand, would only encourage communist expansion, and make ultimate confrontation, or even ultimate defeat, inevitable. Burke's argument for intervention in Laos was not popular with either the Kennedy administration or the Congress, particularly in the wake of the embarrassing failure in Cuba. As it turned out, no American action was required. A cease fire put an end to the immediate crisis, although without resolving long term tensions.
On 22 April, as the Laotian crisis was coming to a head, President Kennedy appointed a Cuban Study Group to review the Bay of Pigs operation and make recommendations about how similar mistakes could be avoided in the future. Burke served on this committee as the JCS representative, and used the opportunity to press for clarification of the U.S. commitment to intervene in local conflicts. The committee's report, sent to the president in June, called for restructuring lines of communication within the administration to ensure that the JCS assumed responsibility for planning both military and paramilitary operations. It also recommended establishment of an interagency group to plan and execute the kind of local Cold War operations deemed necessary to counter communist expansion. Kennedy accepted and implemented many of the committee's recommendations, perhaps Burke's last major contribution to the shaping of American national policy.
Arleigh Burke was relieved as CNO by Admiral George W. Anderson and retired from the United States Navy on 1 August 1961. He was tired, "completely frustrated," and "felt there was nothing I could accomplish."53 He was concerned that the Kennedy administration would not wage the Cold War as aggressively or as competently as he thought necessary. Moreover, he was convinced that the U.S. Navy was facing a long term crisis in its force levels, and that if ship construction were not increased over the 1961 level of 22 ships a year, the active fleet of 817 ships would decline to 440 within two decades. Nevertheless, after a few months decompression, he plunged into his new civilian life with the same energy and dedication he had brought to his naval career. He became a long-term member of several major corporate boards, including Newport News Shipbuilding, Chrysler, Thiokol, and Texaco. In 1962, he helped organize the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies and served as its chairman, counselor and executive committee member for fifteen years, helping to build it into a major Washington policy analysis institution. Although he had never been a Boy Scout and had no children of his own, Burke also served as president and member of the executive committee of the National Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America from 1962 to 1974, one more expression of his strong personal commitment to building patriotism and citizenship.
Although he continued avidly to follow the fortunes of the Navy, and, was glad to do whatever he could for the service whenever his help was requested, he never interfered in current naval policy or practice and never criticized any of his successors as CNO. Great honors continued to come to him for his post-retirement service, including the nation's highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Gerald Ford in January 1977. In November 1982, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman bestowed upon Burke his most signal tribute by naming for him not just one ship but the entire class of the new DDG-51 guided missile destroyers. Despite increasing infirmity, he and Mrs. Burke attended USS Arleigh Burke's keel-laying in 1986, launching in 1989, and sea trials and commissioning in 1991. He was the only living individual ever to see the ship named for him go to sea. Arleigh Burke "slipped his chain" at Bethesda Naval Hospital from complications of pneumonia at 0530 on New Years' Day 1996. His funeral at the Naval Academy on 4 January brought more than 2000 people, including the past and present high commands of the U.S. Navy and the President of the United States to the Academy chapel to say goodbye. President William Clinton declared "The Navy all Americans are proud of, the Navy that stood up to fascism and stared down communism and advances our values and freedom today--that Navy is Arleigh Burke's Navy."54
During his last years, Arleigh Burke summed up his long life as follows: "Life has been good to me. I didn't die young. I wasn't killed in the war. I did most everything I wanted to do, and some things I didn't want to do. I had a job I liked and a woman I loved. Couldn't ask for more than that."55 Burke was many things in his lifetime--chemical engineer, ordnance design and production specialist, wartime combat commander, staff officer, service chief, architect of national policy, and corporate officer. On his tombstone, however, he requested only one word to sum up his accomplishments: "Sailor."
The author gratefully acknowledges the financial support provided by the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Temple University in facilitating his research.
1. See the obituaries of Admiral Burke in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Washington Times, 2 January 1996; the special edition of Surface Warfare Magazine, 16, September-October 1991, commemorating the commissioning of USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51); and E.B. Potter, Admiral Arleigh Burke, A Biography (New York: Random House, 1989) which devotes eleven chapters to Burke's World War II service and three to his six years as Chief of Naval Operations.
2. This essay is based primarily on three essays the author has published on Arleigh Burke's life and career, "Officer Development in the Interwar Navy: Arleigh Burke--The Making of a Naval Professional, 1919-1940," Pacific Historical Review, 44, November 1975, 503-526; "Arleigh Albert Burke," in Robert William Love, Jr., ed., The Chiefs of Naval Operations (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1980), 262-319, 417-429; "Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, United States Navy," in Stephen Howarth, ed., Men of War, Great Naval Leaders of World War II (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), 506-527; and on the author's ongoing research in Admiral Burke's papers for a full life and times biography. Unless otherwise noted, information in the current study will be drawn from these essays.
3. Memorandum, Arleigh Burke to the author, January 1973, p. 43.
4. Letters, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Gorsuch, 17 December 1922, 19 January 1923, 22 January 1923, Arleigh Burke Papers (hereafter cited BP), Operational Archives, Naval Historical Center (hereafter NHA). Burke's Naval Academy Official Record in the Naval Academy Archives indicates he withdrew his request for a Marine commission on 5 February 1923.
5. These figures are derived from data on the Class of 1923 in Department of the Navy, Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, July 1, 1940 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1940), 80-87.
6. Letters, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Gorsuch, at sea, July 1922, 22 January 1923, and 6 February 1923, BP.
7. U.S. Department of the Navy, Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy, for the Fiscal Year 1923 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1923), 596.
8. These statistics are taken from Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, Navy Directory, Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, July 1, 1923 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1923).
9. Fitness Report, October 1, 1939-May 9, 1940, by Captain F.E.M. Whiting, BP.
10. Letter, Arleigh Burke to F.E.M. Whiting, 6 December 1946, Personal File (hereafter PF), BP.
11. Letter, Rear Admiral Robert Speck, USN (Ret.), to the author, 15 August 1971.
12. Letter, Rear Admiral H.H. McIlhenny, USN (Ret.), to the author, 17 August 1971.
13. Letter, Commander, Destroyer Division 43, to Commander, Task Force 19, Subject: Employment of Destroyers, Secret, Serial 37, 7 May 1943, PF, BP.
14. Commander, Destroyer Division 44, Memorandum for Destroyers of Task Force 31, 22 July 1943, and Battle Plan, 1 August 1943; Letter, Commander Rodger Simpson to Arleigh Burke, 28 August 1943; and Letter, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Burke, 8 August 1943, all PF, BP.
15. Narrative by Commodore Arleigh A. Burke, Film 411-1, 31 July 1945, p.13, PF, BP.
16. CINCPAC RI Secret Message 240348 November 1943 in U.S. Navy Commander-in-Chief Pacific Intelligence Bulletins, (#534-#655), 1 September-31 December 1943, SRMN-013, Part III, NHA; Narrative by Commodore Arleigh A. Burke, Battle of Cape St. George, Film 411-2, Recorded 1 August 1945, p.2, BP.
17. President, Naval War College, to Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, Serial 4181, 13 January 1944, PF, BP.
18. Naval Message, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Fleet, to Commander, Carrier Group Three, 111700 March 1944, PF, BP.
19. Letters, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Burke, 4, 11 and 15 April 1944; and Transcript of Interview with Admiral Burke by Stan Smith, 12 July 1965, both PF, BP.
20. Narrative by Commodore Arleigh A. Burke, Carrier Forces Pacific, Battle of the Philippine Sea, Film 417, recorded 20 August 1945, pp.1-13, PF, BP.
21. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Burke, 19 May 1945, PF, BP; Commander Task Force 58, Action Report, 14 March to 28 May 1945, Serial 00222, 18 June 1945, NHA; and Theodore Taylor, The Magnificent Mitscher (New York: W.W. Norton, 1954), p. 279.
22. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Burke, 18 August 1944; and Burke to Rear Admiral J.L. Kaufmann, 12 August 1944, both PF, BP.
23. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Roberta Burke, 9 February 1945, PF, BP.
24. On "the Admiral's Revolt" and Burke's part in it, see Jeffrey Barlow, Revolt of the Admirals, The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945-1950 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994), 165-281.
25. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Captain C.D. Griffin, 8 October 1951, PF, BP.
26. This paragraph is based on a review of the recently declassified Strategic Plans Division files, NHA.
27. Draft Letter, Arleigh Burke to F.E.M. Whiting, 30 July 1954, and Letter, Burke to Whiting, 31 July 1954, PF, BP.
28. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten, 4 February 1958, Personal Top Secret, Declassified 1995, Mountbatten Folder, CNO Personal Files (hereafter CNOPF), BP. On Cold War naval strategy, see this author's three essays "American Naval Strategy in the Era of the Third World War: An Inquiry into the Structure and Process of General War at Sea, 1945-1990" in N.A.M. Rodger, ed., Naval Power in the Twentieth Century (London: MacMillan, 1996) 242-254; "The History of World War III, 1945-1990: A Conceptual Framework," in Robert David Johnson, ed., On Cultural Ground, Essays in International History Chicago: Imprint Publishers, 1994), 197-234; and "Process: The Realities of Formulating Modern Naval Strategy" in James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, eds., Mahan Is Not Enough: The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond (Newport, R.I: Naval War College Press, 1993), 141-175.
29. Burke to Mountbatten, 4 February 1958.
30. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Captain Geoffrey Bennett, RN, 5 March 1957, CNOPF, BP.
31. Burke to Mountbatten, 4 February 1958.
32. A detailed assessment of Arleigh Burke's role in the making of nuclear strategy is contained in this author's essay, "The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960," International Security, 7, Spring 1983, 3-71.
33. Vice Admiral R.E. Libby, Memorandum to Op-00, Subject: Proposals Relative to Atomic Operation Concept, Serial BM00043-57, 1 May 1957, File A16-10, Atomic Warfare Operations, Box 8, Chief of Naval Operations Op-00 Files (hereafter Op-00), 1957, NHA.
34. Rear Admiral R.E. Rose, Memorandum for the Chief of Naval Operations, Subject: Inadequacy of $1.5 billion Shipbuilding Funds Level, Serial 0041P03, 13 September 1957, A1(1) Unlabelled Folder, and Rear Admiral Rose, Memorandum for the Chief of Naval Operations, Subject: Impact of Polaris Program on Shipbuilding and Conversion Program, Serial 034903B1, 13 December 1957, A-1(1) Shipbuilding and Conversion Programs Folder, both in Box 1, Op-00, 1957, NHA.
35. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Rear Admiral Walter Schindler, 14 May 1958, CNOPF, BP.
38. Rear Admiral Henry B. Wilson et.al, Naval Leadership with Some Hints to Junior Officers and Others (Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute, 1924), 29-35.
39. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Rear Admiral Robert Goldthwaite, 13 October 1960, CNOPF, BP.
40. Memorandum, Arleigh Burke to Admiral Arthur Radford, Top Secret, Declassified 1993, Subject: Submarine Patrols, Op-00/rw, 7 November 1956, and Memorandum, Chief of Naval Operations to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Top Secret, Declassified 1993, Subject: Submarine Reconnaissance Patrols, Op-332C3/msm, Serial 000104P33, 7 November 1956, both in Folder A4-3, Ship and Aircraft Movements, Box 3, Op-00, 156, NHA.
41. Naval Message, CNO to COMSIXTHFLEET, 020615 November 1956, cited in Jill M. Hill, Suez Crisis, 1956 (Arlington, Virginia: Center for Naval Analyses Study CRC 262, April 1974), 66-67.
42. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Vice Admiral Frederich Ruge, FGN, 14 November 1956, CNOPF, BP.
43. Memorandum, Chief of Naval Operations to Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense, Subject: "Potomac Fever" by Fletcher Knebel, Op-00 Memo 281-57, 26 April 1957, Originators File, CNO Papers (hereafter ORF), BP.
44. Admiral Arleigh Burke, "The Lebanon Crisis," in Lieutenant Arnold R. Shapach, ed., Proceedings, U.S. Naval Academy: Naval History Symposium (Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Academy, 1973), p. 73.
45. "The Important Things are Intangible," Interview, Robert J. Donovan with Arleigh Burke, 2 October 1958, in ONI Review, November 1958, 517-520, NHA. On Taiwan Straits, see also Commander Joseph F. Bouchard, USN, Command in Crisis, Four Case Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 57-86.
46. Letter, Burke to Schindler, 14 May 1958.
47. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Captain George H. Miller, 10 July 1958, copy courtesy of the late Rear Admiral Miller.
48. Burke's Berlin proposals are discussed in Joel J. Sokolsky, Seapower in the Nuclear Age, The United States Navy and NATO, 1949-1980 (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1991), p.67; their continuing impact may be seen in DEEP SEA planning under the quadripartite LIVE OAK contingency planning effort described by Dr. Gregory Pedlow, SHAPE Historian, in a series of unpublished papers for the Berlin Crisis Project of the Nuclear History Program in 1991-1993. Burke's role in shaping Eisenhower foreign policy has most recently been discussed in Audrey R. Kahin and George McT. Kahin, Subversion as Foreign Policy, The Secret Eisenhower and Dulles Debacle in Indonesia (New York: The New Press, 1995), 90-91, 120-127, 148-152, 170; Richard E. Welch, Jr., Response to Revolution, The United States and the Cuban Revolution, 1959-1961 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), p. 49; and Thomas G. Paterson, Contesting Castro, The United States and The Triumph of the Cuban Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 83, 137, 156-159.
49. Letter, Arleigh Burke to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 18 February 1959, in Arleigh A. Burke Folder, Name Series, Box 3, Ann Whitman File, Dwight D. Eisenhower Papers as President, 1953-1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library; and Letter, Eisenhower to Burke, 25 February 1959, Eisenhower Folder, CNOPF, BP.
50. Letter, Arleigh Burke to Admiral Felix Stump, 27 November 1957, CNOPF, BP.
51. Oral History Interview by Joseph E. O'Connor with Admiral Arleigh Burke, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
52. On the Bay of Pigs and Burke's part in it, see Trumbull Higgins, The Perfect Failure, Kennedy, Eisenhower and the CIA at the Bay of Pigs (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987), 122-169; and Lucien S. Vandenbroucke, Perilous Options, Special Operations as an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 19-50.
53. Arleigh Burke Oral History, John F. Kennedy Library.
54. Remarks by the President at the Funeral Service for Admiral Arleigh Burke, January 4, 1996, in author's possession.
55. Funeral Program In Memory of Admiral Arleigh Burke, in author's possession.
There have been three books written about Arleigh Burke. The first two, Ken Jones, Destroyer Squadron Twenty Three (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1959) and Ken Jones with Hubert Kelley, Admiral Arleigh (31 Knot) Burke, The Story of a Fighting Sailor (Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1962) are long out of print. Jones, who died before the second book could be completed, did a great deal of interviewing for both books and also carried on correspondence with Burke's family and Navy colleagues. Unfortunately, the source data in both books cannot be reconstructed and this author has found a number of factual errors in each. The most recent study, E.B. Potter, Admiral Arleigh Burke, A Biography (New York: Random House, 1989) was designed as a popular biography; it is thus heavy on World War II and very light (and often inaccurate) on Burke's postwar career. This author's three essays on Arleigh Burke in Pacific Historical Review, November 1975; Robert W. Love Jr.'s book, The Chiefs of Naval Operations (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1980); and Stephen Howarth's collection Men of War, Great Naval Leaders of World War II (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), are a concise set of assessments of Burke's life and career, based on interviews, as complete access to Admiral Burke's papers as was possible at the time they were written, and also broad research in declassified official and unofficial papers in Navy, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Department files at the Navy's Operational Archives and the National Archives, and presidential papers at the Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy Libraries. The postwar history of the U.S. Navy is in desperate need of solid work. Michael Isenberg's 900 page opus, Shield of the Republic, The United States Navy in an Era of Cold War and Violent Peace, 1945-1962 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993) is colorful but filled with errors and omissions. The two best surveys are Robert W. Love, Jr., History of the U.S. Navy, Volume Two, 1942-1991 (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1992) and George Baer, One Hundred Years of Sea Power, The U.S. Navy, 1890-1990 (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1994), but both are based essentially on secondary sources. Solid studies based on primary sources for Burke's period are Jeffrey Barlow, Revolt of the Admiral's, The Fight for Naval Aviation, 1945-1950 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1994); Gary Weir, Forged in War, He Naval-Industrial Complex and American Submarine Construction, 1940-1961 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993); Richard G. Hewlett and Francis Duncan, Nuclear Navy, 1945-1962 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974); Thomas C. Hone, Power and Change, The Administrative History of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 1946-1986 (Washington, D.C.: Naval Historical Center Contributions in Naval History No. 2, Government Printing Office, 1989) and this author's two essays, "The Origins of Overkill, Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960," International Security, 7, Spring 1983, 3-71, and "Process: The Realities of Formulating Modern Naval Strategy," in James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, eds., Mahan is Not Enough, The Proceedings of a Conference on the Works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond (Newport, R.I.: Naval War College Press, 1993), 141-175.
Suggested Readings: The most recent full popular biography of Arleigh Burke is E.B. Potter, Admiral Arleigh Burke, A Biography (New York: Random House, 1989) but it is heavy on World War II and light on Burke's postwar career. A more complete treatment of Burke’s tour as CNO is provided in this author’s essay on Admiral Burke in The Chiefs of Naval Operations edited by Robert W.Love (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1980). See also this author’s more recent assessment of Burke’s World War II service in Men of War, Great Naval Leaders of World War II edited by Stephen Howarth (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), and this writer’s concise portrait “Arleigh Burke: The Last CNO” in Quarterdeck and Bridge: Two Centuries of American Naval Leadership edited by James C. Bradford (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1997). The first leadership textbook noted above is U.S. Naval Institute, Naval Leadership with Some Hints to Junior Officers and Others (Annapolis, Maryland: U.S. Naval Institute, 1924).
Note: David Alan Rosenberg is a Senior Professor at the U.S. Naval War College and ran Task Force History for the Vice Chief of Naval Operations compiling the Navy’s operational history in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM and the Global War on Terror. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago, and is a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, commanding the naval reserve’s largest intelligence unit.