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Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr.

29 Nov 1920 - 2 Jan 2000

navy portrait of Admiral Zumwalt

Biographical Summary

Full Name: Elmo Russell Zumwalt,Jr.
Date of Birth: 29 November 1920
Date of Death: 2 January 2000

Prominent Assignments:

Nominated on 14 April 1970 by President Nixon to serve as Chief of Naval Operations. Became CNO with rank of Admiral from 1 July 1970 to 1 July 1974.

Served as Commander U. S. Naval Forces, Vietnam and Chief of the Naval Advisory Group, U. S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, from 1 October 1968 to 15 May 1970.

As Director of the Chief of Naval Operations Systems Analysis Group from August 1966 to August 1968, he organized and directed the Systems Analysis Division and served as Deputy Scientific Officer to the Center for Naval Analyses.

Served as Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla SEVEN from July 1965 to July 1966.


1939 Valedictorian of Tulare High School, Tulare, CA
1939 Rutherford Preparatory School, Long Beach, CA
1942 Cum Laude Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD
1953 Naval War College, Newport, RI
1962 National War College, Washington, DC

Other Highlights:

Eagle Scout.
Served as Commanding Officer of the first ship built from the keel up as a guided-missile ship USS Dewey (DLG-14)
Was prize crew officer of captured Japanese gunboat Ataka, captured at mouth of Yangtze River near end of WW II.
At age 44, the youngest naval officer ever promoted to Rear Admiral.
At age 49, the youngest four-star Admiral in U. S. naval history, and the youngest to serve as Chief of Naval Operations.


Elmo Russell Zumwalt, Jr., was born in San Francisco, California, on 29 November 1920, son of Dr. E. H. Zumwalt and Dr. Frances Zumwalt. He attended Tulare (California) Union High School, where he was an Eagle Scout and Class Valedictorian and the Rutherford Preparatory School, at Long Beach, California, before his appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from his native state in 1939. As a Midshipman ho was President of the Trident Society, Vice President of the Quarterback Society, twice winner of the June Week Public Speaking Contest (1940, 1941) , Company Commander in 1941 and Regimental Three Striper in 1942, and participated in intercollegiate debating. Graduated with distinction and commissioned Ensign on 19 June 1942, with the Class of 1943, he subsequently progressed to the rank of Admiral, to date from 1 July 1970.

Following graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1942, he joined the destroyer USS Phelps, and in August 1943 was detached f or instruction in the Operational Training Command, Pacific, at San Francisco, California. In January 1944 he reported on board the USS Robinson, and for "heroic service as Evaluator in the Combat Information Center... (of that destroyer), in action against enemy Japanese battleships during the Battle for Leyte Gulf, 25 October 1944.. ." he was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat "V." The citation further states:

"During a torpedo attack on enemy battleships, Lieutenant Zumwalt furnished information indispensable to the success of the attack..."

After the cessation of hostilities in August 1945, until December 8th of that year, he commanded (as prize crew officer) HIMJS Ataka, a 1200-ton Japanese river gunboat with two hundred officers and men. In that capacity he took the first ship since the outbreak of World War II, flying the United States flag, up the Whangpoo River to Shanghai. There they helped to restore order and assisted in disarming the Japanese.

He next served as Executive Officer of the destroyer USS Saufley, and in March 1946 was transferred to the destroyer USS Zellars, as Executive Officer and Navigator. In January 1948 he was assigned to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Unit of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he remained until June 1950. That month he assumed command of USS Tills, in commission in reserve status. That destroyer escort was placed in full active commission at Charleston Naval Shipyard on 21 November 1950, and he continued to command her until March 1951, when he joined the battleship USS Wisconsin as Navigator.

"For meritorious service as Navigator of USS Wisconsin during combat operations against enemy North Korean and Chinese Communist forces in the Korean Theater from 23 November 1951 to 30 March 1952..." he received a Letter of Commendation, with Ribbon and Combat "V," from Commander Seventh Fleet. The letter continues: "As Navigator his competence and untiring diligence in assuring safe navigation of the ship enabled the commanding officer to devote the greater part of his attention to planning and gunfire Operations. His performance of duty was consistently Superior in bringing the ship through dangerously mined and restricted waters, frequently under adverse conditions and poor visibility. He assisted in the planning of the combat operations... (and) piloted Wisconsin into the closest possible inshore positions in which maximum effect could be obtained by gunfire..."

Detached from USS Wisconsin in June 1952, he attended the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and in June 1953 reported as Head of the Shore and Overseas Bases Section, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, D. C. He also served as Officer and Enlisted Requirements Officer and as Action Officer on Medicare Legislation. Completing that tour of duty in July 1955, he assumed command of the destroyer USS Arnold J. Isbell, participating in two deployments to the Seventh Fleet. In this assignment he was commended by the Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet for winning the Battle Efficiency Competition for his ship and for winning Excellence Awards in Engineering, Gunnery, Antisubmarine Warfare, and Operations. In July 1957 he returned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel for further duty. In December 1957 he was transferred to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Personnel and Reserve Forces), and served as Special Assistant for Naval Personnel until November 1958, then as Special Assistant and Naval Aide until August 1959.

Ordered to the first ship built from the keel up as a guided missile ship, USS Dewey (DLG-14), building at the Bath (Maine) Iron Works, he assumed command of that guided missile frigate at her commissioning in December 1959, and commanded her until June 1961. During this period of his command, Dewey earned the Excellence Award in Engineering, Supply, Weapons, and was runner-up in the Battle Efficiency Competition. He was a student at the National War College, Washington, D. C., during the 1961-1962 class year. In June he was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs), Washington, D. C., where he served first as Desk Officer for France, Spain and Portugal, then as Director of Arms Control and Contingency Planning for Cuba. From December 1963 until 21 June 1965 he served as Executive Assistant and Senior Aide to the Honorable Paul H. Nitze, Secretary of the Navy. For duty in his tour in the offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

After his selection for the rank of Rear Admiral, he assumed command in July 1965 of Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Seven. "For exceptionally meritorious service..." in that capacity, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a Second Legion of Merit. In August 1966 he became Director of the Chief of Naval Operations Systems Analysis Group, Washington, D. C., and for "exceptionally meritorious service... as Director, Systems Analysis Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Deputy Scientific Officer to the Center for Naval Analyses, during the period from August 1966 to August 1968..." he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. The citation further states in part:

"Rear Admiral Zumwalt, by direction of the Chief of Naval Operations, established the Systems Analysis Division and rapidly developed it into a highly effective, responsive organization. Under his leadership, the division has assisted in generating within the Navy a better understanding of requirements, problems and a more effective presentation of those requirements in major program areas which will strongly influence the combat capabilities of U. S. Naval Forces through the next generation. (He) has displayed exceptional acumen, integrity, tact and diplomacy as personal representative of the Chief of Naval Operations, not only in dealings within the Department of Defense, but also in testifying before Congressional Committees. Among the major analyses completed under his direct supervision were the major Fleet Escort, Antisubmarine Warfare Force Level, Tactical Air, Surface-to-Surface Missile, and War-at-Sea Studies. Additionally, under Rear Admiral Zumwalt's guidance, the Center for Naval Analyses has been restructured, and its methodologies clearly defined with such precision as to ensure that completed studies will reflect thoroughness, comprehensiveness and accuracy when subjected to closest scrutiny..."

In September 1968 he became Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam and Chief of the Naval Advisory Group, U. S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. President Richard M. Nixon nominated him as Chief of Naval Operations on 14 April 1970. Upon being relieved as Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam, on 15 May 1970, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service. He assumed command as Chief of Naval Operations on 1 July 1970 and retired from that position on 1 July 1974. In 1976, he unsuccessfully ran as a Democratic candidate for the Senate from Virginia. Later he held the presidency of the American Medical Building Corporation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Admiral Zumwalt died on 2 January 2000 at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC. His home was in Arlington, Virginia. He was married to the former Mouza Coutelais-du-Roche of Harbin, Manchuria, and they had two sons, Elmo R. Zumwalt III, who died of cancer in 1988, and James Gregory Zumwalt, and two daughters, Ann F. Zumwalt Coppola and Mouza C. Zumwalt-Weathers. He was also survived by six grandchildren.

Transcript of Naval Service:

29 Nov 1920 Born in San Francisco, CA
7 Jun 1939 Midshipman, U. S. Naval Academy
19 Jun 1942 Ensign
1 May 1943 Lieutenant (junior grade)
1 Jul 1944 Lieutenant
1 Apr 1950 Lieutenant Commander
1 Feb 1955 Commander
1 Jul 1961 Captain
1 Jul 1965 Rear Admiral
1 Oct 1968 Vice Admiral
1 Jul 1970 Admiral
1 Jul 1974 Retired
Ships and Stations: From To
USS Phelps (DD-360) Jun 1942 Aug 1943
USS Robinson (DD-562) Jan 1944 Oct 1945
USS Saufley (DD-465) Dec 1945 Mar 1946
USS Zellars (DD-777) Mar 1946 Jan 1948
NROTC Unit, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC (Asst. Professor of Naval Science) Jan 1948 Jun 1950
USS Tills (DE-748) (Commanding Officer) Jun 1950 Mar 1951
USS Wisconsin (BB-64) (Navigator) Mar 1951 Jun 1952
Naval War College, Newport, RI (student) Jun 1952 Jun 1953
Bureau of Naval Personnel, Washington, DC Jun 1953 Jul 1955
USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869) (Commanding Officer) Jul 1955 Jul 1957
Bureau of Naval Personnel, Washington, DC (Lieutenant Officer) Jul 1957 Dec 1957
Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Personnel and Reserve Forces (Special Assistant for Naval Personnel) Dec 1957 Nov 1958
(Special Assistant and Naval Aide) Nov 1958 Aug 1959
USS Dewey (DLG-14) (Commanding Officer) Dec 1959 Jun 1961
National War College, Washington, DC (student) Aug 1961 Jun 1962
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for ISA (Desk Officer) Jun 1962 Dec 1963
Office of the Secretary of the Navy (Executive Assistant and Senior Aide) Dec 1963 Jun 1965
Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla SEVEN Jul 1965 Jul 1966
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (Director, Systems Analysis Division) Aug 1966 Aug 1968
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Vietnam and Chief, Naval Advisory Group, Vietnam Sep 1968 May 1970
Chief of Naval Operations Jul 1970 Jul 1974

Medals And Decorations:

Medal of Freedom (the U.S.'s highest civilian award)
Distinguished Service Medal with two Gold Stars
Legion of Merit with one Gold Star
Bronze Star with Combat "V"
Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"
Navy Unit Citation
China Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal with Bronze Letter "A"
American Campaign Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal with one star
Korean Service Medal with two stars
Vietnam Service Medal with seven stars (1 Silver, 2 Bronze)
World War II Victory Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with seven stars (1 Silver, 2 Bronze)
Order of Military Merit (Korea) - Third Class
Order of the Rising Sun (Japan) - First Class
National Order of Vietnam Medal - Third Class
Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm
Vietnamese Navy Distinguished Service Order - First Class
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation
Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two stars
United Nations Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device
Gran Maestre De La Onion De Mayo, Al Merito Naval (Argentina)
Naval Merit in the Grade of High Officer (Bolivia)
Medal of Grand Official of the Order of Naval Merit (Brazil)
Order of the, Southern Cross, Degree of Grand Cross (Brazil)
Great Star of Military Merit of Chile
The Order of Admirante Padilla in the Grade of Gran Official (Colombia)
Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez y Mella, in the Grade of Great Silver Cross (Dominican. Republic)
Legion D'Honneur in the Rank of Commander (France)
Grand Cross - Second Class of the Order of Merit (Germany)
Grand Cross of the Division of King George I (Greece)
Jalasena First Class (Indonesia)
Grande Croce Del Ordine Al Merito Repubblica Italiana Medale (Italy)
Order of Orange - Nassau (Military Division) (Grand Officer) (Netherlands)
Knighthood Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Sword (Sweden)
Naval Order of Merit First Class (Venezuela)
First Class Civil Actions Medal (Vietnam)
Order of National Security Merit Tong-Il (Korea)
Grand Cross of St. Olav (Norway)
Commander in the Order of Leopold (Belgium)

Honorary Degrees
Doctor of Law, Villanova University
Doctor of Human Letters, United States International University
Doctor of Public Service, Central Michigan University

Civilian Activities

Visiting University Professor:
Vanderbilt University, 1974-1975
(Department of Political Science; Graduate School of Management)

Guest Lecturer:
University of Pennsylvania, 1974-1975
(Political. Science Department)
Stanford University, 1974
(Graduate. School of Management; Graduate School of Journalism, Political Science Department)

Member of the Board of Directors:
Phelps-Stokes Fund
Esmark, Inc.
Presidential Classroom for Young Americans
Organization Resources Counselors, Inc.
Basic Industries, Inc.


Member, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
Chairman, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Founder, Marrow Foundation
Director, National Marrow Donor Program
Director, Vietnam Assistance to the Handicapped Foundation
Served on the International Consortium for Research on the Health Effects of Radiation
Chairman, National Council of the Vietnam Center, Texas Tech University
Chairman, Board of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation


Zumwalt, Elmo Jr. On Watch: A Memoir. New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., 1976.

Zumwalt, Elmo Jr. and Elmo Zumwalt III. My Father, My Son. New York: Macmillan, 1986.

Related Resources:

Meritorious Unit Commendations certifications, signed by Admiral Zumwalt

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) was laid down on 17 November 2011 at Bath, Maine.


Published: Wed Dec 02 09:06:27 EST 2020