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Admiral Mike Boorda

Admiral Mike Boorda was an American military leader, Chief of Naval Operations (1994-96), and member of the U.S. Navy (1956-96).

He committed suicide in 1996, on the day a newsmagazine was to interview him regarding the possibility he was wearing a Vietnam Service combat decoration, to which he was not entitled.

Admiral Boorda
Admiral Boorda
Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Jeremy Michael Boorda

Date and place of birth: November 26, 1939, South Bend, Indiana, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: May 16, 1996, at 2:30 p.m., District of Columbia General Hospital, Washington, D.C. (Suicide - Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest)

Wife: Bettie May Moran

Sons: David Boorda, Edward Boorda and Robert Boorda
Daughter: Anna Boorda

Father: Herman Boorda (a grocer/merchant/naval veteran)
Mother: Trudy Boorda

Burial site: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.


Admiral Boorda was the first person to rise through the Navy's enlisted ranks to become chief of naval operations. He was the first CNO in U.S. Navy history who wasn't a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Prior to his appointment as chief of naval operations he commanded North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in southern Europe (1991-94), enforcing UN sanctions against the warring factions in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. In that capacity, he ordered the first offensive action in NATO's history, namely, the strikes against Bosnian Serb aircraft violating the no-fly zone. He served as Chief of Naval Personnel (1988-91), was weapons officer on a destroyer, captain of a minesweeper and a destroyer, and commanded various battle groupings.

By the time of his appointment as chief of naval operations on April 23rd, 1994, the Navy's image was severely tarnished, and it was hoped Boorda would restore the reputation of a service shaken by scandal.

The Admiral committed suicide the very day Newsweek magazine was scheduled to question him about whether he was wearing a Vietnam Service combat decoration, to which he was not entitled. In one of his two suicide notes, he acknowledged he'd made a mistake in wearing a Combat V on his decorations, normally awarded for service in combat. He said that he'd mistakenly believed he was entitled to them, but worried that some would never see his action as an honest mistake. The suicide note expressed concern that the controversy over the medals would cause a scandal and further besmirch the Navy's image. (Wearing an unauthorized decoration is a severe breach of military protocol.)

While the Admiral's close aides were shocked and puzzled by his suicide, his closest friends and family knew he felt besieged. There was continuing fallout from the Tailhook scandal, calls for the Admiral's resignation from other Naval leaders, and the aforementioned Vietnam War medals controversy.

While Boorda was never authorized in writing to attach the combat "V" decorations, Retired Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, the chief of naval operations during the Vietnam War, recalled delivering oral instructions during the war, "in over 100 visits to ships and shore stations," authorizing the wearing of such awards, "for duty in the combat zone of Vietnam," Adm. Zumwalt said in his letter, which was put in Boorda's service record. Officials concluded, "statements as the official military spokesman for the Navy made it appropriate, justified and proper for Mike to wear the combat V."

Adm. Boorda was proud of his Navy progeny: his two younger sons were naval officers (Lieutenant Commander Robert Boorda and Commander Ed Boorda), a daughter-in-law, Brenda Boorda was a naval officer, and his son-in-law, Bob Dowling, a lawyer for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

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