Today, we remember US Navy Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, the only Sailor to rise from Seaman Recruit up through the ranks to four-star admiral and the highest ranking office in the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations.
Admiral Boorda died on this date: May 16, 1996. He was 56 years old (November 26, 1939 – May 16, 1996).
Admiral Boorda lied to the recruiter and enlisted in the Navy at 16 (some sources say 17), not unlike many of his era. He was often referred to as a “Sailor’s Sailor” and never forgot the “White Hats” from which he came.
He finished high school while in the Navy and rose through the ranks to Personnelman First Class (E-6) before being commissioned an Ensign under the Navy Integration Program in August, 1962.
Admiral Boorda died of an alleged suicide following a dispute regarding whether or not he was authorized to wear a combat “V” on two of his decorations. He was distraught over the unintentional wearing of the award and allegedly committed suicide rather than cause more trouble over that dispute for his US Navy.
I was privileged to meet Admiral Boorda several times at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD, following my retirement from the Navy.
Admiral Boorda was a hero to those of us who served during his tenure and who respected his service to our US Navy.
May Admiral Jeremy “Mike” Boorda Rest In Peace in Eternity.
The Navy lost an incredible leader and Sailor 25 years ago on May 16, 1996, when Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jeremy “Mike” Boorda took his own life. He will always be remembered as a “Sailor’s Sailor,” having risen from Seaman Recruit (E-1) to Admiral (O-10), the only Sailor ever to do so.
These remembrance photos posted on the anniversary of Admiral Boorda’s death were taken over the years by photojournalist and friend, Harold Gerwien. Harry’s essay below contains more on this amazing Sailor: Admiral Mike Boorda.
In 1956 a 16-year-old high school dropout lied to a Navy recruiter about his age and joined the Navy. Thirty-nine years later he had risen to the highest rank and the highest office in the U.S. Navy: Four Star Admiral and Chief of Naval Operations. Seaman recruit to four-star Admiral and CNO had never been done till Admiral Mike Boorda came along.
He truly was a Sailor’s Sailor!
Our paths crossed several times before I retired and after. He visited Norfolk many times and as a photographer for the newspaper Soundings I was privileged to have covered those visits. He always remembered me and called me by my name. I felt real special.
He was always the guy with the warm smile and can-do-attitude. He was a man of his word.
He always carried a little green notebook; the Navy calls them Wheel house books! He would listen to sailors’ complaints or suggestions and write them down so as not to forget them.
For most of us, his suicide came as a complete shock. It has been 25-years. He has not been forgotten. Tens of thousands of sailors still remember Admiral Boorda.
Above are some photos I took over the years.
My favorite is the close-up and the warm smile.
At the commissioning of the USS Chief, Admiral Mike Boorda pauses with the side-boys as honors are rendered.
Two weeks prior to his death, I had a visit for an interview and photo session at his office in the Pentagon.
The last photo is on the flight deck of USS Saratoga, Mayport Florida, May 1987. My dear friend and shipmate, Jeff Doty took a photo of me at work with then, one-star Admiral Boorda and my boss Secretary of the Navy James H. Webb Jr. — Harold Gerwien, Photojournalist
I first met Admiral Boorda in person in the 1990s when I was working as a civilian at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.
Admiral Boorda made several trips out to Bethesda and on many occasions, we made arrangements for him to film segments there for Navy News This Week, a weekly Navy video news program. Watching him during those visits, I was amazed at how he routinely put all the Sailors around him at ease. He ALWAYS took the time to talk to any Sailor who had a question for him and he answered honestly and forthright every time.
I so admired and respected Admiral Mike Boorda. His like will not pass this way again, soon.