Admiral Mike Boorda: An Amazing Sailor Died 25 Years Ago

by HB Auld, Jr. and Harold Gerwien

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.


A Sailor’s Sailor

Harold Gerwein

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.

Rest your oars, Sir. We have the Watch!

God bless you, Sir! — HB Auld, Jr., Author


Exploits of Our Fledgling Navy

The commissioning of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ ship, the USS ALFRED

by Tara Ross

On this day in 1776, the Continental Navy captures the HMS Bolton. The Bolton was the second British ship to be captured in only two days.

The episode marked the first time that an American ship had been able to take an armed British ship. What a moment that must have been! If only the Americans could have maintained their momentum.

Instead, they suffered an embarrassing loss the very next day at the hands of the HMS Glasgow.

Commodore Esek Hopkins’s newly created fleet of Continental Navy ships was then returning from its maiden voyage to the Bahamas. The voyage had been a smashing success! The Americans had completed a daring raid on Nassau, and they’d taken a huge stash of ammunition for American forces.

At first, it seemed that the trip home might produce even more naval successes for the Americans. On April 4, Hopkins’s fleet spotted and captured a British ship near Long Island: the 6-gun Hawke. The next day, Americans captured the 12-gun Bolton.

Unfortunately, those victories would come at a cost.

Hopkins could not keep the British ships as prizes without also moving some of his sailors to the two captured ships. Of course, he didn’t really have enough men to begin with. So while the British captures increased the size of his fleet, now his ships were badly undermanned, too.

It wouldn’t be long before the American fleet would feel the effects of the move.

Just after midnight on April 6, a portion of Hopkins’s fleet crossed paths with the HMS Glasgow. Could Glasgow be a third prize ship? A signal was given and five of Hopkins’s ships were soon gathered, ready to attack.

The battle that followed lasted for more than two hours. The Glasgow was smaller than the American flagship, but her men were well-trained and efficient. By contrast, the Americans were not used to working together, and their ships were undermanned to begin with. “Two hours had passed,” historian Tim McGrath notes, “before three American ships were in a position to fight in unison.”

Only then did the Americans begin to get the better of Glasgow, prompting the British ship to withdraw. The Americans took off in pursuit, until Hopkins came to a startling realization: Glasgow was leading him straight toward a squadron of British vessels. There was no way that the battered American ships could withstand a second, larger battle. Hopkins turned his ships around.

All in all, the episode was a bit of an embarrassment for the new Continental Navy. How could Americans lose to a British ship when they’d outnumbered it so badly?!

Fortunately, the Navy’s story does not end there. Perhaps the sailors would have been encouraged if they could have seen what would eventually happen to their fledgling Continental Navy.

After all, that little navy was a predecessor for a far more powerful fighting force: the United States Navy!

P.S. The painting is of Hopkins’s ship, the Alfred, being commissioned in 1775.

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Editor’s Note:

The guest author of today’s article is one who frequently contributes here: Tara Ross. Ms. Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! You can follow her for information on pretty much anything to do with the Electoral College, George Washington, & our wonderfully rich American heritage.


Medal of Honor Recipient: Navy LT(jg) Tom Hudner

 

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On this date 68 years ago, December 4, 1950, a young US Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade risked his life to save a fellow naval aviator.

LT(jg) Tom Hudner and ENS Jesse Brown were both providing air support for US Marines on the ground in Korea.  Here is their story, as told by writer and historian Tara Ross:

By Tara Ross

During this week in 1950, Lt. (J.G.) Thomas Hudner crash lands in Korea. He was trying to save the life of Ensign Jesse Brown, the first black aviator in the U.S. Navy.

Not that Tom thought of Jesse that way. When Tom looked at Jesse, he didn’t see “the first black aviator.” He simply saw a friend. And he couldn’t leave his friend to die.

The Korean War was then waging, and Tom and Jesse were both assigned to USS Leyte. Their job was to provide air support for U.S. Marines on the ground. Unfortunately, things took a bad turn on December 4, 1950.

Jesse’s plane had taken a mortal hit. He had to land somewhere—and fast. Tom stayed on Jesse’s wing the whole way down, helping him through check lists. Then he watched his friend’s crash landing with dread, searching for signs of life.

What a relief when he saw Jesse waving from the wreckage! And what confusion when Jesse didn’t get out of the plane. What was wrong? Wisps of smoke began to waft from the plane, providing even more cause for worry.

“When I realized that Jesse’s airplane may burst into flame before [a helicopter] could get there,” Tom later said, “I made a decision to make a wheels-up landing, crash close enough to his airplane and pull him out of the cockpit and wait for the helicopter to come.”

Think about that. Tom had just witnessed a crash landing in terrible conditions. The weather was unbelievably cold, hovering around 0 degrees. Tom had been afraid that Jesse wouldn’t survive—but now he was determined to replicate the same nearly impossible feat.

“The ground seemed to rush at me as I hit,” Tom later reported, “and then I was out of control, snowplowing across the field and hoping I was going to end up somewhere close to Jesse.”

He’d done it. His back hurt so much that he thought he’d broken something, but he got out of his mangled plane, working through deep snow to find his friend.

The situation was serious. Jesse was alive, but his knee was trapped. Flames were sputtering, threatening to engulf the plane. Tom shoved snow on the fire to contain it. He pulled and pulled on Jesse, but to no avail. He wrapped Jesse’s hands and feet to ward off freezing temperatures. Both men waited, together, for a rescue helicopter.

Jesse was calm and composed. “When we were on the ground, he was calming me down,” Tom later told Daisy, Jesse’s widow, “when I should have been the one calming him down.”

Jesse seemed to be slipping in and out of consciousness. Finally, he revived enough to say: “Just tell Daisy how much I love her.”

After 40 long minutes, the helicopter finally arrived. Tom got an ax and swung it at Jesse’s plane repeatedly, but to no avail. Night was falling. The helicopter pilot gave Tom a choice: stay or go?

Tom still wavered. It was suicide to stay overnight in those freezing temperatures. He was prepared to stay if Jesse were alive, but Jesse had been unresponsive for a while.

“I made the decision to go with Charlie,” Tom later said. “I told Jesse we were going back to get equipment . . . I don’t know if he heard me. I don’t know if he was alive at the time.”

Tom felt sure that he would be court-martialed! He wasn’t supposed to crash land, even to save a fellow pilot. What a surprise when he was recommended for the Medal of Honor instead?

“There has been no finer act of unselfish heroism in military history,” the captain of Tom’s aircraft carrier would say.

Captain Thomas Hudner passed away about a year ago, at the age of 93. RIP, sir.

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Editor’s Note:

Tara Ross is a mother, wife, writer, and retired lawyer. She is the author of The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule,Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College, co-author of Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State (with Joseph C. Smith, Jr.), & We Elect A President: The Story of our Electoral College. She is a constitutionalist, but with a definite libertarian streak! 


 

John S. McCain III: US Senator, US Naval Aviator, and Vietnam Prisoner of War dies at 81

 

 

John S. McCain III, senior Republican Senator from Arizona, passed away today from brain cancer. He was 81 years old.

Just yesterday, his family and he announced he had decided to cease taking his medications for the cancer. He must have known then that the end was near.

Senator McCain came from a line of distinguished naval officers. His father and his grandfather were both Admirals in the US Navy. Senator McCain also served in the Navy, flying A-1 Skyraiders on the aircraft carriers USS INTREPID (CV 11) and USS ENTERPRISE (CV 6). Later, he requested a combat assignment and flew A-4 Skyhawks aboard the USS FORRESTAL (CV 59) and USS ORISKANY (CV 34). It was while serving in FORRESTAL that his aircraft was involved in a shipboard fire that resulted in 134 Sailors dying in the fire. He was transferred to ORISKANY soon afterward. It was on October 26, 1967, while flying combat missions as a Lieutenant Commander from ORISKANY that he was shot down over Vietnam, captured, and held as a Prisoner of War. He was ultimately released from imprisonment in North Vietnam after five and a half years on March 14, 1973. He retired from the United States Navy on April 1, 1981, at the rank of Captain after 22 years of service.

Senator McCain was elected to Congress as a Republican US Representative from Arizona in 1983. Senator McCain advanced to serving in the US Senate in January, 1987, after his election in November, 1986. He frequently referred to himself as a “maverick Republican” during his time in the Senate.

He published his memoir, Faith of My Fathers, in August, 1999. He ran against Texas Governor George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, losing to Governor Bush who would go on to win the presidency in 2000. Senator McCain ran again in 2008, as the Republican standard bearer, but lost the presidency to President Barack Obama.

Senator McCain served six terms as the Republican Senator from Arizona. He last cast a vote in the US Senate in December, 2017, after which, he returned to Arizona to continue treatment for brain cancer.

He and his family announced yesterday that he would no longer undergo cancer treatment. He died today, August 25, 2018, at 4:28 p.m. local time, surrounded by his wife, Cindy (Hensley) McCain, and his family.

Rest In Peace, Shipmate. We have the Watch.

 

 

 

Happy birthday, Chief Petty Officers

This Sunday, April 1, 2018, US Navy Chief Petty Officers throughout the world will pause to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Chief Petty Officer rate.

Chief Petty Officers trace their heritage to April 1, 1893, and since that date, have been the “backbone of the Navy” and at the forefront of Navy Deckplate Leadership. Since that date, the tradition has been to tell those seeking knowledge, to “Go Ask the Chief.”

Happy birthday to all US Navy Chief Petty Officers everywhere.

 

Always Remember, that Day in December!

December 7, 1941 photo

Today, December 7, 2015, is the 74th anniversary of that “…day that will live forever in infamy” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it.  The below was written by my good friend, Jeff Morley.  He has described that day and its remembrances far better than I could.  His essay is published here with his permission.

By Jeff Morley, Guest Contributor

Today some 74 years ago in history, the USA was dragged kicking and screaming into war. Before then, we told the Axis powers to leave us alone and Churchill told us he needed our help. If the Axis Powers had paid attention to what we’d told them, England, France, and practically all of Western Europe with a good portion of Eastern Europe along with Africa would have had a drastically different history, a much darker history at that for most of those places. But the Axis Powers paid us no heed. We said don’t mess with us and they delivered one hell of a sucker punch to us in Hawaii on a sleepy Sunday morning. They should not have done that. They should have left this peace loving nation alone.

The world should never forget December 7th of 1941…unfortunately, most of the world has, to their peril. The United States should not either…unfortunately too many of our people have, to our peril.

I thank the US Navy for their sacrifice that day and I honor the sacrifice of our service men and women today in remembrance of that day “that will live forever in infamy”

Remember Pearl Harbor, remember the sacrifice of those brave sailors while you say a prayer for our men and women making the same sacrifices today, but most of all, teach this next generation about our past and the wounds of our predecessors.

God bless the warriors that guard our seas today, God bless the memory of those that guarded our seas yesterday.

50-Year Anniversary in the US Navy

Today is the 50th anniversary of the day I joined the US Navy.

I raised my right hand and swore to defend the US Constitution August 31, 1965. That naive 19-year old had never been out of deep East Texas, never flown on an airplane, and certainly never thought about seeing the world. It would be another 120 days due to the Delayed Entry Program, before I departed East Texas for Navy Basic Training in San Diego, arriving there the night of December 28, 1965.

Today is also the 28th anniversary of my retirement from the US Navy. I retired in 1987, 22 years after originally joining in 1965.

In between, the Navy allowed me to travel the world and see cultures and things I never would have had an opportunity to see otherwise. I passed through or was stationed in: California, Florida, New York, Hawaii, Alaska, and Indiana, as well as: Japan, Guam, Okinawa (before it was given back to Japan in 1972), Nova Scotia, Scotland, England, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

My two sons were both born overseas in Scotland and Okinawa, and attended school in Italy, getting an education that would not have otherwise been possible, were it not for the US Navy.

I made friends all over the world in all five branches of the US military services, as well as other countries. Many of these remain friends of mine today.

What a wonderful ride it was. Today is an important day in my life.

Navy Veteran patch

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr. on Chief Petty Officers

Admiral Bull Halsey

Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, Jr., US Navy

At the end of WWII, all the towns and cities across the country were looking for a “Hero” to celebrate America’s victory with, Los Angeles chose Admiral Halsey and had a ceremony on the steps of the LA County courthouse to honor America’s hero and at the end of it when Admiral Halsey was leaving, they had a line of sideboys.


The sideboys were active duty and retired Chief Petty Officers that
had been brought in from all over the country who had served with
Admiral Halsey at one point in their careers.


Admiral Halsey approached one of the retired Chiefs, and they winked
at each other.


Later on that evening at a reception for Admiral Halsey, one of the civilian guests at the event asked the Admiral about the wink he shared with the Chief. Admiral Halsey explained, “That man was my Chief when I was an Ensign, and no one before or after taught me as much about ships or men as he did.


You civilians don’t understand. You go down to Long Beach and you see those battleships sitting there, and you think that they float on water, don’t you?”


The guest replied, “Yes, sir, I guess I do.”


To which Admiral Halsey stated, “You are wrong. They are carried to sea on the backs of those Chief Petty Officers.”

— ADMIRAL WILLIAM F. “BULL” HALSEY, JR.

Master Chief Journalist Dennis Stanley Reinke Passes Away

I just learned tonight that retired US Navy Master Chief Journalist Dennis Stanley Reinke passed away a few months ago.  He was 71 years old. Below is Master Chief Reinke’s obituary. RIP, Shipmate.

Dennis Stanley Reinke was born Jan. 4, 1942, in Worthing, S.D., to the late William Stanley Reinke and the late Matie Stroman Reinke. He grew up in Hill City and graduated from Hill City High School in 1960. He attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology until he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1961.

During his 26-year career, Reinke served in assignments as a journalist at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, Alameda Naval Station, San Francisco, Calif., was a journalism instructor at the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., served two tours in Vietnam; public affairs officer at Naval Air Station, Capodochino, Naples, Italy, and manager of the public affairs office at Naval Support Activity, Naples, Italy. He then served as detailer of the journalist and draftsmen communities in the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C. His final assignment was in the Directorate of Freedom of Information and Security Review, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Master Chief Reinke retired from the Navy in 1987.

Following his Navy retirement, Reinke served as an operations research specialist in the Department of Defense, offices of the Joint Staff, Directorate of Information Management. He retired from that position in 2000.

Reinke was a member of the Little White Church and regularly attended Immanuel Bible Church (IBC) in Springfield, Va., until he became home bound. He co-managed the Treasure Chest Ministry at the IBC for two years. He also was a member of the Fleet Reserve Association and Naval Order of the United States.

Reinke died Sunday, March 10, 2013, at Potomac Center, Arlington, Va. He was 71.
He is survived by his wife, Sharon, of 43 years; sister, Sharon Paschke; brother-in-law, William Paschke; nephew, Rodney (Julie) Paschke, of Jordan, Mont.; niece Karla Paschke, of Murray lowa,; two grand-nieces; and one grand-nephew.

A committal service with military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

Wounded Warrior Project

From a shipmate:

Wounded Warrior Project

Surface Navy Association

GreaterWashington Chapter

For the past two years, the Greater Washington Chapter of the Surface Navy Association has conducted a campaign to assist our wounded shipmates recovering at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  We collected more than 800 DVDs for the Sailors and Marines to enjoy during their recuperation.  The following year we collected funds and donated 155 portable DVD players.

This year we want to do something very meaningful for those of our shipmates limited in their ability to get out and around the Washington area during their convalescence.  We have determined that Operation Second Chance provides many valuable services to military men and women, and would greatly benefit from a conversion van equipped to transport wheelchair patients in and around the D.C. area to attend sporting events, concerts, and otherwise get out and about.

This is an expensive proposition, but very important for those men and women who are virtually stuck in the hospital.  We have carefully looked at Operation Second Chance and are very impressed with the organization and the services it provides.

Therefore, SNA GWC is seeking to help OSC raise $30,000 to purchase a conversion van modified by Adaptive Mobility Systems, Inc. (AMS Vans).  If interested in making a donation, please commence your contribution at the SNA website:

https://www.navysna.org/Events/OperationSecondChance.asp

After completing the SNA form, you will be directed to the OSC website fundraising page for donations.  (When prompted “How did your hear about OSC?” click on Surface Navy Association.)  Your donation will be made directly to OSC, but we want to track our progress so we can follow our progress to attaining our $30,000 goal.

Our goal is to help OSC raise the $30,000 by December 15th.  If we exceed the $30,000, the additional funds will be available to OSC for insurance, registration, maintenance and operating costs for the van.

Please share this appeal with others who share our concern for those shipmates who had made a very great sacrifice in service to their nation and security and freedom everywhere.

For information about SNA, visit  www.navysna.org

For information about OSC, visit http://www.operationsecondchance.org/About.htm

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