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.
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
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
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
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