Arleigh Albert Burke, USN
For Veteran's Day we will feature Admiral Arleigh Albert Burke as our pipe personality of the month. Burke, often pictured smoking a pipe was nicknamed "31-Knot Burke" because he usually pushed his destroyers to just under boiler-bursting speed, but while en route to a rendezvous prior to the Battle of Cape St. George, a boiler casualty to USS Spence (a jammed boiler tube brush used for cleaning) limited his squadron to 31 knots, rather than the 34+ of which they were otherwise capable. His nickname became "31 Knot Burke," originally a taunt, later a popular symbol of his hard-charging nature. An alternative explanation is provided by Jean Edward Smith in his biography of Eisenhower: "During World War Two, Burke mistakenly led his destroyer squadron into a Japanese minefield. Admiral Halsey radioed to ask what he was doing in a Japanese minefield. ‘Thirty-one knots,’ replied Burke”. Admiral Burke was named Pipe Smoker of the Year in 1958. "A man of action, a man of peace who knows how to relax with a pipe."
Arleigh Albert Burke (October 19, 1901 – January 1, 1996) was an admiral of the United States Navy who distinguished himself during World War II and the Korean War, and who served as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations.
Burke won an alternate appointment to the United States Naval Academy given by his local congressman. He graduated from the academy in June 1923, and was commissioned as an ensign in the United States Navy. Over the next 18 years, Burke served aboard battleships and destroyers, and earned a Master of Science in Engineering at the University of Michigan. When World War II came, he found himself, to his great disappointment, in a shore billet at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, D.C. After persistent efforts on his part, in 1943 he received orders to join the fighting in the South Pacific
World War II
Burke spent the remainder of the war in the South Pacific. He successively commanded Destroyer Division 43, Destroyer Division 44, Destroyer Squadron 12, and Destroyer Squadron 23. DesRon 23, known as the "Little Beavers", covered the initial landings in Bougainville in November 1943, and fought in 22 separate engagements during the next four months. During this time, the Little Beavers were credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft. In March 1944, Burke was promoted to Chief of Staff to the Commander of Task Force 58, the Fifth Fleet's Fast Carrier Task Force. After the end of the war Burke took command of the cruiser USS Huntington for a cruise down the east coast of Africa. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1949 and served as Navy Secretary on the Defense Research and Development Board.
In April 1954, he took command of Cruiser Division Six, then moved in January 1955 to command Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet (DesLant). In August 1955, Burke succeeded Admiral Robert B. Carney as Chief of Naval Operations. At the time of his appointment as Chief of Naval Operations, Burke was still a rear admiral, upper half (two star) and was promoted over the heads of many Flag Officers who were senior to him. Burke had never served as a vice admiral (three star), so he was promoted two grades at the time of his appointment.
Burke took the post of Chief of Naval Operations with significant reservations. He served at a critical time in world history, during the depths of the Cold War. He was relatively young compared to other Flag Officers at the time. He was a hard worker, and seemingly tireless, working fifteen-hour work days six days a week as a norm. He was also an excellent leader and manager, and his ability to create an effective organization were keys to his success. Burke served an unprecedented three terms as Chief of Naval Operations during a period of growth and progress in the Navy. Upon completing his third term, he was transferred to the Retired List on August 1, 1961.
Part of Burke's legacy is the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), the lead ship of her class of Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers, was commissioned in his honor in 1991. In 1985, a few months after the ship was ordered, an early keel-laying ceremony was held at Bath Iron Works. Burke marked his initials on material that was later incorporated at the physical keel-laying on December 6, 1988. Burke was one of the few individuals to be honored by a ship named after them during their lifetime.
Awards and Honors
Burke received numerous combat awards during his forty-two years in the Navy, including the Navy Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Gold Star in lieu of second Legion of Merit, Letter of Commendation, Presidential Unit Citations and other awards.
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