Burke file photo [4853]

Arleigh Burke

Given NameArleigh
Born19 Oct 1901
Died1 Jan 1996
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseArleigh Albert Burke was born in Boulder, Colorado, United States. On 8 Jun 1923, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, United States and was commissioned ensign in the United States Navy. He earned a Master of Science degree in Engineering at the University of Michigan. In 1939, he received his first command aboard the destroyer Mugford. At the start of WW2, he served at the Naval Gun Factory in Washington, DC, United States. In 1943, he was assigned to Destroyer Division 43 in the South Pacific as its commanding officer. He later served in a similar role with Destroyer Division 44, Destroyer Squadron 12, and Destroyer Squadron 23. He commanded the Destroyer Squadron 23 during the Bougainville landing operation in Nov 1943. He was known for pushing his crews to sail at high speeds, sometimes with the boiler pressure just below dangerous levels. While en route to a rendezvous point in Nov 1943 to intercept a "Tokyo Express" convoy, a boiler accident that involved one casualty limited his squadron to 31 knots, instead of the 34 knots they were capable of, hence earning him the nickname "31-Knot Burke". His squadron was able to intercept the "Tokyo Express" convoy despite the slower speed, sinking multiple destroyers in that convoy while also killing the Japanese commanding officer Kiyoto Kagawa; the engagement was later named Battle of Cape St. George.

ww2dbaseFor his service with Destroyer Squadron 21, Burke was awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Cross, and the Legion of Merit. The Navy Distinguished Service Medal citation noted his "indomitable fighting spirit and great personal courage contributed directly to the success of our forces in [the Pacific] and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

ww2dbaseIn Mar 1944, Burke was promoted to the war time rank of commodore and assigned as the Chief of Staff to Admiral Marc Mitscher, Commander Fast Carrier Task Force 58, with his flag aboard carrier Bunker Hill. On 11 May 1945, while aboard Bunker Hill off Okinawa, he witnessed the attack on the carrier by two kamikaze aircraft. The attack killed 373 men and wounded 264 more. Three days later, the new flagship he had chosen was hit by another special attack aircraft. His successful crisis management results during the attacks earned him the Silver Star Medal and a Letter of Commendation. The citation of the Silver Star read

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Chief of Staff to Commander First Carrier Task Force in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area, 11 May 1945. When the flagship on which he was embarked was hit by two enemy suicide dive bombers, Commodore Burke proceeded to a compartment in which personnel were trapped by fire and heavy smoke, and succeeded in evacuating all hands. When the flagship to which he had removed his staff was in turn hit by a suicide plane on 14 May, he again arranged for the transfer of his command to a new ship. In spite of all difficulties, he maintained tactical control of the Task Force throughout, thereby contributing materially to the success of the operations...

ww2dbaseWhile the Letter of Commendation noted that Burke, "with utter disregard for his personal safety,... efficiently organized the evacuation of endangered personnel. His courage together with his prompt and efficient action was responsible for saving these men...."

ww2dbaseBurke remained in the role of Mitscher's Chief of Staff until Jun 1945.

ww2dbaseAfter WW2, Burke reverted to his permanent rank of captain. In 1949, he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral.

ww2dbaseDuring the Korean War, Burke served as the Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander Naval Forces, Far East and personally commanded Cruiser Division Five. In Jul 1951, he was named as a member of the United Nations Truce Delegation which negotiated for the armistice. After returning to the United States, he served as the Director of Strategic Plans Division of the Office of Chief of Naval Operations until 1954. In Apr 1954, he commanded Cruiser Division Six, then in Jan 1955 the Destroyer Force of the Atlantic Fleet.

ww2dbaseIn Aug 1955, Burke was named the Chief of Naval Operations, selected over other candidates more senior than he. Accompanying the assignment was a promotion to the rank of admiral, a jump of two grades. He served three terms as the Chief of Naval Operations, which was unprecedented. After completing his third term, he retired from the US Navy on 1 Aug 1961.

ww2dbaseIn 1962, with David Abshire, Burke co-founded the think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, and remained its chairman until 1977. He went on to become a board member to several major businesses, including the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company and Texaco Oil. In 1973, he was sent to Sweden as the senior representative of the United States at the funeral of King Gustaf VI Adolf. He passed away in 1996 at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He was buried at the cemetery at the Hospital Point at the United States Naval Academy, with an eulogy delivered by President William Clinton.

ww2dbaseSource: United States Navy Naval Historical Center.

Last Major Revision: Sep 2007

Arleigh Burke Interactive Map

Arleigh Burke Timeline

19 Oct 1901 Arleigh Burke was born.
1 Jan 1996 Arleigh Burke passed away.


Portrait of Midshipman Burke, 1920Ensign Burke posing by the 14-inch guns of USS Arizona, 1923Portrait of Ensign Burke, Los Angeles, California, United States, fall 1923Crew of USS Arizona
See all 95 photographs of Arleigh Burke

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More on Arleigh Burke
Event(s) Participated:
» Solomon Islands Campaign
» New Guinea-Papua Campaign, Phase 3
» Okinawa Campaign

Ship(s) Served:
» Bunker Hill
» Mugford

Arleigh Burke Photo Gallery
Portrait of Midshipman Burke, 1920
See all 95 photographs of Arleigh Burke

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"With Germany arming at breakneck speed, England lost in a pacifist dream, France corrupt and torn by dissension, America remote and indifferent... do you not tremble for your children?"

Winston Churchill, 1935

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