Arleigh Albert Burke was born far from sea in Boulder, Colorado on 19 October 1901. On 8 June 1923, he graduated from the US Naval Academy and was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. Shortly after graduation, Ensign Burke married Roberta Gorsuch of Washington, D.C. who became his beloved wife, his best friend and lifelong companion.
Early in his career, he served in battleships and destroyers, and earning a Master of Science degree in Engineering from the University of Michigan. When World War II came, he received orders to the South Pacific where, under Admiral Halsey, he successively commanded Destroyer Division 43, Destroyer Division 44, Destroyer Squadron 12, and Destroyer Squadron 23. This latter squadron, known as the “Little Beavers,” was credited with destroying one Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft.
From Destroyer Command, he reported as Chief of Staff to Commander, Fast Carrier Task Force, Admiral Marc Mitscher and was promoted to Commodore. At the outbreak of the Korean War, Admiral Burke served as Deputy Chief of Staff to Commander Naval Forces, Far East. From there, he assumed command of Cruiser Division 5 followed by appointment to the Office of Chief of Naval Operations where he served as Director of Strategic Plans Division until 1954. In April 1954, he took command of Cruiser Division 6, and in January 1955 assumed command of Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet in which capacity he served until he succeeded Admiral Robert B. Carney as CNO in August 1955. Burke served an unprecedented three terms as CNO before being transferred to the Retired List on 1 August 1961.
After retirement, Burke served on boards of corporations, educational, patriotic, and veterans organizations, co-founded the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University, and gave speeches on topics dear to him – the Soviet threat, Cold War, and military strategy, among other topics
Burke died on New Year’s Day, 1996 at the age of 94. Eulogized by President William Clinton and both current and former senior Navy leaders during a service at the Naval Academy Chapel on 4 January, he was buried at the Academy’s picturesque cemetery at Hospital Point.
Admiral Burke received numerous awards during his forty-two years in the Navy including the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart. In 1977, for his lifetime of efforts, he received the Medal of Freedom.