Chance encounter with CNO Arleigh ‘Thirty-One Knot’ Burke

Norbert E. Cygan

From The Destroyerman Feb 2002

In 1956, as a brand new Ensign (a Mustang from PO3), I was assigned to the USS Wahkiakum County, LST-1162, at Little Creek, Virginia.  Because the LST was at sea, I was housed at a Norfolk Naval Base BOQ Thursday night.  Friday evening two Lieutenants (one a doctor) picked me up to drive me to the ship.  We learned the Norfolk Tower Officers Club had a great Friday night seafood buffet, and once inside we found a small empty dining room where could talk in private about the LST and the Captain.

After a while a small group of men and women in civilian clothes came into the room and took a table on the far side.  Also with that group was a officer in dress uniform who came over to our table and commented that I had brand new gold stripes on my uniform.  He asked if I was newly commissioned; I answered ‘yes’ and my assignment was to an LST at Little Creek (the two officer with me were also from the ship).

The Navy officer expressed that one of the gentlemen in the group wanted to meet me specifically, and by the way he is Admiral Arleigh Burke, the CNO of the Navy.  The Admiral, dressed in civvies, welcomed me as a new Ensign into the USN officer corps and noted my initial service as an enlisted man (a Mustang).  He took time to talk about my new assignment to an LST and the significance of the LSTs to the fleet.  Quite a memory because it took place in the Norfolk Officer Club where the two junior officers and I were having dinner in a quiet room – designed for very senior officers only! – but we didn’t know that until the uniformed Adjutant with the Admiral’s group politely pointed it out!