Admiral Burke onboard for Trial A

Did he correct the trial master’s orders to the helm?

by VADM (Ret) John G. Morgan

As the long-awaited day approached to take the lead ship of the ARLEIGH BURKE class of destroyers to sea for Trial Alpha, we made plans to embark Admiral and Mrs. Burke for this maiden voyage.  We found a Captain’s bridge chair at the Navy Museum and installed it on the port side of the bridge adorned with the Admiral Burke’s name and his 4 stars.  Bath Iron Works, the building yard, installed a temporary elevator so the Burkes, in their 80’s, would not have to climb steep ladders to the Bridge.

Finally underway with the Burkes on the bridge, the Navy was not in command of the ship as it still belonged to the shipyard.  A civilian Trial Master was acting as the captain of the ship and began guiding the ship toward the Kennebunk River on the way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Approaching the first major turn, the Master gave rudder orders to the helmsman and Admiral Burke instantly remarked the turn was started too soon.  The Admiral was right and we were not surprised that the master had not lost his touch!

Admiral and Mrs. Burke departed the ship prior to getting to the open ocean.  When asked by a reporter what he would have done with a ship like this in WWII, Admiral Burke simply said, “there would not have been a WWII.”  It was a fitting tribute to the Navy and Bath Iron Works for building what has turned out to be the most successful shipbuilding program in our history with more than 60 destroyers now perpetuating Admiral Burke’s legacy.