You can’t talk about the 41 for Freedom boats without talking about one of the most important men in their development:
A former destroyer-man named Arleigh Burke
A Sailor if there ever was one: Forty two years in the Navy is a long time by any measure.
When that forty two years includes service in combat in both World War 2 and Korea, the passage of time is even more significant. But it’s not just the passage of time that counts. It is what you do with the time that is your legacy.
But Admiral Arleigh Burke A. Burke will be forever be known as the Chief of Naval Operations that made sure the Polaris submariner program and the Navy’s nuclear program achieved every single goal in the face of global challenges that would have humbled lesser men.
Burke received numerous combat awards during his forty-two years in the Navy, including the Navy Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, and the Purple Heart. None were more cherished than two awards that came early in his career. In 1928, while serving aboard USS Procyon (AG-11), he was commended for the “rescue of shipwrecked and seafaring men.” In 1939 during his first command, USS Mugford (DD-389), he was commended when his destroyer won the fleet gunnery trophy with the highest score in many years. His ship also stood third in engineering competition and high in communication competition.
For his service in Destroyer Squadron 23, Burke was awarded the Navy Cross, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded to the squadron.
But it was his service as CNO that truly influenced the world.
When Burke took the post of Chief of Naval Operations, he did so 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. He supported the notoriously demanding Admiral Hyman Rickover in the development of a nuclear-powered submarine force, and instituted the development of submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which led to the Polaris missile program, headed by Burke’s selectee Rear Admiral W. F. “Red” Raborn. Burke convened the Project Nobska anti-submarine warfare conference in 1956 at the suggestion of Columbus Iselin II, director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where discussion ranged from oceanography to nuclear weapons.
At the conference, a statement by Edward Teller that a physically small one-megaton warhead suitable for Polaris could be developed led to Burke’s adoption of Polaris over Jupiter. At a time when others in the Navy were very skeptical of the idea of a missile launched from a submarine, Burke succeeded in developing the single most effective deterrent to a nuclear attack on the United States. By 1961 routine Polaris deterrent patrols were in progress and a rapid construction program of Polaris submarines was underway.
Burke as Chief of Naval Operations was intimately involved in the Eisenhower administration discussions on limiting the size of the submarine force. Asked “how much is enough?” as to the number of US ballistic missile submarines needed for deterrence,
Burke argued that a force of around 40 Polaris submarines (each with 16 missiles) was a reasonable answer. Burke further argued that land-based missiles and bombers were vulnerable to attack, which made the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance dangerously unstable. By contrast, nuclear submarines were virtually undetectable and invulnerable. He was very critical of “hair trigger” or “launch on warning” nuclear strategies, and he warned that such strategies were “dangerous for any nation.”
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
This address was given to the graduating class of 1960 just as the Polaris program was getting underway. It applies to us today as much as it did to the graduating Midshipmen of the day:
ADDRESS BY ADMIRAL ARLEIGH A. BURKE, USN, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS, AT THE NAVAL ACADEMY BACCALAUREATE – U. S. AVAL ACADEMY – ANNAPOLIS, MD. – 6 JUNE 1960.
“Members of the Class of 1960, distinguished guests, Midshipmen of the brigade. This is a wonderful day, an unforgettable day for all of us, for parents, loved ones, friends, and especially for you in the graduating class.
Baccalaureate Day is a memorable part of the traditional, colorful, June Week ceremonies, the fitting, and often romantic ceremonies, which mark the conclusion of four years at the Naval Academy.
Baccalaureate exercises constitute a final, significant step toward your long-awaited, Commencement, Graduation, and Commissioning. They are a reflective pause, a rare opportunity for checking out moral and spiritual values, the basic equipment needed for the long, adventurous journey that lies ahead.
I know, that you in the graduating class are ready, and frankly impatient, to take your places, as officers in our Wonderful Navy. You are now at the end of your tour on the banks of the Severn, but your education, and your officer career, just beginning.
You are embarking on a career of service to your country, and to your fellow man. The importance of a career as a Naval, or Marine Officer, has never been greater, or more urgent. Nor have its opportunities ever been more challenging, or profound.
You are entering a changing world. Change is all about us. This Field House, the new land behind Bancroft Hall, the Stadium. We opened this year, represent changes with the past.
These changes in the Academy landscape are readily apparent. There are others, many others, in the dynamic atmosphere of this modern world, just as real, and far greater in extent and Significance.
Yet, none of these changes, have in any way altered the spiritual, and moral standards of life. These basic standards, the fundamental concepts from which our principles are derived, can never change.
From such concepts spring integrity, honesty, courage, and strength of character, all intrinsic to our way of life. Through these long-standing principles, we recognize our obligation to our Creator.
They are the bedrock of our religious and ethical heritage; a heritage which allows freedom, and human dignity to flourish, they are a fitting basis upon which to reflect, and to which you may dedicated your aspirations.
In just two days, with the cheers of graduation, the plaudits and congratulations of loved ones and friends, still in your ears, you will step forward into a challenging, different way of life.
I am sure that you approach that life confidently, that you are eager to make your mark, to show by performance and effort, your important, and significant role in our Navy.
Your class will join the Fleet during an era of radical developments in tactics, in weapons, in science and technology.
The fabulous exploits of seagoing nuclear power, the development of the POLARIS missile, of the Navy’s whole Fleet Ballistic Missile System, the TRANSIT navigation satellite, our new anti-submarine ships – our new powerful carriers, are clear signs of the increasing importance of the seas, and of the Navy’s constant leadership in progress.
But, real progress always depends on the ideas, and the efforts of men. The Navy has boon fortunate, extremely fortunate, in the outstanding men who have manned, and sustained the Fleet, from its beginning.
We, who are already a part of this exhilarating life, welcome your arrival in our active forces. We look forward to your new ideas, your energy, we want to join these qualities with sea-going experience, and operational skills, to unite your spirit and enthusiasm with our own.
From this blending of talent, drive, aspirations, and ideas, comes the ability to get the job done, quickly, efficiently, and well.
Your confidence, your exuberance and vitality, your willingness to step up and take your turn at the Conn will be a significant contribution to the Fleet.
Making this contribution will require hard work, and diligent study. You will continue on the long, tough road of learning, the never-ending task of acquiring knowledge, and the practical application of the skills, for which your training, here and later prepares you.
You will soon acknowledge the old maxim: Those who would aspire to success, must learn to perspire freely, and often, to achieve it. There will never be a substitute for hard work, and conscientious effort.
The education, the training, the development of your abilities at the Academy, offered you a broad base for future progress. It is your job to build upon this base, for the rest of your lives.
When you began your naval career as a Midshipman, you entered a great competition. It will continue. It is a virile, energetic, healthy competition, a part of the democratic way, an essential part of military life. You will compete with friends, classmates, contemporaries. Your ship will be in competition with every other ship, with every other squadron, with every other unit in the Navy.
This competition will drive you to improve, drive you to excel, drive you to be best. It will demand the best you can give, and the best your competitors can give.
From competition, you will gain, the Navy will gain, and most important, the country will gain. For you will be a better man, yours will be a better ship, ours will be a better Navy, and the United States will have a better defense.
This competition is long established, and it is fair. In the American tradition, the opportunities are equal for all.
The rewards are great, in experience and accomplishment, in the wonderful satisfaction of a job well done, in that supreme accolade. The respect of your fellow officers and men, throughout the Fleet.
But, these rewards can only be achieved through continuous, and diligent effort. The Navy’s rigorous standards for promotion put a premium on outstanding performance. And in the world today, in this modern, changing, demanding world, nothing less will suffice.
For, we as a nation, as free people, are engaged in a large and brave competition, one of world-wide proportions, a competition that challenges the whole of free society. We can have no illusions out its seriousness, its importance, or its consequences.
Our adversary, atheistic Communism, is ideologically, relentlessly bent on world domination, grimly determined on World Empire,
Ceaselessly, the Communists work toward this goal. Their campaign is powerful. Their stock in trade ranges from pious protests for peace and friendship, to blustery threats of nuclear devastation.
Their tactics run the gamut, from chess tournaments, youth conferences, and cultural exhibits, to subversion, suppression, intimidation, terror, and ruthless aggression. Each effort has its own immediate purpose, each in its own way, strives to impose Communist rule on the unwary.
This is a primary Communist goal, to weaken our own respect, and the respect of the world, for our total moral, political, economic, and military Strength. –
Communism is a tough competitor, rugged, cunning, unrelenting, that is why your efforts are so important.
You are taking your place in the forefront of the effort to meet the Communist challenge, at a time when each moment is precious to the future. There is no time to waste.
The Communist leaders are convinced that time, and history are on their side. History itself proves that, time is on the side, of those who use it best, and we must use it best.
How well each of you produce, will be in direct proportion to the effort expended, in direct proportion to how well you seize your responsibilities, and carry them out.
Your capabilities, your enthusiasm, your strength will be given full opportunity for development. The opportunities are unlimited, the responsibilities, deep, far-reaching, and vitally important.
– A naval career is a wonderful life, a vigorous, stimulating, exciting life. You are on the threshold of an exacting, rigorous: journey. But, although the tasks are many, the satisfactions along the way are plentiful too.
You will head a man’s life, in a man’s world. You will test your skills against the elements. You will learn seaman’s skills, and they are proud skills, the exhilaration…of ship-handling, of flying, of diving a submarine, the sheer joy of life at sea.
You will share in the wonder of the sea, its beauty, its majesty, its global expanse joining nation to nation. You will join the brotherhood of the sea, the firm bonds of the sailorman’s respect for all who serve at sea. You will be among men, progressive in ideas, seeking constantly to improve, but with firm belief in personal honor, and integrity.
You will share in the fascinations of a foreign shore, its customs, its language, its people. In many of these lands, you and your shipmates will be the United states, with the great privilege, and the weighty obligation of showing our nation’s friendship, and sincere interest for all mankind.
All these things are a part of the satisfactions of our Navy life. They are satisfactions that most of you will share; some of you will start sharing them only two days from now, with very special young ladies. Some of those ladies, I am sure are present day. For them, may I add one thought.
A sailor has two loves, his family and the Navy. Throughout his life, no matter what he does, or where he goes, no matter what happens to him, he will have those two loves. He devotes his life to making a success for both. He must do his best for both. At times, this is a hard task.
But, what a sailor does is so important, for his wife; for his children for our Navy, for our country, that Navy wives, have always given their sailor husband, understanding and support. Because of this, you in the Class of 1960 will discover, as have so many of your predecessors that Navy wives will be a source of strength as you seize your responsibilities.
You are engaged in a great, and significant enterprise; in a noble effort, for the cause of freedom. As you earn your place in the Navy through performance, through effort and study, you assume your great share of the Navy’s role in the active pursuit of freedom and justice for all men.
This is the greatest spiritual, and physical adventure upon which man has ever embarked, an adventure which we in the Navy, are privileged to share.
As naval officers this task becomes even more immediate, and real. For freedom is not a one-way street, and it is more, much more, than a God-given right and privilege.
Freedom & cannot flourish on lip-service alone. It must be protected, and made secure for generations to come.
Each generation must earn its own freedom, just as our fore-fathers earned it for themselves, preserved it, and passed the task on to us. This will not be an easy task, but it is a noble ne, full of satisfactions, large and small.
May God bless your efforts, all of your efforts, with success. May your seas be calm, your storms brief but exciting, your battles victorious, your accomplishments full, and enriching.”
And what happened to the class of 1960? From Alumni their web site:
“The Class of 1960 entered the U. S. Naval Academy in June 1956 1,064 strong. After Plebe year, 900 remained. At that time there were 24 Companies in six Battalions in six wings of Bancroft hall. During our time in Annapolis, Dewey Basin, which had housed our “knockabouts”, was filled in with dredge from the Severn to become Dewey Field.
When we were graduated, it was at the end of eight years of peace and prosperity under then President Dwight David Eisenhower. By the end of the year, John F. Kennedy had been elected and in his inaugural speech he challenged us all by saying “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country”. Little did any of us at that time realize how fitting these words were to become for the Class of 1960.
Soon after graduation came the Cuban Missile Crisis which many historians believe brought us to the brink of a nuclear war. Most classmates on the East Coast were part of a huge show of force steaming toward Cuba, when, fortunately, then Russian President Nikita Khrushchev backed down.
The years from 1963-1975 were our involvement in the Vietnam War and took far too many of our classmates lives. During this period the Class of 1960 lost six classmates in this conflict whose names all appear in Memorial Hall, at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, or on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Additionally in November 1969, the USS Roark was launched, named after Bill Roark, one of our classmates killed in Vietnam.
The rest of our careers were spent in typical Naval or Marine Corps Officer style: six to eleven month deployments, manning nuclear subs and surface combatants, flying all types of combat aircraft, Pentagon assignments, living overseas in myriad countries, and serving as Company and Battalion Officers back at the Academy. Many of our classmates became Commanding Officers of our seagoing ships and aircraft squadrons and others commanded critical shore stations.
The result of this dedication to honor, service, and country resulted in the Class of 1960 being selected to two Admirals, three Vice Admirals and a Marine Lt. General, 17 Rear Admirals, and one Commodore in the Philippines.”
Thank you Gentlemen. I am sure the Admiral is still smiling at your successes.