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Admiral's headstone: 'Arleigh Burke, sailor'


January 4, 1996
Web posted at: 8:50 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Admiral Arleigh Burke's epitaph on a black granite marker at Maryland's Annapolis naval academy cemetery perhaps best describes the man who was honored with nearly every medal the Navy could bestow. "Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, sailor," says the monument, capturing the naval hero's simplicity and passion.

On Thursday, President Clinton bade farewell for the nation to the World War II veteran. "Every life is a lesson, but his life is particularly so," Clinton said at Burke's funeral services. "For in 94 years on this earth, at sea and on land, Arleigh Burke gave nothing less than everything he had for his cherished Navy and beloved country."

Burke's funeral was in the same chapel where he married Roberta "Bobbie" Gorsuch on the afternoon of his graduation in 1923. She survives him.

"The freedoms we cherish. The peace we enjoy were sustained by his vision and labors. Those freedoms and that peace are his greatest legacy," Clinton eulogized. (128K AIFF sound or 128K WAV sound)


Burke died January 1 at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was 94.

A 42-year Navy old-timer, Burke rose to fame as commander of a destroyer squadron in the South Pacific during World War II.

His "Little Beavers" destroyer squadron fought 22 combat engagements in four months in the South Pacific. Burke's penchant for slashing torpedo attacks and high-speed dashes earned him the nickname "31-Knot Burke."


Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for a record three terms, Burke strongly recommended that the United States act against communist expansion in what was then Indo-China, later to become Vietnam. And when Vietnam became America's war, even though Burke had retired, he called on the United States to adopt a more aggressive stance.

Burke's career was temporarily stymied when he became part of the so-called "admirals' revolt" in the late 1940s, wherein he questioned the growing dominance of the strategic air command in unifying the services. He fought so hard for a strong navy that he was temporarily taken off the promotion list.

USS Burke

Burke retired from active duty in 1961 after his long stint as CNO. When the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke was commissioned in 1991, it was only the third Navy ship named for a living individual.

In his honor, Clinton ordered all Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyers to steam at 31 knots for five minutes at noon Thursday.

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