Navy colleagues believe Boorda
could have survived scrutiny
May 17, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EDT
From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While suicide notes confirm that the Navy's top officer took his life because of questions surrounding his military medals, many in the Navy believe Admiral Mike Boorda would have passed the scrutiny.
But for Boorda, it was a question of integrity. Sources say Boorda wrote in a suicide note that he wore two "V" pins for valor in combat in Vietnam because he thought he had earned them.
Newsweek magazine, which was working on the story questioning Boorda's "V" pins, issued a statement saying it had reached no conclusions.
"We try to be as meticulous and as careful as possible whenever you're dealing with questions about a person's reputation or about what he has done or not done in the past," said Maynard Parker, Newsweek editor.
In the end, Boorda failed to heed the counsel he had given thousands of sailors over the years -- to lead by example and look out for each other.
Rules on "V" pins less clear in Vietnam era
Boorda might have been apprehensive because one of the Newsweek reporters working on the story was Retired Col. David Hackworth. Hackworth's exposé last year on Air Force Gen. Joseph Ashy resulted in a congressional investigation into an expensive military flight the general took with an aide and his cat.
But Ashy survived the probe, and many in the Navy believe that Boorda would have survived an investigation.
While rules governing the awarding of combat "Vs" are very clear now, they were not so clear when Boorda was a young lieutenant in Vietnam.
The rules in 1965 stated simply that "V" pins were authorized for "direct participation in combat operations." Also, Boorda's combat operations citations implied that he was qualified to wear the medals.
Retired Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who was chief of naval operations during the Vietnam War, said he believed Boorda was "completely entitled" to wear the pins.
Zumwalt said on the CNN program "Larry King Live" that paperwork sometimes did not indicate the V, even though it was authorized. He said he routinely authorized the wearing of the combat "V" pin for Vietnam combat veterans.
"That was my intention as an operational commander, and I believe that is the judgment that should prevail," Zumwalt said. "It is a bureaucratic distinction to say, 'Well, it wasn't in the citation.'"
Boorda stopped wearing the combat "Vs" once they were questioned, but many think he could have successfully argued that wearing them was no mistake or, at worst, an innocent one.
What baffles Boorda's friends is why, if he felt he had hurt the Navy, he didn't simply offer to resign. But few seem to have realize how devoted he was to the Navy and that even the slightest whiff of scandal would devastate him.
- CNN Feedback: Your comments about the suicide of Admiral Mike Boorda
- McFarlane: Embarrassment may have caused Boorda's suicide - May 17, 1996
- Defense Secretary dedicates holiday to a 'sailor's sailor' - May 17, 1996
- Navy's top officer dies of gunshot, apparently self-inflicted - May 16, 1996
- Chief of Naval Operations page from the Navy Public Affairs Library
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