Navy colleagues believe Boorda
could have survived scrutiny

Boorda with the

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.

'Can the sailor commit suicide and not have the leader know that he or she was in distress?  No. We can't ignore things we must work on, and if we hide them, we do everybody a disservice.' - Admiral Mike Boorda's advice to sailors last month

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.

Related stories:

Related site:


Send us your comments.
Selected responses are posted daily.


Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.