Jeremy M. Boorda

United States Admiral



On May 16, 1996 outside his home in Washington, D.C.'s Navy Yard, the Chief of Naval Operations put a pistol to his heart and shot himself dead. At 57 this ended a remarkable career. Admiral Jeremy "Mike" Boorda was the first enlisted man ever to become the Navy's CNO.

Before pursuing the causes of this personal tragedy, a review of Admiral Boorda's military career:

Several hours before he killed himself, Admiral Boorda had been notified that a national magazine was pursuing a story about his unauthorized wearing of certain valor medals. David Hackworth, a highly decorated, ex-Army Colonel and military correspondent for Newsweek magazine filed the story. Reflecting on the possibility that his story caused Boorda's suicide, Hackworth wrote:

I pursued the story because for a soldier or sailor there's no greater disgrace than wearing unearned valor awards. Combat ribbons -- awards for which so many brave warriors have bled -- are the ultimate status symbol to warriors. They bring a special recognition and respect...Adm. Boorda was a caring leader who genuinely looked after his sailors. But by wearing false awards, he lived a lie. He was not true to himself. Joan Kuehl, an eminent New York psychoanalyst, told me, "Your story may have triggered his suicide, but there probably was something else going on. Whatever caused him to wear awards he did not deserve could have been symptomatic of a larger flaw in his character."

Well, not much guilt in Hackworth's heart for Boorda's death. But what was the "larger flaw in his character?" Why would Boorda, a successful and obviously ambitious man fall on his sword? Apparently Boorda agrees with Colonel Hackworth that there is "no greater disgrace" then pretending to be something you are not. What flaw in the Admiral's thinking made him believe that the only honorable thing to do, in atonement for his transgression, was to kill himself?

Is it possible that Boorda was crushed by the very bureaucracy he sat atop of?

Mike Boorda- 1997 Wonderland Warrior
Published: January 15, 1997
Revised: October 18, 1999; April 9, 2002

© 1999 by the Cosmic Baseball Association