Mike Boorda & Hyman Rickover

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Two Admirals


It may be surprising to many who have forgotten the year 1996 that it was then that Jeremy Michael Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations, killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Boorda was the only Jew ever to become the nation’s top naval officer.  It is astonishing that Boorda would have killed himself over so minor an issue as questions surrounding his wearing a medal that, it was later said, he most certainly earned.

Boorda was not only remarkable because he was the only Jew ever to have reached the rank of Chief of Naval Operations, but he was also the only man to achieve such a high rank working his way from the lowest level of enlisted man to the highest position available.

Boorda is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery and his gravestone shows plainly a Magen David above his name.  This is despite the fact that Boorda made every effort to hide his Jewish origins while ascending the ladder of success in the Navy.

Boorda was, without question, the only seaman recruited to become chief of naval operations.  He had a wife and two children who were Protestants, thereby making it possible for him to cover up his religious heritage.

Boorda made a name for himself when, in the course of his career, he became the commander of the NATO force that bombed Yugoslavia during the 1996 assault against that country by the Europeans & the Clinton administration.  Mike Boorda was born in South Bend, Indiana in November of 1939.  He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1956.  He attained the rank of petty officer first class, serving in a number of commands, primarily in aviation.  His last two enlisted assignments were in Attack Squadron 144, and Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 11.  He was selected for commissioning under the Integration Program in 1962.  He then went to officer candidate school in Newport, Rhode Island, commissioning in August 1962.  Admiral Boorda served aboard the USS Porterfield as combat information center officer.  He attended naval destroyer school in Newport in 1964, and was assigned as weapons officer on the USS John R. Craig.  His next tour was as commanding officer of USS Parrot.  Admiral Boorda’s first shore duty was as a weapons instructor at naval destroyer school at Newport.  In 1971, after attending the US Naval War College and also earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Rhode Island, he assumed duties as an executive officer of the USS Brooke.  That tour was followed by a short period at the University of Oklahoma and an assignment as the Head, Service Lieutenant Commander Assignments/Assistant for Captain Detailing at the Bureau of Naval Personnel.  Numerous other assignments followed and on August 23, 1994 Admiral Boorda became the 25th Chief of Naval Operations.

His military awards included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, & a number of other personal and campaign awards.   Nevertheless, when Newsweek magazine challenged his wearing of a Vietnam Era combat decoration for valor, he killed himself.  Thereafter, Elmo Zumwalt, Chief of Naval Operations during the Vietnam War, asserted that it was appropriate, justified & proper for Boorda to attach the small bronze combat V to the ribbons on his uniform.  In short, he killed himself for nothing. 

And so the only Jew ever to attain so high a ranking naval position died a suicide because he was hounded to his death by the media, who have no conscience except to gain money at the expense of the lives of others.

Admiral Hyman George Rickover is known as the father of the nuclear navy.  He was born in Russia in 1900 & came to the United States at the age of 6.  He immigrated with his parents & settled in Chicago.  He then entered the United States Naval Academy in 1918 and was commissioned an ensign in June 1922.  Thereafter he served sea duty on the USS La Vallette and the USS Nevada.  Rickover attended Columbia University, where he earned the degree of Master of Science in Electrical Engineering.  From 1929 to 1933 he qualified for submarine duty and command aboard the submarines S-9 & S-48.  In June 1937 he assumed command of the USS Finch.  Later that year, he was selected as an engineering duty officer & spent the remainder of his career in that specialty. 

During World War II, Rickover served as head of the electrical section of the Bureau of Ships & later as the commading officer of the naval repair base in Okinawa.  In 1946 he was assigned to the Atomic Energey Commision in Oak Ridge, Tennessee & in 1949 to the division of Reactor Development of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.  He became director of the Naval Reactors Branch and developed the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, called the USS Nautilus, which went to sea in 1955.  In the years that followed, Rickover directed all aspects of gbuilding & operating the nuclear fleet.

Rickoer’s numerous medals & decorations cannot be listed here, but in 1980, President Jimmy Carter presented Admiral Rickover with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest non-military honor, for his contributions to world peace.  This was not the first time that Carter had met Rickover.  In fact, when Carter graduated from the Naval Academy in 1947, he too entered the submarine service and was later on picked by Rickover to be the commander of the second nuclear submarine that Rickover had developed.  Hence Carter knew Rickover very well.

The story of how Rickover developed the world’s first nuclear navy is probably not too well understandable by those of us who have no engineering background.   It involved the unusual metals needed for building a reactor on a submarine because it needed to be safe from radiation for those using the submarine.  The metals used were zirconium to hold and contain the fuel.  According to scientific literature, its sister metal, hafnium, was specified for control rods to provide safety and to vary the reactor power output.  The development of these metals alone, called miracle metals, was a great achievement under the direction of Rickover.  The development of equipment & processes for fabricating the nuclear core, the selecting of the alloy for the Nautilus core, the nuclear power trial rods, and all other efforts needed before the Nautilus could be made seaworthy, was indeed an astonishing achievement.  

The Nautilus, the first nuclear submarine ever to be constructed, was launched on January 21, 1954 in the presence of the president’s wife, that is, Mamie Eisenhower, who used a champagne bottle to inaugurate the ship.  Rickover was, of course, Jewish, and at the time of development of these nuclear submarines, was ranked only a captain.  Because of his Judaism, the brass in the Navy refused to promote him to admiral, but because of his great popularity with Congress, the Navy bosses were forced to promote Rickover rather than retire him, which they wanted to do.  According to naval rules, someone not promoted must retire.  The consequences of his being promoted led to his continuing in the Navy until he was 80 years old, and he was then retired by President Reagan.

It is almost impossible to really explain the enormous contribution that Rickover made ot the naval program of the United States, because he not only developed the nuclear submarine, but he also made it possible for us to have an all nuclear navy, which no other country has, even to this day.  There is in his memory today Rickover Hall at the Naval Academy in Annapolis & a ship of the navy has also been labeled the USS Rickover.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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