2020 Vision ultimately died with Admiral Boorda, overcome by politics and personalities inside and outside the Pentagon. But perhaps he had indelibly influenced the Navy as it charts its course into the next century. Indeed, Admiral Jay Johnson, who took over in the wake of Admiral Boorda's suicide, has called for the Navy to "steer by the stars and not its wake" and "to exploit new capabilities that will enable novel operational concepts of precision warfare, operational maneuver, and information dominance," concepts and vision of what the Navy must become. In hauntingly familiar words "We will be ready, around the globe, today and 20 years from now. America deserves no less."-Admiral Johnson began to articulate his dream of naval presence and power for a new millennium.
A Year in the Life
Carrier battle groups, surface warships, amphibious ready groups, nuclear-powered submarines, Military Sealift Command ships, land-based patrol aircraft, Sailors and Marines all figured in high tempo missions and tasks throughout 1996 that underscored U.S. interests and commitments and protected American citizens and friends in regions of importance to the United States.
Global naval operations continued apace, from enforcing the Dayton Peace Accord for Bosnia-Operation Joint Endeavor-to launching Tomahawk land attack missiles in response to Iraqi threats-Operation Desert Strike-in September. Seabees built six camps in Bosnia to house the thousands of U.S. troops committed to the U.N. Implementation Force. In late April, in support of Operation Southern Watch interceptions and U.N. sanctions against Iraq, Navy and Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment personnel on board the USS John Young (DD-973) inspected a merchant vessel bound for Iraq, the 10,000th such inspection by a U.S. team. In November, sailors from commands throughout the Pacific Fleet supported Operation Pacific Haven to provide a sanctuary on Guam for evacuees from war-torn northern Iraq who sought political asylum in the United States. In Africa, Navy P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating out of Entebbe, Uganda, helped monitor the movements of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing repression in Zaire, with one of Patrol Squadron 16's aircraft coming under fire.
Peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, peace-enforcement and combat actions, hundreds of exercises with allies and friendly nations, all proceeded as the Navy labored with its post-Cold War retrenchment. At any one time during the year, about 50% of the Navy's ships were under way and more than a third of the fleet deployed to forward areas in support of U.S. strategy and policy objectives. Although 21 new ships were commissioned or placed into service during 1996, 37 ships were decommissioned or taken out of service. Another eight ships were removed from the active fleet and placed in service with the Military Sealift Command. From a Cold War high of 661 "battle force" ships, at the end of 1996 the fleet stood at 352 and dropping. "Do as much or more with less" was becoming the mantra for the naval service in the mid-1990s. (See "U.S. Naval Battle Force Changes," pp. 183-87, of this issue for detailed information about specific ships.)
Presence: It's Everything
In the 1997 edition of Force 2001: Vision . . . Presence. . Power, Admiral Johnson wrote about the "nation's critical need for forward-deployed naval expeditionary forces that are ready to respond." This is a "constant" for the Navy and Marine Corps, according to the CNO: to be "engaged, around the world and around the clock, providing on-scene presence of combat-capable forces that can 'shape' events ashore."
"Presence" does not always mean far forward deployments at the end of some operational tether, however. In February 1996, Cuban fighters shot down two private planes belonging to Brothers to the Rescue, a Miami-based Cuban exile group, while flying off the coast of Cuba. The four people on board the unarmed aircraft were killed, but a third aircraft was not attacked. In July 1995 and again in January 1996, the group dropped leaflets over Havana, condemning Fidel Castro and urging peaceful protests against his regime. The Cuban government charged that the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft were once again violating Cuban airspace, a claim later rejected as North American Air Defense Command radar data were analyzed and reported to the United Nations that the actual engagement occurred in international airspace. (Customs Service radar, however, indicated that the third aircraft that was not shot down did briefly enter and then leave Cuban airspace.) English translations of the radio conversations between the two Cuban pilots revealed laughter and vulgar jokes as they downed the Cessnas. A search of the crash area by Coast Guard cutters and aircraft and the nuclear-powered guided-missile cruiser USS Mississippi (CGN-40) and the amphibious assault ship Nassau (LHA-4) found no survivors.
"This isn't ‘cajones,' this is cowardice!" then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright condemned the Cuban government's action. President Clinton ordered the Coast Guard to escort a flotilla of Cuban-American protesters in boats and small aircraft to the crash area to commemorate the downing of the Brothers' aircraft, while the Navy kept the Mississippi and a guided-missile frigate in the region. "We'll make sure that there will not be loss of innocent lives such as occurred last weekend," White House spokesman Michael McCurry underscored on the eve of the memorial service in the Florida Straits.
Less than a week later, relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China heated up as Chinese war games, amphibious exercises, and missile firings threatened Taiwan as it prepared to elect a new president. The Beijing government announced that it would close part of the Strait of Taiwan to conduct live-fire exercises, code-named "Strait 961," which was rejected as "serious" and "reckless" by the United States. The Nimitz (CVN-68) and Independence (CV-62) carrier battle groups transited to take up positions near the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate U.S. interests in regional peace, in what then Secretary of Defense William Perry described as "a prudent, precautionary measure." (Actually, the Nimitz had already passed through the strait on 19 December after diverting from its course because of adverse weather. This was the first U.S. naval presence in this sensitive area in 17 years, which the China Times described as "extremely politically significant." China lodged a protest to Washington in response to this transit, which it saw as potentially hostile.) Another carrier battle group, centered on the USS George Washington (CVN-73), moved from the Mediterranean to cover the Persian Gulf as the Nimitz and her escorts headed toward Taiwan, departing the Persian Gulf area a month ahead of schedule. The Chinese characterized the U.S. naval movements as "unwise," but otherwise were impotent to respond.
This was a "physical manifestation of our commitment" to protect Taiwan, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Kurt Campell explained. "If there was any doubt that should have answered it. This is a significant armada." Indeed, 16 warships and support vessels, about 130 attack aircraft, and well more than 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles were on alert nearby. A nonbinding resolution approved by the House International Relations Asia-Pacific Subcommittee stated that the United States "should assist in defending [Taiwan] against invasion, missile attack or blockade by the People's Republic of China." Rhetorical brinksmanship flourished on both sides of the controversy, but the U.S. Navy's presence offered a sharp counterpoint of reality to the diplomats' and politicians' jawing.
Chinese live tactical ballistic missile firings continued through the 23 March election, and two Aegis warships-the USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) and the Port Royal (CG-73)-were in position just outside the strait to monitor them. The U.S. cruisers gathered "very useful data," according to one senior naval officer. Three nuclear attack submarines-the USS Portsmouth (SSN-707), Columbus (SSN-762), and Bremerton (SSN-698)took up stations to take advantage of their stealth and electronic eavesdropping capabilities, to monitor developments and gather intelligence without the threat of provoking an ill-measured response from China. On board the Independence on 17 April, President Clinton recognized that the deployment "helped calm a rising storm." At the end of the year, in a joint "op-ed" discussion on the need for robust forward naval presence, Marine Corps Commandant General Charles C. Krulak and Admiral Johnson noted that the "mere presence of naval expeditionary forces deterred Chinese attempts to derail the democratic process in Taiwan."
After armed intruders broke into the grounds of the U.S. embassy residence in Monrovia, Liberia, in early April, the Pentagon ordered surface warships and amphibious assault ships carrying 1,500 Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to bolster U.S. special forces that had begun patrolling the capital's streets. With the civil war escalating and noncombatant evacuation operations (NEOs) expanding, the USS Conolly (DD-979), Portland (LSD-37), Tortuga (LSD-46), Trenton (LPD-14), and Guam (LPH-9) deployed to the waters off Monrovia as a precaution. Commenting on the movement, a Pentagon spokesman said: "We're planning on contingencies that may or may not happen, and we just need to get these ships down there."
As Operation Assured Response in Liberia continued into June, with U.S. forces engaging in occasional fire-fights, the Marines were called in to perform a nearly identical task-Operation Quick Response-2,000 miles away in the Central African Republic. "Doing two NEOs doesn't even come up in the training," Colonel M. W. Forbush, 22nd MEU Commander, stated. "Who would ever think of something like this happening at the same time? We're pretty spread out." In more than two months of nearconstant flying, for example, the Marines' Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 transported more than 800,000 pounds of cargo into and some 1,300 refugees out of Liberia and some 100,000 pounds of cargo to and nearly 600 refugees from the Central African Republic. The 22nd MEU and its five-ship-force were later relieved by the Special Marine Air Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF)-Liberia built around the USS Ponce (LPD-15), while the Trenton and Tortuga headed for a bilateral exercise with Greece. The SPMAGTF-Liberia returned to Norfolk on 22 August.
How Many Tomahawks a Deterrent Make?
In late August, Iraqi military movements seemed to presage another attempt to take control of the northern, Kurdishheld territory nominally protected under the multilateral Operation Provide Comfort humanitarian effort. Triggered by the movement of 45,000 troops and 300 tanks on 31 August, the United States responded with unilateral force. Declaring that "we must make it clear the reckless acts have consequences," President Clinton ordered a joint Navy-Air Force strike against 15 Iraqi air defense systems and bases in southern Iraq. On 3 and 4 September, 44 cruise missiles were launched from four surface warships-the Aegis cruiser USS Shilo (CG-67) launched 6 land-attack Tomahawk missiles (TLAMs), the Aegis destroyers Laboon (DDG-58) and Russell (DDG-59) got off 13 and 8 missiles, respectively, and the Spruance-class destroyer USS Hewitt (DD-966) fired 2 Tomahawks-one nuclear-powered attack submarine-the USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) shot 2 Tomahawks-and from two Air Force B-52 bombers flying 34hour sorties from Guam.
Pointedly, Saudi Arabia had refused to allow U.S. aircraft based in Saudi Arabia to launch strikes, which drove the decision to rely on both in-theater naval forces and long-range bombers. Four B-52s had been dispatched from the United States to Guam, a 19-hour one-way transit that illustrated the Air Force's global reach, but on the initial day of the strikes only two were fully mission-capable. Fighter aircraft from the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) provided escort, just in case air defenses had to be suppressed, and the B-52s fired 13 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) on 3 September.
While all Iraqi air defense targets were struck by most of the Navy's TLAM and Air Force ALCM missiles, and the Navy's Tomahawks had an effectiveness rate greater than 80%, no target was completely destroyed. This was largely the result of questionable "weaponeering"-matching specific weapons to targets especially for the ALCMs. This also prompted then-CIA Director John Deutch to comment ruefully that Iraq was stronger after the attacks than before. Several key states Russia, China, France, Egypt, and Syria-condemned the raids, while Republicans in the United States cynically pointed to the need for a "good" military intervention to bolster Mr. Clinton's campaign for reelection. Two weeks after the strike, the carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) joined the Carl Vinson, just in case Saddam Hussein did not get the message, and especially after President Clinton extended the southern "no-fly" zone northward toward the 33rd parallel. The prospect that Iraq had not been sufficiently cowed was in Commander Sam Tangredi's mind as he assessed a dwindling deterrent value of the Navy's TLAMs. Writing in the December Proceedings, the Commander argued, "If we are going to use Tomahawk, let's use it massively-in conjunction with other strike capabilities-and win. . . . To do less is to cheapen the impact of this technologically superior weapon in our overall global policy."
The Navy's Diving and Salvage community figured prominently in two airline disasters during 1996, even as the force of active salvage ships was being cut in half and Navy salvage divers were being drawn down. A Boeing 757 operated by the Turkish carrier Birgenair under lease to the Dominican Republic's national airline disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff on 6 February, killing all 189 people on board. Within days, U.S. Navy and commercial remote-controlled search devices were readied to search for the aircraft's flight data and voice recorders, which would provide clues as to why the aircraft went down. "It's a little like finding a needle in a haystack," noted Captain Raymond McCord, the Navy's Supervisor of Diving and Salvage. The ocean floor at the crash site, about five miles offshore of Puerta Plata, had mountainous terrain and ranged in depth from 1,000 to 13,000 feet.
The Navy supervised a team from Maryland-based Oceaneering Advanced Technologies on board the leased commercial vessel, Seaward Explorer. A towed-fish Pinger Locator System, capable of searching to depths as great as 20,000 feet, was used to detect the flight recorders' acoustic pingers. Once the recorders were detected in about 7,200 feet of water on 15 February, the team deployed "Orion," an eight-foot sidescan sonar to make a detailed map of the debris field and locate the recorders. The recorders were retrieved on 28 February using Oceaneering's "CURV"-Cable controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle.
The Navy-Oceaneering Advanced Technologies team was all too soon recalled to action. In the early evening of 17 July, TWA Flight 800 went down in the Atlantic Ocean off the south coast of Long Island shortly after departing New York's JFK Airport bound for Paris. All 230 people on board the Boeing 747 perished, and speculation immediately raged about the cause of the crash.
A terrorist bomb or a lone terrorist firing a Stinger missile that had been supplied by U.S. agencies to a mujahedin group in the past, perhaps seeking revenge on the eighth anniversary of the Iran Air incident? (In February 1996, the United States had agreed to pay $131.8 million in a settlement that included compensation for families of Iranians killed on board the Iranian Airbus shot down on 3 July 1988 by the U.S. cruiser Vincennes [CG-49], but that rejected all official Iranian claims against the United States.) But no known terrorist group claimed responsibility. If not that, perhaps a surface-to-air missile inadvertently launched from a U.S. Navy Aegis warship thought to have been in the area, in a scenario likened to the Vincennes tragedy? Several political fringe groups got on the Internet to castigate the Navy according to this theory; even Pierre Salinger claimed that he had "proof" it was the result of a terrible mistake-assertions immediately rejected as ridiculous, misguided, or worse. Could it have been a mechanical malfunction or a spark that caused an internal explosion in a fuel tank?
What was not in doubt was the immensity and gravity of the task at hand, and the need to recover victims' bodies and as much physical evidence as quickly as possible. The initial search area measured 10 by 20 miles with water depths from 100 to 200 feet; within days, it was expanded to 730 square miles. At its peak, the Navy operation involved two salvage ships, the USS Grasp (ARS-51) and the Grapple (ARS-53), and the newly commissioned USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), a dock landing ship that served as an afloat command post and support base for Navy salvage and explosive ordnance disposal divers. The Oak Hill's communications capability enabled the Navy to coordinate its efforts with the numerous federal, state, and local agencies ashore. More than 700 Navy people, including 250 divers, were committed to helping local police and civilian divers in the largest Navy salvage operation since the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack on 7 December 1941, as Rear Admiral Edward K. Kristensen, Commander Logistics Group Two, explained.
In the initial days of the search, the Navy leased the commercial vessels MN Pirouette and Dianne G to carry search equipment, while the Coast Guard immediately devoted ten cutters, more than 100 small craft and buoy tenders, four helicopters, and a C-130 to the search for survivors and, finding none, wreckage. The Diane G carried an experimental Laser Line Scan System, designed for mine countermeasures tasks, that produces extremely high-resolution images. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's research vessel, the Rude (S-590), also was committed to the job, using her state-of-the-art multibeam side-scan sonar to search the bottom. Weather initially was favorable, but in early August a week of high seas and strong winds frustrated all attempts to expedite the search and recovery. The longer in the water, the greater the chance for tides and current to carry lighterweight debris and human remains out of the search areas.
It was a gruesome, dangerous task for the divers, working in cold waters more than 100 feet down. The dedication and stamina of the divers were nowhere better described than a Boston Globe editorial of 1 August that attested: "While the faces of politicians, government officials and anguished relatives of victims fill television screens, the divers disappear into 120 feet of blackness to retrieve the human and mechanical remains from the front lines of a watery war.... The divers carry intact bodies lifesaver style, pressing themselves into the backs of corpses, arms folded around chests. They place the rest in cages that are lifted to the surface. They must stay focused on their chilling task while minding the dangers of current, depth, sharks and the possibility of slicing themselves on jagged metal or becoming entangled in fields of wires.... They deserve the country's gratitude and respect."
In mid-October, as the Navy prepared to return to Norfolk, wreckage of nearly 95% of the 747 had been recovered and was being reassembled in a hangar on Long Island. Final sonar sweeps of 23 square miles of sea bed identified 450 areas and 200 targets that likely contained additional pieces of the plane. But the number of false targets had been growing-60% of the sonar targets were turning up no aircraft debris-and the job was being turned over to commercial fishing trawlers that would literally scour the seabed in hopes of turning up clues to the probable cause of the accident.
A humanitarian mission of another sort had occurred in April, when four Hawaiibased Navy SEALs parachuted out of a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft to come to the aid of a civilian sailor. Suffering from a 104 fever and a wound infection, David Mullen was stranded alone on his sailboat some 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, too far for Coast Guard helicopters to make a rescue attempt. The SEALs skydived from 4,000 feet with medical supplies, rations, and other gear to treat Mullen's infection. They then piloted his boat 200 miles to Christmas Island, where he was evacuated to Hawaii.
Endings . . .
In January 1996, the U.S. Navy wrapped up the Cuban and Haitian migrant mission at Guantanamo Bay. Camps that housed some 46,000 boat people were closed, and Joint Task Force 160the Navy, Marine, Coast Guard, Army, and Air Force operation that coordinated all elements of the U.S. response to the migrants-was disestablished. General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the alien migrant intercept operation was not one that was relished by the military but was nonetheless a "very historic and significant operation. Our main purpose is to fight and win wars," he noted, "but there are cases short of war that are of such interest to the United States" that the armed forces must be called in.
The Navy saw the last flights of the Naval Fighter Weapons School-"Top Gun" at "Fighter Town"-from Miramar Naval Air Station in late May as the F-14 Tomcats, F/A-18 Hornets, and adversary aircraft took off for Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada. The Navy established the school in 1969 after the service realized it was losing one fighter aircraft to every three it killed in Vietnam, a dismal and dangerous exchange ratio. "I'm alive today because of Top Gun," Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego), a graduate of the school and the Navy's only Vietnam-era ace, testified. By 1972 the kill ratio had improved to 1-to-12.
"It was like somebody saying we're moving the White House to Los Angeles," Lieutenant Commander Richard Butler, the school's operations manager remarked. "You just always associate the White House with Washington, D.C., and for Naval Aviation, it's always been Top Gun and Miramar." A victim of sorts of the congressionally mandated Base Closure and Realignment (a.k.a. "BRAC") process, in October Miramar became a Marine Corps Air Station, with F/A-18s and helicopters from several Marine bases closed in southern California.
Also in late May, the Navy lost one of its former leaders, retired Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, who helped develop the F-14 fighter and was the inspiration for the "Tomcat" nickname. During World War II, Connolly was awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross and Air Medals. A postwar test pilot who also directed the Navy schoolhouse for astronaut training, Admiral Connolly commanded two aircraft carriers, was Assistant Chief Pacific Missile Range and Astronautics, Director Strike Warfare Division, Assistant CNO for Fleet Operations and Readiness, and Commander Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet. During the 1932 Olympics, he won the bronze medal in gymnastics.
At midnight on 18 June, the Navy suspended Operation Sharp Guard, the three year blockade of shipping into the former Yugoslavia in support of U.N. sanctions that began on 15 April 1993. The Combined Task Force 440 included about 20 warships from participating navies. Since 22 November 1992, 74,192 ships had been challenged by U.S., NATO, and Western European Union surface ships, submarines, and aircraft. Nearly 19,700 ship days were committed to the operation. Maritime patrol aircraft, including U.S. P-3C Orions, totalled 6,151 sorties and some 62,000 flight hours in direct support of the operation; airborne early warning aircraft logged 6,174 sorties. Submarines and aircraft cued surface forces to intercept suspicious ships: 5,951 ships were inspected at sea and another 1,480 were diverted to friendly ports. U.N. operations to enforce the embargo on heavy weapons and their ammunition, mines, military aircraft, and helicopters remained in force, however.
The year also saw the final "flight of the Intruder." On 20 December 1996, the Enterprise returned to Norfolk, signaling the last deployment and ultimate retirement of the Navy's A-6E attack aircraft. On this last cruise, the Sunday Punchers of Attack Squadron VA-75 saw duty in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf in support of Operations Joint Endeavor and Southern Watch. During its 33-year reign as the Navy's premier all-weather, medium-attack aircraft, the Intruders saw plenty of action, from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf to Bosnia. (As if adding injury to insult of age, on 4 June during RIMPAC '96 the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer Yuugiri accidentally shot down an A-6E towing a gunnery target for the ship's Mk 15 close in weapon system. Both the pilot and bombardier punched out safely and were recovered and returned to their ship, the carrier Independence.) Old-timers say the Navy will sorely miss the ugly A-6, for in their minds neither the upgraded F-14 Tomcats with their air-to-ground laser designators nor the up-and-coming single-seat F/A-18E Advanced Hornet can do the job as well. Time will tell.
. . . and Beginnings
In late January and early February, the Navy demonstrated for the first time the effectiveness of its nascent Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) to destroy cruise missiles before a ship's own radars and defensive systems could even detect the incoming threats. Dubbed "Mountain Top," because of the use of a radar atop Kauai's Mount Kokee, the over the horizon engagement involved four unarmed targets fired at the Aegis cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG-70) about 30 miles off the coast. The missiles were detected by the "Mountain Top" SPG-SID radar; fire control data were passed to the Lake Erie via CEC links; the cruiser launched Standard missiles (SM-2s) that were guided to the end game by targeting data relayed to the ship via CEC; and the Mountain Top radars illuminated the threat targets for SM-2 intercepts. At least one "skin-to-skin" intercept was achieved in the four firings, and all were declared to have met mission objectives. The CEC reached initial operational capability on 30 September and through December 1996 had been installed on three ships of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) battle group and the USS Wasp (LHD-1) amphibious ready group.
The U.S. Naval Academy announced in January that it had established a newly endowed Ethics Chair in the Department of Leadership, Ethics, and Law. Castigated for several years about midshipmen's ethical shortcomings, and with the Navy continually tarred by the residue of the 1991 Tailhook Convention and more recent sexual harassment incidents, the Academy looked to this initiative to help shore up principled actions. During 1996, for example, a midshipman was jailed on fondling charges, 15 midshipmen were indicted in a car-theft ring, two first-class mids were charged with attempted breaking and entering, and one midshipman was charged with murder, for which the Academy came under fire for its handling of the accused. In December, Secretary John Dalton, a 1964 Naval Academy graduate, acknowledging the need "to develop and maintain-within each of us individually, and collectively within the entire naval service-the character to make ethical decisions," announced the selection of Dr. Nancy Sherman to be the first holder of the Ethics Chair. A tenured professor in the Philosophy Department at Georgetown University, Dr. Sherman brought years of intense study in the fields of character development and moral philosophy to the task. (See in this issue, "U.S. Naval Academy: Stewardship and Direction," pages 67-72.)
"This is a great day both for the Navy and the Nation," remarked Admiral Bruce DeMars, then-Director of Navy Nuclear Propulsion, as the USS Seawolf (SSN-21) returned to Groton, Connecticut, after its initial sea trials on 5 July. "Today," he continued, "the country has the fastest, the quietest, the most heavily armed submarine in the world." Two more Seawolf class attack submarines-the Connecticut (SSN-22) and the yet-to-be-named SSN-23-are under construction at General Dynamics' Electric Boat Corporation, and the Navy plans to begin construction of the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) in fiscal year 1998. A subsequent trial in September with the Seawolf did turn up some anomalies, especially with the shrouds for the new wide aperture arrays, but Navy and shipyard designers and engineers identified fixes. "Problems must be anticipated in the first of any new ship class," an industry spokesman noted, "and we are working hand-in-glove with the Navy to overcome them."
On 20 July, the modernized and upgraded USS Inchon (MCS-12) reached her new home port of Ingleside, Texas. The Navy's only mine warfare command, control, and support ship, the Inchon underwent a 15-month, $110 million conversion from amphibious assault ship (LPH) to enable operation of detachments of MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasures helicopters. The 602-foot ship also will serve as a "floating MCM port" to provide repair and resupply facilities for the Navy's Avenger (MCM-1) and Osprey (MHC-51) mine countermeasures and coastal mine-hunting ships, and support EOD diver detachments.
In another innovation for mine warfare, in early 1996, Admiral Boorda directed the Commander, Mine Warfare Command, to stand up a Very Shallow Water Mine Countermeasures (VSW MCM) Test Detachment at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group Three, Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. Recognizing that since the end of World War II more U.S. Navy ships have been the victims of mines than of any other combat action, Admiral Boorda also understood the threat from mines and obstacles in the very shallow water region to Navy strategic concepts, doctrine, and operations.
Comprising about 25 Navy EOD and SEAL divers and Marine Corps RECON troops and two MCM-trained dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Systems detachment in San Diego, the VSW MCM Test Det focused on several key tactical and equipment-assessment objectives outlined by the CNO. Through the end of the year, the Test Det had achieved significant success, despite a chronic lack of resources. But long-term commitment to a dedicated, core capability was uncertain, as Marine Major General Edward Hanlon, the Navy's Director of Expeditionary Warfare (N85) in the Pentagon, warned: "The VSW Test Det represents our last chance for success in this vital mission area."
Still other "firsts" occurred during 1996. In May, President Clinton nominated Paul Reason to become the first black four-star admiral and Patricia Tracey to become the first woman vice admiral. Admiral Reason, a surface "nuke" who was the Navy's most senior vice admiral, took on the responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Taking over as Chief of Naval Training and Education and the Director of Training, Admiral Tracey also was the second woman of any of the five services to wear three stars. On 8 August, Secretary of the Navy Dalton commissioned Lieutenant (junior grade) Manje Malak Abd Al Muta'Ali Noel, Jr., as the Navy's first Muslim chaplain. Lieutenant Noel previously had served 12 years of active enlisted service before being honorably discharged to pursue his religious studies. Perhaps what is most remarkable about these three announcements is that they were so long in coming.
In June, the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, announced that a research team headed by Navy Captain and physician Dr. Carl June discovered a potential new therapy to enhance white blood cell proliferation and prevent or limit HIV viral spread in patients. The team determined that specialized white blood cells (CD4 T cells), which direct the immune response, can be rapidly grown in the laboratory in large numbers. The team believed that their discoveries could have applications in preventing the deterioration of immune function that accompanies HIV infection and may also have therapeutic use for certain symptoms that result from HIV.
"What a Legacy. . ."
He was to have been interviewed later that day by two Newsweek reporters who were thought to be focusing on whether Admiral Boorda was justified in wearing a "Combat V" device on his Navy Commendation and Achievement medals. ABC-TV News had also been pursuing the story that had been broken by the little-known National Security News Service. Although both citations did not specifically mention the Combat V, they did talk of Admiral Boorda's "employment of naval gunfire support" during his tour as weapons officer on board the USS John R. Craig (DD-885) "while operating in combat missions" from April to August 1965, and his support of "combat operations" while executive officer of the USS Brooke (DEG-1) from December 1971 to February 1973. And, the regulations during the Vietnam era were somewhat vague, as former Chief of Naval Operations Elmo Zumalt stated after the news broke of Admiral Boorda's suicide, and left a lot of room for personal interpretation. However, because of the uncertainty, Admiral Boorda had stopped wearing the two Combat Vs about a year earlier.
Still, there had to be more to it than that. Perhaps it was the culmination of some two years of intense, sometimes virulent if not downright vicious, criticism of the Navy-his service . . . his family that had begun to go beyond the institution and more sharply attack the man. Just a few weeks earlier, former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb excoriated Admiral Boorda and others in the Navy's leadership for "the ultimate disloyalty: to save or advance their careers, they abandoned the very ideals of their profession in order to curry favor with politicians." In a keynote speech to the Naval Institute's 122nd Annual Meeting and Sixth Annapolis Seminar on 25 April, Mr. Webb offered a litany of shame, as it were, of times when the Navy's leadership-including Admiral Boorda-failed to express outrage and condemnation of the political manipulation of the service. "I ask myself," Webb mused, "what would Nimitz have done in these situations? Or King? Or Admiral McCain?" Ironically, Admiral Boorda had the day before addressed the Naval Institute in his annual "State of the Navy" message, acknowledging, "Do we have problems? You bet. Do we have the best Navy in the world? You can count on it!"
Then, in the issue of the Navy Times that hit the street on 13 May, an anonymous letter attacked Admiral Boorda personally, claiming he had lost the respect of the Fleet, and calling for him to resign: they "are not behind you. You are not their leader. Go home immediately-for the sake of the Navy you love." There were other attacks, as well, that probably contributed to his decision, reportedly discussed with his wife on 11 May, to resign and retire in August, just two years into his four year tenure as CNO.
Around noon on 16 May, Admiral Boorda met with his Chief of Naval Information, Rear Admiral Kendall Pease, to discuss what the Newsweek reporters wanted. Answering his own question about how to handle it, Admiral Boorda said, "I'll just tell them the truth." He then put off a 1315 meeting with the Deputy Secretary of Defense, returned to his home in the Washington Navy Yard, and, after leaving suicide notes to his family and all fleet sailors, shot himself with a .38 caliber revolver. He was pronounced dead at 1425. He was 56 years old.
"He was a seaman who became admiral," Secretary of Defense William Perry said at the memorial service held on 21 May at the Washington National Cathedral, "but an admiral who never forgot the seaman. And nobody, nobody, had more pride in his sailors." President Clinton eulogized Admiral Boorda, citing "his deep sense of honor, which no person should ever question. . . . Mike Boorda's seat is empty," the President continued. "And how we will miss his warm smile and easy manner. What a legacy he has left behind."