ADMIRAL ARLEIGH BURKE: A Biography by E.B. Potter


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A notably uncritical biography that makes a distinguished naval officer's career seem almost too good to be true. Potter (Nimitz, Bull Halsey) had the cooperation of Burke and his wife. As one result, he is able to provide telling detail on his subject's industrious youth (on a Colorado farm), years as an Annapolis midshipman (Class of 1923), and upwardly mobile service in the pre-Pearl Harbor Navy. Though a warrior at heart, Burke (with an M.S. in Engineering) was stuck at the Bureau of Ordnance in Washington, D.C., until the start of 1943. Once assigned to sea duty in the Pacific theater, the admiral-to-be soon showed his mettle in the dramatic destroyer operations of the Solomons campaign. In relatively short order, he became Chief of Staff to Admiral Marc Mitscher, an appointment that put him in the thick of the battles for Saipan, Leyte, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and other of Japan's island strongholds. After V-J Day, Burke narrowly escaped becoming a casualty of the bureaucratic turf wars that marked unification of the US military. He survived, though, to go to Korea as a UN delegate to the truce talks. In 1955, he was named Chief of Naval Operations. Serving an unprecedented six years, he played a major role in developing and deploying Polaris submarines. In retirement, Burke (who has eased off as he nears 90) kept his hand in as a founder of the influential Center for Strategic and International Affairs. Potter's diligent research has enabled him to produce a model of coherent hagiography that compares unfavorably with his blunter appraisals of other naval heroes. Burke may indeed have been ""a parfit gentil knight,"" but a tougher approach would probably have yielded a livelier, more credible narrative.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1990
Publisher: Random House