In two suicide notes, Boorda said he was taking his life because he feared the investigation into his decorations could tarnish not only his reputation but that of the Navy as well. Boorda was the Navy's top uniformed officer and succeeded Admiral Frank Kelso as chief of Naval operations after the Tailhook scandal. Inheriting an institution battered by sex harassment and drug use charges, Boorda made it his mission to emphasize the need for honor among Naval forces. Boorda was highly respected in both military and civilian circles. Friday, Defense Secretary William J. Perry praised Boorda in a speech at Maryland's Andrews Air Force Base, making no mention of the decoration controversy. Perry said Boorda was an extraordinary patriot who cared most about rank-and-file sailors. "Nobody had more pride in his sailors," said Perry. "Mike's legacy -->
WASHINGTON, D.C.: In the wake of the suicide of the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Pentagon officials and lawmakers are asking whether Admiral Michael Boorda deliberately wore Vietnam combat decorations he knew he was not entitled to wear. Arizona Senator and former Vietnam POW John McCain came to the admiral's defense and said Boorda could have made an honest mistake. But others in the military suggested that such an error was inconceivable, particularly for a man who had run a naval personnel office for years. Boorda shot himself in the chest Thursday soon after learning that a Newsweek reporter would be questioning him about two "V's" he wore with Vietnam War campaign medals. "The V is more prestigious than the medal itself because it means the decoration was won under fire," says Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "Generally the citation will explicitly state if the soldier can wear the 'V'. Boorda's citation mentions combat operations but does not authorize him to wear the 'V'."