An Iconic Figure to Remember, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr.

By John Desselle, Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., a U.S. Navy admiral, whose naval career extended from World War II to the Vietnam War, was the youngest admiral to serve as Chief of Naval Operations. As a young man, one of his greatest desires was to become a doctor as both his parents were. But in 1939 he was accepted into the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. In 1942, after graduating from the Academy, he joined the Fleet where he served for 32 years. Zumwalt played a major role in U.S. military history, especially as Chief of Naval Operations. His main focus was to reform U.S. Navy personnel policies in an effort to improve enlisted life and ease racial tensions. He was a decorated war veteran, whose awards and medals include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with Valor device for heroic service and the Navy Commendation Medal. Admiral Zumwalt retired from naval service on July 1, 1974 aged 53, but continued to serve his Navy in other ways for the rest of his life. He died January 2, 2000, at the age of 79 in Durham, N.C. and was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Md.

Here are few of his many Quotes or Z-grams with imagery to illustrate the power of his influence on the U.S. Navy:

“IT IS EVIDENT THAT WE NEED TO MAXIMIZE OUR EFFORTS TO IMPROVE THE LOT OF OUR MINORITY NAVYMEN. I AM CONVINCED THAT THERE IS NO PLACE IN OUR NAVY FOR INSENSITIVITY. WE ARE DETERMINED THAT WE SHALL DO BETTER. MEANWHILE, WE ARE COUNTING ON YOUR SUPPORT TO HELP SEEK OUT AND ELIMINATE THOSE DEMEANING AREAS OF DISCRIMINATION THAT PLAGUE OUR MINORITY SHIPMATES. OURS MUST BE A NAVY FAMILY THAT RECOGNIZES NO ARTIFICIAL BARRIERS OF RACE, COLOR OR RELIGION. THERE IS NO BLACK NAVY, NO WHITE NAVY–JUST ONE NAVY– THE UNITED STATES NAVY.” 

Chief of Naval Operations (seated, third from left) Speaks with the Human Relations Council, at Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, 2 July 1971

Chief of Naval Operations (seated, third from left) Speaks with the Human Relations Council, at Fleet Activities, Yokosuka, Japan, 2 July 1971

 

“NO OTHER PROBLEM CONCERNS ME AS DEEPLY AS REVERSING THE DOWNWARD TREND OF NAVY RETENTION RATES, AND I AM COMMITTING MYSELF TO IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF NAVY LIFE IN ALL RESPECTS AND RESTORING THE FUN AND ZEST OF GOING TO SEA.”

Lieutenant Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN. (2nd from right), Shanghai, China, October 1945.

Lieutenant Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN. (2nd from right), Shanghai, China, October 1945.

 

“I PLEDGE MY CONTINUING EFFORTS TO ENSURE THAT ALL OF OUR NAVY MEN AND WOMEN WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE MY FULL SUPPORT IN MAKING THIS NAVY OF OURS AN EXCITING, CHALLENGING ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH TO WORK AND LIVE WITH THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITY WHICH CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED WITHIN A FRAMEWORK OF DISCIPLINE. IN TURN I LOOK TO YOU TO MATCH THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THOSE WHO ARE YOUR SENIORS IN WORKING TOWARD THE SAME GOALS.

050721-N-0962S-001 Washington, D.C. (July 21, 2005) - The Navy's 2005 Sailors of the Year (SOY) pose in the Pentagon courtyard following their meritorious advancement to chief petty officer. From left, Navy Reserve Force SOY, Chief Utilitiesman Thomas E. Mock; Chief of Naval Operations Shore SOY, Chief Hospital Corpsman Shannon R. Dittlinger; Pacific Fleet SOY, Chief Aviation Electronics Technician Matthew J. Waxenfelter and Atlantic Fleet SOY, Chief Aerographer's Mate Richard B. Rainer. The Sailor of the Year program was initiated in 1972 by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt to recognize outstanding enlisted Sailors. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Brandan W. Schulze (RELEASED)

050721-N-0962S-001
Washington, D.C. (July 21, 2005) – The Navy’s 2005 Sailors of the Year (SOY) pose in the Pentagon courtyard following their meritorious advancement to chief petty officer.  The Sailor of the Year program was initiated in 1972 by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt to recognize outstanding enlisted Sailors. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Brandan W. Schulze (RELEASED)

 

“MY POSITION WITH RESPECT TO WOMEN IN THE NAVY IS THAT THEY HAVE HISTORICALLY PLAYED A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF OUR NAVAL MISSION. HOWEVER, I BELIEVE WE CAN DO FAR MORE THAN WE HAVE IN THE PAST IN ACCORDING WOMEN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO CONTRIBUTE THEIR EXTENSIVE TALENTS AND TO ACHIEVE FULL PROFESSIONAL STATUS.”

A group photo of the first members of the Women’s Reserve of the Navy and Marine Corps gathered in Hawaii to survey the assignment of female personnel overseas, including: COL. Ruth Streeter, LCDR Jean T. Palmer, Maj. Marian B Dryden, and LCDR Joy B. Hancock.

A group photo of the first members of the Women’s Reserve of the Navy and Marine Corps gathered in Hawaii to survey the assignment of female personnel overseas, including: COL. Ruth Streeter, LCDR Jean T. Palmer, Maj. Marian B Dryden, and LCDR Joy B. Hancock.

 

“AFTER ALL, THE BEST WARSHIPS IN THE WORLD ARE OF NO AVAIL WITHOUT THE CREWS TO SAIL AND FIGHT THEM.”

Chief of Naval Operations (center background) Participates in a question and answer session with U.S. Navy Advisors at the Rach Soi Naval Base, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1971. Photographed by PH1 H.P. Shiplett. Note berets worn by Admiral Zumwalt and many of the others present.

Chief of Naval Operations (center background) Participates in a question and answer session with U.S. Navy Advisors at the Rach Soi Naval Base, Republic of Vietnam, in May 1971. Photographed by PH1 H.P. Shiplett. Note berets worn by Admiral Zumwalt and many of the others present.

 

“I DESIRE TO ELIMINATE MANY OF THE MOST ABRASIVE POLICIES, STANDARDIZE OTHERS WHICH ARE INCONSISTENTLY ENFORCED, AND PROVIDE SOME GENERAL GUIDANCE WHICH REFLECTS MY CONVICTION THAT IF WE ARE TO PLACE THE IMPORTANCE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF ‘THE PERSON’ IN PROPER PERSPECTIVE IN THE MORE EFFICIENT NAVY WE ARE SEEKING, THE WORTH AND PERSONAL DIGNITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MUST BE FORCEFULLY REAFFIRMED.”

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt. Jr., USN, Chief of Naval Operations (left), and , Commander Naval Forces Vietnam Discuss their recent visit to Nam Can Naval Base, Republic of Vietnam, as the fly to their next stop, May 1971.

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt. Jr., USN, Chief of Naval Operations (left), and , Commander Naval Forces Vietnam Discuss their recent visit to Nam Can Naval Base, Republic of Vietnam, as the fly to their next stop, May 1971.

 

“THERE MUST BE NO SUBSTITUTE OF ONE PREJUDICE FOR ANOTHER. THE PREJUDICE AGAINST GOOD ORDER AND DISCIPLINE IS AS PERNICIOUS AS THE PREJUDICE OF RACE.”

Photographed at the Pentagon, 4 January 1971. They are, from left to right: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations; General William C. Westmoreland, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; General John D. Ryan, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; and General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps. Photographed by Frank E. Hall. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

Photographed at the Pentagon, 4 January 1971. They are, from left to right: Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations; General William C. Westmoreland, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; General John D. Ryan, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force; and General Leonard F. Chapman, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps. Photographed by Frank E. Hall. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command

 

“I WILL NOT COUNTENANCE THE RIGHTS OR PRIVILEGES OF ANY OFFICERS OR ENLISTED MEN BEING ABROGATED IN ANY WAY BECAUSE THEY CHOOSE TO GROW SIDEBURNS OR NEATLY TRIMMED BEARDS OR MOUSTACHES OR BECAUSE PREFERENCES IN NEAT CLOTHING STYLES ARE AT VARIANCE WITH THE TASTE OF THEIR SENIORS.”

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations (left) is briefed by his special assistant, Lieutenant Commander William S. Norman, in June 1971, in Washington D.C.

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations (left) is briefed by his special assistant, Lieutenant Commander William S. Norman, in June 1971, in Washington D.C.

 

 “THE EVEN HANDED LEADERSHIP OF MEN IS WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT. AND IT CAN ONLY COME WITH EVERY SENIOR LEADING EVERY JUNIOR. IT IS NOT A PUSH TO THE FAR EDGE OF THE UNTRIED I AM SUGGESTING, GENTLEMAN. IT IS A RETURN TO OUR OLDEST AND MOST PROVEN TRADITION. COMMAND BY LEADERSHIP.”

Gathered in the Pentagon Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for the unveiling of the CNO portraits, 26 June 1986. Present are (from left to right): Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Retired); Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN, CNO Designate; Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN (Retired); Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, USN (Retired); Admiral James D. Watkins, USN, current CNO; Admiral George W. Anderson, USN (Retired), seated; Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Retired); Admiral David L. McDonald, USN (Retired); Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN (Retired); and Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Retired). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Gathered in the Pentagon Office of the Chief of Naval Operations for the unveiling of the CNO portraits, 26 June 1986. Present are (from left to right): Admiral James L. Holloway III, USN (Retired); Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, USN, then-CNO Designate; Admiral Robert B. Carney, USN (Retired); Admiral Thomas B. Hayward, USN (Retired); Admiral James D. Watkins, USN, then-current CNO; Admiral George W. Anderson, USN (Retired), seated; Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Retired); Admiral David L. McDonald, USN (Retired); Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, USN (Retired); and Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, USN (Retired). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

 

“SOME WHO FAVORED MY PERSONNEL REFORMS AS REASONABLE AND LONG OVERDUE WERE TROUBLED BY THE PUBLIC, NOT TO SAY THEATRICAL, MANNER IN WHICH I PROCLAIMED THEM…I THINK THEY MISSED THE POINT. ‘GOING PUBLIC’ WAS A DELIBERATE TACTIC BASED ON MY CONVICTION THAT THE NAVY HAD TO DO MORE THAN TO TREAT ITS PEOPLE BETTER IN MANY BIG AND LITTLE WAYS. IT HAD TO CHANGE, AND CHANGE FAST…THIS CHANGE WOULD CAUSE CONTROVERSY. IT SEEMED TO ME TO BE BOTH RIGHT AND NECESSARY THAT I SET UP A SYSTEM WHICH MADE ME PERSONALLY THE LIGHTNING ROD FOR SUCH CONTROVERSY.”

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN

Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN

 

Read more on Admiral R. Zumwalt Jr. here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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