The Navy's most famous destroyerman was born in Boulder, Colorado on October 19, 1901. During World War II, Captain Burke commanded Destroyer Squadron 12 in August 1943 and Destroyer Squadron 23 two months later. The latter came to be known as the "Little Beavers," its insignia based on the character from the popular Red Ryder comic strip. In November 1943, he distinguished himself by leading several torpedo attacks, sinking multiple Japanese warships. During the Battle of Cape St. George, in what has been termed a "near perfect tactical action" by military historians, the Little Beavers destroyed three ships of a larger Japanese force and sustained no damage.
In May 1955, while he was only a Two Star Admiral, President Eisenhower nominated Burke to the post of Chief of Naval Operations, bypassing 87 active duty Officers senior to him. He retired in August 1961 after serving an unprecedented three terms as Chief of Naval Operations. Admiral Burke died on January 1st, 1996 at the age of 94. His wife of 72 years, the former Roberta (Bobbie) G. Gorsuch, died less than a year later on the ship's birthday, July 4th, 1997.