Press Briefing by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Boorda
Aboard the USS George Washington
3:55 P.M. (L)
ADMIRAL BOORDA: -- for the President to shake hands with everybody, but it just seemed to me like all those people re-enlisted and signed up with their country for another several years -- for each one of them it was at different times, depending on what their contract said. And it just seemed to me, and it seemed to the President, too, that they ought to get a chance to meet the guy they just swore to obey. So they did. And I know they all felt good about that.
He's out touring the ship right now. We're going to have as few officers around him as possible and let him get to know the sailors on George Washington, because this is a great ship. And with that, let me answer any questions you've got.
Q: Admiral, what precautions is the Navy taking as far as the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula?
ADMIRAL BOORDA: Well, I can't answer specifics about operations. I think you've been reading and writing Secretary Perry's comments on that subject, and you have Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili on here. I'm a member of the Joint Chiefs, but I think you can get it from them. But, basically, I don't have anything to add to what he said. It's a very serious situation, and the United States is taking it seriously. Beyond that, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment.
Q: Might the RIMPAC military exercise send any message to the leaders in Pyongyang?
ADMIRAL BOORDA: RIMPAC has been scheduled for a long time. RIMPAC is an exercise we do to keep our Pacific Fleet ready and Pacific forces ready, and also to exercise with allies out in the Pacific.
So it wasn't intended -- you can look, it's been scheduled over several years and done again and again, so it wasn't intended as a signal. But I think when we exercise and we do well -- and when we exercise, we do do well -- that we are sending signals. We're sending signals that we have a strong military, that we know what we're doing, and that we back the foreign policy of the United States and of our allies. So there is no special intended signal with RIMPAC, other than the one of readiness that it would send with or without a crisis imminent.
Q: I wonder if you have any thoughts about what your predecessor of 50 years ago might have been thinking as you, now, 50 years to the day later, begin to embark on this crossing of the English Channel.
ADMIRAL BOORDA: I was at a ceremony the other day where I got a chance to see the wall map of the invasion of DDay. And it showed the lanes for the boats and everything -- it was the real one -- and filled a whole wall. Now we would do it with a computer, but it would be the same thing. And I was standing there looking at that, and it was hard not to realize just how complex that was, and also how vulnerable you are as a Four Star.
And I can't think like Eisenhower because, I mean, there was only one Ike. But I can tell you that he must have looked at that, he planned it, he watched his staff do all the details, he talked to his subordinate commanders, and then I think -- I don't have the words probably exactly right, but in the end he said, okay, let's go. That was the order that he gave. And then he had to go sit down and wait. And I've experienced that a little bit, and certainly nothing on the kind of scale we're talking about.
But I was thinking about him when I looked at that. It must have been a very, very difficult time. Because you really have done all you can do at that point as a commander, and now it's in the hands of your people and fate and lots of things. So it takes a strong man to do something like that; he was a pretty strong man.
Q: Aren't these commanders taught that the kind of losses that were sustained in D-Day would be unacceptable for today's commanders?
ADMIRAL BOORDA: That's a really good question. Clearly you don't want any losses. And I'm sure, you know -- God bless them, Ike could be standing here right now -- he'd tell you he didn't want any losses, either. I think losses are not acceptable. It's a bad word. I mean, I've been in the Navy now going on 39 years. I can't think of an unacceptable loss. It's not how you think about it. You want to minimize losses.
You know that, in combat, losses are always possible in that kind of combat, great losses were probably a -- not probably. Great losses were a certainty. I mean, they were in a fight head on, not maneuverable. They were just head-on shooting on a very difficult beach. They did try to outflank them, and they did a good job of that. But, no, I think every commander probably since the beginning of time did not want to have losses, and they are never acceptable, and you'd never plan an operation to try lose people. So, it's almost an impossible question to answer.
I think the tolerance for losses -- you know, this is not some wonderful insight that you're going to get from me - - but tolerance for losses is much less. But we were in a different kind of fight then. We were in a fight for basically for the survival of Europe and essentially the survival of the free world as we knew it. It was a very different situation than probably a regional crisis that you would face today. Let's hope we never find out about that kind of crisis again.
Q: in terms of Bosnia, and do you think you would have the same kind of Allied unity of purpose if the decision was made for an attack or --
ADMIRAL BOORDA: Helen, I don't know who you'd attack in Bosnia. I mean, nothing like -- Normandy was a once, hopefully once in history kind of event. World War II was hopefully a once in history kind of event for our country; I sure so hope so. So there are no similarities between Bosnia and World War II. And nothing in there I can think of that even remotely resembles the kind of things we're talking about.
There is a lot of Allied solidarity about Yugoslavia. There certainly is solidarity on humanitarian aid. And remember, I'm a little bit dated. It's been nine weeks since I left that job and I've been the CNO now for five or six of them. So I'm looking at lots of different things now.
But we certainly saw solidarity of the Alliance when, once we got a mandate, we went and did what we said we were going to do, whether it was deny-flight or fixed-wing aircraft or making Sarajevo better. I didn't say freeing it. I mean, the country's still at war. But we did make Sarajevo better. You can go there now -- I found out you can get a traffic ticket in Sarajevo now. (Laughter.) I think that's progress.
Mostly you couldn't go down the street without getting shot, or shot at, in Sarajevo just about eight or ten weeks ago. Now you can get a traffic ticket. I think that's --I feel real good about having brought that to those people. But I think there's solidarity. There's certainly differences about what is an acceptable solution there. But that' the stuff that diplomacy is made of. Now, they negotiate that away.
Q: Admiral, do you think these ceremonies, these commemorations, flyovers, the flotilla are glorifying war?
ADMIRAL BOORDA: I don't think so. No, I really don't. These people -- when you see the veterans and you talk to them and you talk to their families, who sacrificed a lot too, and here we are at the 50th anniversary -- so all of these people -- and the youngest they can be is in their late 60s, except for a few people who perhaps came into the military a little too young, and a lot of them in their late 70s and more -- they're remembering a time where they feel they made a great contribution. And I feel that they did, too; and I think most everyone does. I think it's appropriate to recognize that. I don't think that's glorifying what they did. My guess is that to the vast majority of them, certainly everybody I have talked to, wished they hadn't had to go do that, and pray that nobody else will ever have to do it again.
But it was an achievement, and I think it would be wrong not to notice that. And that's what's going on. Glorifying war is not what this is about. At least, it's not what it's about for me.
Anyone else? Okay, I think they've got some real information for you, instead of this stuff.
Thanks a lot.
END 4:07 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Boorda Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269500