Arleigh Albert Burke (1901–1996) Typed Letter Signed, " Arleigh Burke", 7.25 x 10.5, on his personal letterhead, Washington, D.C., 15 July 1975, was an admiral of the United States Navy who distinguished himself during World War II and the Korean War, and who served as Chief of Naval Operations during the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. He led the "Little Beavers" destroyer squadron in WWII, fighting 22 combat engagements in four months in the Pacific. At the assault of Bougainville and nearby Buka in the Solomon Islands, October-November 1943, Captain Burke, Commander of Destroyer Squadron 23 in the Pacific, made two spectacular dashes at high speed, sinking a large number of Japanese vessels and earning the nickname "Thirty-One Knot" Burke. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in July 1950 and appointed Chief of Naval Operations with the rank of Vice Admiral in August 1955, serving until his retirement in August 1961. The WWII naval hero's reply contains great military and political content. In part: "...I appreciate your letter of 9 July concerning my opinion of the rescue of the SS MAYAGUEZ...I do heartily approve of the method used to free the ship...I do not believe the United States over-reacted -- rather I think that there was too much delay before the decision was made to rescue the ship. A sovereign nation is responsible for its citizens and for the property opf the citizens. If that nation is not willing to protect the lives and property of its citizens it does not fulfill its obligations and loses the respect of other nations."
The Mayaguez incident took place between Kampuchea and the United States from May 12–15, 1975, less than a month after the Khmer Rouge took control of the capital Phnom Penh ousting the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic. It was the last battle of the Vietnam War. Kampuchea, officially from 5 January 1976 Democratic Kampuchea, also described as the Genocidal Regime, was the Cambodian state under one-party Marxist-Leninist totalitarian rule that existed between 1975 and 1979. It was controlled by the Khmer Rouge. The names of the Americans killed, as well as those of three U. S. Marines who were left behind on the island of Koh Tang after the battle and were subsequently executed by the Khmer Rouge, are the last names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The SS MAYAGUEZ merchant ship's crew, whose seizure at sea had prompted the U.S. attack, were released in good health, although this was not known to the U.S. Marines or the U.S. command of the operation. Nevertheless, the Marines boarded and recaptured the ship anchored offshore a Cambodian island. The letter comes with the original mailing envelope. Both items are in fine condition, with the usual mailing folds to the letter and opening tear to the envelope.