Bill Clinton referred to Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr. as the “conscious of the Navy,” according to author Larry Berman. Berman spoke about the book with the audience at the Carter Presidential Library on October 9th. President Clinton not only honored Zumwalt with the Medal of Freedom, but he also gave the eulogy as a sitting President at his funeral.
Berman resides in Atlanta and is the founding dean of the Honors College at Georgia State University and has written four books. Berman crossed the path of “Bud” Zumwalt as he was working on another project. This book captures the life and times of this unspoken hero.
The book has several interesting parts. In the end, the author research notes has a fascinating tale on how the book almost was never written. Berman had to take his case to court to open the public documents that should have been open to begin with. The Navy and government bureaucracy almost succeeded in squashing the project. Fortunately, Berman persisted and prevailed.
The dialogue and interaction with the great late Admiral Hyman Rickover is also fascinating. Rickover was known as a tough old bird and a bit of a jerk. The passages about Rickover interviewing Zumwalt are riveting.
Zumwalt also was an advocate for those veterans affected by Agent Orange; his own son Elmo fell ill from his exposure. Ironically, it was Zumwalt’s orders that exposed his son to this chemical. This prompted him to work tirelessly on the victims’ behalf. He also helped start the national bone marrow donation program. Berman also points to some new evidence that the Reagan administration made a concerted effort to deny the existence of the link between Agent Orange and the side effects.
According to Berman, Zumwalt was also instrumental in shifting the paradigm of the modern navy, where it diversified the higher ranks with women and blacks.
Zumwalt worked in the Nixon White House under Kissinger and ran for United State Senate. His life was full of ups and downs, but through it all he was a honorable man who strove to do the right thing.
In his Medal of Freedom citation it reads, “In both wartime and peacetime, Elmo Zumwalt has exemplified the ideal of service to our nation…For his dedication, valor, and compassion, we salute Bud Zumwalt.”
This book Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr. by Larry Berman is a fascinating peek into one man’s remarkable life and selfless commitment to public service. A good read about a good man.
Zumwalt: The Life and Times of Admiral Elmo Russell “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr by Larry Berman
2012 Harper Collins 510 pp
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