Dropping Anchor at OCC

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by Barbara Scheibel

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr., former chief of the United States naval operations, visited and spoke at Onondaga Community College on November 3, 1988 to help to celebrate Veterans Recognition Month. Zumwalt was the youngest person to serve as Chief of Naval Operations. Zumwalt was a decorated war veteran whose efforts helped to improve the lives of enlisted soldiers and ease racism and sexism in the Navy. Zumwalt spoke to the OCC community of “lessons learned” during his experiences in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars at a lecture in Storer Auditorium.

Admiral Zumwalt Jr. made news in 1986 when he wrote the book, My Father, My Son, with his son, Elmo Zumwalt III. The book describes their Vietnam War experiences and the tragedy that followed. Admiral Zumwalt Jr. ordered the spraying of Agent Orange over the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. This action reduced war causalities by exposing enemies concealed in heavy jungle cover. Agent Orange contained the highly toxic chemical dioxin. It is believed that many veterans who were exposed to this chemical later developed cancer and other related illnesses. Zumwalt’s son was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam and later died of cancer. Zumwalt spoke about the painful aftermath of Vietnam in his lecture at OCC. Among the lessons he discussed were that we do not treat veterans very well in wars in which we have lost. He went on to say that we also do not encourage veterans of these lost wars an opportunity to talk about the war. Zumwalt worked to change that for veterans and initiated many other wide-ranging reforms to strengthen the Navy during his career as a commander. Elmo Zumwalt Jr. received the Medal of Freedom on Jan. 15, 1998 and President Clinton said this of Zumwalt. “Yes, he is a former Sailor. He is also one of the greatest models of integrity and leadership and genuine humanity our nation has ever produced.”

Photograph 1: Admiral and Mrs. Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. at OCC in November, 1988

Photograph 2: Veterans working at OCC and student work-study staff joined Admiral and Mrs. Zumwalt, Jr., Dr. Leslie and Nancy Berring for lunch in the OCC Presidents board room, 1998.