Zumwalt, Elmo R., Jr.

Zumwalt, Elmo R. (Russell), Jr.

(1920–  ) naval officer; born in San Francisco. He joined the navy in 1942 and directed arms control and (as of 1963) contingency planning regarding Cuba. He commanded the U.S. naval forces in Vietnam (1968–70) and was chief of naval operations (1970–74); in this latter office, he became famous for firing off "Z-grams," directives and orders designed to bring the navy more up to date in personnel matters, in particular to break down some of the traditional barriers between the races. In 1968 he collaborated with his son, Elmo Zumwalt III, on My Father, My Son, a book recounting his son's experiences with cancer, evidently acquired after being exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam—the very chemical defoliant his father had given orders to disperse.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.