Richard L. Armitage was born in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated in 1967 from the United States Naval Academy. He served on a destroyer stationed off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War before volunteering to serve three combat tours with the riverine advisory forces for the Republic of Vietnam Navy.
In 1973, Armitage left active duty and joined the office of the U.S. Defense Attache in Saigon. Immediately prior to the fall of Saigon, he organized and led the removal of South Vietnamese naval assets and personnel from the country and out of the hands of the approaching North Vietnamese via the USS Kirk. He personally decided to lead the flotilla of ships over 1000 miles to Subic Bay, Philippines in 1975 against the wishes of both the Philippine and American governments.
After the Vietnam War, Armitage moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense. He served in Tehran, Iran until November 1976. He then operated an import/export business in Bangkok for the next two years. In 1978, he started working as an aide to Senator Bob Dole after returning to the United States.
In late 1980, Armitage became a foreign policy advisor to President-elect Ronald Reagan. Following that role, he was made a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, a high-ranking post in the Pentagon. He served from 1981 to 1983.
In June 1983, he was promoted to Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy where he represented the Department of Defense in developing political-military relationships and initiatives throughout the world. Armitage left that post in 1989 to serve as a special negotiator for the President on military bases in the Philippines, and as a mediator on water issues in the Middle East.
In 1991, he was appointed a special emissary to King Hussein of Jordan. Following that, he was sent to Europe with the title of ambassador; his assignment was to direct U.S. foreign aid to the states that had been formed out of the fallen Soviet Union. He occupied that post until 1993, at which point he entered the private sector.
During the 2000 Presidential election campaign, he served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush as part of a group led by Condoleezza Rice that called itself “The Vulcans.”
The United States Senate confirmed him as Deputy Secretary of State on March 23, 2001; he was sworn in three days later. Armitage became a key negotiator with Pakistan after the September 11th attacks. Armitage resigned on November 16, 2004, the day after Powell announced his resignation as Secretary of State. He left the post on February 22, 2005, when Robert Zoellick succeeded to the office.
On May 10, 2006, he was elected to the board of directors of the Conoco Phillips oil company.
On 1 July 2010, Armitage was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia, Australia’s highest civilian honor, “for eminent service to strengthening the Australia-United States bilateral relationship”. He was invested with the award at a ceremony at the Australian Ambassador’s residence on October 13, 2010.
He was most recently awarded the Department of State Distinguished Service Award. He has been awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service four times, the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Award for Outstanding Public Service, the Presidential Citizens Medal, presented by the President to citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service, and the Department of State Distinguished Honor Award.
Mr. Armitage has continued to be active in USS Kirk events; speaking on several occasions.