The Navy has decided that the official record of Adm. Jeremy "Mike" Boorda, who committed suicide amid questions about Vietnam combat decorations he had worn, should continue to show he did not earn them.

A board of three civilians recommended last month that the official record remain unaltered, Navy spokesman Capt. Mark Van Dyke said Friday. The ruling was upheld by Carolyn Becraft, who has the final say as assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs.

Boorda, who joined the Navy at 16 and became the only enlisted man to rise to chief of naval operations, took his life in 1996 after 40 years of service. He was about to be asked by Newsweek reporters about why he wore Combat V's--tiny bronze letters standing for "valor."

The decorations were attached to a Navy Achievement Medal awarded in 1968 and a Navy Commendation Medal awarded in 1973.

In a suicide note "to my sailors," he said he felt disgraced.

Last year, then-Navy Secretary John Dalton placed a memo in Boorda's file--backed by another memo from Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., the Vietnam War-era chief of naval operations--that declared Boorda eligible to have worn the decorations.

Dalton said that only the Navy review board could officially change the record to say Boorda had the right to wear them. Boorda's family petitioned the Board for Corrections of the Naval Records last September to change the record to show he was entitled to wear the decorations.

"The final decision was there was no error or injustice in Adm. Boorda's record and the panel was unanimous in their recommendation," Van Dyke said.

He provided the information after an inquiry prompted by the state of Illinois' decision to award a $20,000 grant for a memorial in Boorda's hometown, Momence, about 50 miles south of Chicago.

Boorda removed the decorations from his medals in 1995, on the advice of the Navy's Office of Awards and Special Projects.

Dalton's memo said the citations justifying the awards "plainly state they were awarded for service including combat operations." Zumwalt's memo said it was "appropriate, justified and proper" for Boorda to have the decorations.

Wearing an unauthorized decoration is a severe breach of military protocol.

CAPTION: Adm. Jeremy Boorda killed himself after queries about decorations.