Borgnine joined the United States Navy in October 1935, after graduation from James Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Connecticut. He served aboard the destroyer/destroyer minesweeper USS Lamberton (DD-119; AG-21 and DMS-2) and was honorably discharged from the Navy in October 1941. In January 1942, he reenlisted in the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war, he patrolled the Atlantic Coast on an antisubmarine warfare ship, the USS Sylph (PY-12). In September 1945, he was honorably discharged from the Navy. He served a total of almost ten years in the Navy and obtained the rank of gunner's mate 1st class.
Borgnine's military awards include the Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, American Campaign Medal with bronze star, and the World War II Victory Medal. In 1997, Borgnine received the United States Navy Memorial, Lone Sailor Award.
On December 7, 2000, Borgnine was named the Veterans Foundation's Veteran of the Year. In October 2004, Borgnine received the honorary title of chief petty officer from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Terry D. Scott. The ceremony for Borgnine's naval advancement was held at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. He received the special honor for his naval service and support of the Navy and navy families worldwide. On February 5, 2007, he received the California Commendation Medal.
Chief Borgnine, we thank you for your service. Rest in peace.