Sunday, April 22, 2001

Ehime Maru sinking

Waddle to face
fleet commander

Adm. Fargo could issue
the Greeneville skipper a
reprimand, fine or confinement

Key players

By Gregg K. Kakesako

USS GREENEVILLE skipper Cmdr. Scott Waddle is scheduled to appear before Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Thomas Fargo tomorrow morning rather than face a court-martial for his actions involving the collision with the Ehime Maru two months ago.

The meeting is expected to last about an hour and will be held at Pacific Fleet Makalapa headquarters in Pearl Harbor. It will be conducted under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice under what is known as an "admiral's mast."

It will mean the end of Waddle's Navy career, although he will not face the prospect of prison.

Fargo may issue a letter of reprimand to Waddle and grant him an honorable discharge with a pension. Waddle also could be fined. Other punishments Waddle could receive include confinement to his base for as long as 60 days, confinement at home for as long as 30 days and a salary cut of as much as 50 percent for two months.

The confinement would postpone Waddle's plans to go to Japan to apologize to the victims of the accident.

STILL TO BE determined are punishments for at least four other Navy officers and other Greeneville crewmen. Two Greeneville officers, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer and Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, are expected to receive reprimands. Both have remained on the Greeneville and will remain there when the sub goes out on its next six-month deployment. The current interim skipper is Capt. Tony Cortese.

Capt. Robert Brandhuber and Lt. Cmdr. Dave Werner could face similar reprimands, along with Petty Officer Patrick Seacrest.

Werner was the Submarine Forces public affairs officer who arranged the Feb. 9 cruise for 16 visiting civilians. Brandhuber, the submarine fleet chief of staff, was aboard the Greeneville but failed to intervene when he thought Waddle was ignoring safety rules. Seacrest is the sub's fire control operator who failed to inform the crew that the Ehime Maru was on a collision course with the sub.

Waddle, who assumed command of the Greeneville two years ago, has apologized for the collision and accepted full blame.

Charles Gittins, Fargo's civilian attorney, said Waddle, who was relieved of his command after the Feb. 9 accident, plans to retire as "a commander, with full pension, and with an honorable characterization of discharge, consistent with the character of his 20 years of service."

That action would have to take place after the end of May, when Waddle reaches his eligible pension age.

Gittins said Waddle, 41, met with Fargo's executive assistant on Friday at the same Makalapa headquarters where last week the 24 members of the Navy's EP-3 surveillance plane went under extensive debriefings sessions for 26 hours after being released from the their 11 days of captivity by the Chinese.

Gittins said Waddle was allowed to review the 2,000-page report from the court of inquiry and was told that he was to appear before Fargo at 8 a.m. tomorrow.

"No other document was provided to Scott and we have been assured that Adm. Fargo will meet with Scott with an open mind. Scott has the right to appeal any punishment imposed," Gittins said.

"If we believe there are grounds for an appeal if punishment is imposed, you can be sure we will pursue the appeal."

THAT APPEAL would have to be made to the vice chief of naval operations in the Pentagon.

Gittins said he doesn't know if Waddle will stay in the islands after he retires, adding that "he has a number of very good job offers; he intends to concentrate on his life after the Navy after he has resolved the matters that are pressing at this time. "

Waddle and his wife, Jill, have a daughter.

Waddle still plans to go to Japan to try to meet with the families of the nine missing Japanese and others involved in the accident "at an appropriate time in the future," Gittins said.

Reports that Waddle may not have to face a court-martial or criminal charges have drawn sharp criticism in Japan.

Family members of the nine missing Japanese and others wanted a court-martial to get more details about the Feb. 9 collision where the Greeneville's rudder sliced through the hull of the 500-ton Ehime Maru nine miles south of Diamond Head.

"People here feel that without a court-martial we're never going to know who was really responsible," Kayoko Yoneda, head of the Uwajima Victims Support Group, told the Los Angeles Times. "That's why there's such frustration."

During the two-and-a-half-week court of inquiry held at Pearl Harbor, Rear Adm. Charles H. Griffiths Jr., who led a preliminary investigation, said he did not believe Waddle had acted with criminal negligence, although he said the skipper had made serious errors of judgment.

Vice Adm. John Nathman and Rear Adms. Paul Sullivan and David Stone heard from 33 witnesses in the formal, public inquiry, which ended on March 20. Rear Adm. Isamu Ozawa of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force was included in deliberations with the three American admirals but did not have a vote on their recommendations.

The submarine went to sea on Feb. 9 for the sole purpose of entertaining the 16 civilians on board -- a violation of Navy policy.

That action prompted Fargo to request the court of inquiry to review the Navy's distinguished visitors program.

During the day-long voyage three of the civilians were at some of the controls at the time of the collision.

Although the Navy maintains that the civilians did not cause the collision, Waddle recently said they might have been a distraction. Since then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has stopped the practice of allowing civilians at the controls of military vessels, aircraft or vehicles.

BUT THE COURT of inquiry learned there were numerous discrepancies during the brief sea voyage.

Because the Greeneville's regularly scheduled training mission had been canceled, a third of the crew stayed in port during the exercise. Waddle failed to take measures to reassign other members of the crew to cover for the absentees. He also was unaware that nine of 13 sailors manning watch stations had switched positions without telling him.

A critical sonar monitor in the control room was not functioning properly. Because of a long lunch with the visitors, the submarine was running behind schedule and Waddle cut corners to make up time.

That meant certain procedures were either skipped or abbreviated. They ranged from the way the Greeneville tracked ships to the way it used its periscope to scan the surface for vessels.

Waddle was criticized for not spending enough time at periscope depth before surfacing and had not raised the periscope high enough to see over seas that were swelling six to eight feet that day.

In addition, Petty Officer Seacrest failed to notify Waddle before the Greeneville surfaced that sonar readings placed the Ehime Maru just 4,000 feet away and bearing down on the sub.

The Japanese vessel Ehime Maru carried students and staff from a high school in the city of Uwajima.

The Navy has begun compensation talks with the families of the missing nine, including four 17-year-old boys and two teachers.

The key players


Cmdr. Scott Waddle (Captain)
>> A 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Waddle, 41, is the former executive officer of the USS San Francisco. He took command of the USS Greeneville two years ago. After the Feb. 9 accident, Waddle was reassigned to the staff of Commander Submarine Forces Pacific and no longer commands the Greeneville. A native of Austin, Texas, Waddle holds the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Seacrest (fire control technician)
>> Seacrest told investigators he obtained data about six minutes before the collision indicating another vessel was 4,000 yards from the submarine, but assumed the data were wrong when, about a minute later, the officer of the deck and the skipper reported seeing no vessels during their periscope scans. He said he didn't report the information because civilian visitors blocked his access to the officers.

Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer (executive officer)
>> Pfeifer, 38, is a 1986 graduate of the Naval Academy. His previous assignments include two other nuclear submarines. He is former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Nuclear Propulsion Examination Board. Pfeifer arrived on the Greeneville in October 1999. He holds the Meritorious Unit Commendation and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Lt. j.g. Michael Coen (officer of the deck)
>> Coen was commissioned from the Navy ROTC at Florida State University in 1997. Coen. 26, enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1995 to serve in the Nuclear Propulsion Program. He holds the National Defense Service Medal and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The Greeneville is his first assignment.

Petty Officer 1st Class Edward McGiboney (sonar supervisor)
>> McGiboney, the sonar supervisor on the Greeneville, told the Navy court of inquiry that a lack of time to perform a proper sonar analysis contributed to the sinking of the Ehime Maru.

Hisao Onishi (captain of the Ehime Maru)
>> Onishi testified he heard a "terrible metal hitting sound" followed by more banging. "We felt an impact as if the stern of the ship was lifted up." Onishi said it took five minutes for his ship to sink.


Vice Adm. John B. Nathman (president)
>> Nathman was president of the Navy's court of inquiry. He is commander of the Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, and former commander of the seven-ship Nimitz Battle Group.

Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan
>> Sullivan was a member of the court of inquiry. He is director of plans and policy at the U.S. Strategic Command, and former commander of the Navy's Trident submarine fleet.

Rear Adm. David M. Stone
>> Stone was a member of the court of inquiry. He is commander of Cruiser/Destroyer Group Five and the Nimitz Battle Group, and former commander of the Standing Naval Force Mediterranean.

Rear Adm. Isamu Ozawa
>> Ozawa was acting as an adviser and non-voting member of the court of inquiry. He is chief of staff of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Commandant Maizuru District.


Adm. Thomas Boulton Fargo, commander
>> Fargo became the 29th U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander on Oct. 8, 1999. A former submarine captain, Fargo is responsible for the world's largest combined fleet command, encompassing 102 million square miles and more than 190 ships and submarines, 1,400 aircraft, 191,000 sailors and Marines, and 30,000 civilians.

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