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Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Navy Court of
Inquiry postponed
until Monday

That gives the sub's top officers
more time to prepare; relatives
of the missing men want the
captain to apologize to them

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Bullet Families leave isles
Bullet Civilians interfered
Bullet Court to Monday
Bullet Apology to Akihito
Bullet Prime minister's golf
Bullet Joyrides curtailed

The Navy postponed until Monday its three-admiral panel to give the three top officers of the nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville, which sank a Japanese vessel nearly two weeks ago, more time to prepare.

The Navy's Court of Inquiry -- its highest administrative investigation -- was supposed to begin tomorrow at a Pearl Harbor courtroom. Jon Yoshishige, Pacific Fleet spokesman, said the hearing will now begin at 8 a.m. Monday.

The investigation will focus on the actions of Cmdr. Scott Waddle, the Greeneville's skipper; Lt. Cmdr. Gerald K. Pfeifer, the executive officer; and Lt. (j.g.) Michael J. Coen, the officer of the deck when the 360-foot submarine struck and sank the Japanese fishing trawler Ehime Maru on Feb. 9. Nine people aboard the trawler are still missing.

It was Coen who made several 360 degree sweeps of the surface of the ocean with Greeneville's periscope to determine if there were any obstructions above.

Waddle, 41, was reassigned to a desk job at the Pacific Fleet's Submarine Force headquarters at Pearl Harbor a day after the incident. He had commanded the Greeneville for a year. A 1981 graduate of the Naval Academy, Waddle is believed to have retained a civilian attorney.

Pfeifer, 38, joined the Greeneville's crew in October. Also an Annapolis graduate, Pfeifer is a member of the class of 1986. Pfeifer served on two other nuclear submarines -- the USS Nevada from March 1988 to July 1991 and the USS Batfish from July 1994 to October 1997.

Coen, 26, has been in the Navy for almost four years after being commissioned from Florida State University's Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program. The Greeneville was his first assignment after leaving submarine officer basic training in February 1999.

All three Navy officers have declined to discuss the incident with investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, which completed part of its investigation last night. They could face a court-martial depending on what the Court of Inquiry, led by Vice Adm. John Nathman, recommends to Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander.

As the NTSB winds down its Honolulu investigation and as the Navy's formal hearing is set to begin, more pressure is being brought to bear by the Japanese to raise the Ehime Maru and for Waddle to apologize.

Chikashi Koizumi, who represents Tokyo in the Upper House of Japan's Diet, told the Star-Bulletin that the dozen relatives of the missing crewmen who are still in Hawaii "want the captain to come to them and say a word of apology.

"In the Japanese culture, that is very important.

"Otherwise, they believe they have come here in vain. They have been waiting and they still haven't gotten anything yet."

Koizumi said he also wants to know if the 190-foot Ehime Maru was at fault.

"It had just left Honolulu Harbor," Koizumi said he was told after meeting with the families Monday night. "She had just gotten outside when she got into the accident.

"It's important to find out what happened to avoid future occurrences."

Also seeking more answers is Moriyuki Kato, the governor of Ehime Prefecture, where the fishing vessel and its crew were from.

This morning, he and seven other high-ranking Japanese politicians were to call on Adm. Dennis Blair, Pacific Forces commander.

Kato also planned to call on Adm. Fargo this morning.

More than 30.276 square miles -- an area about the size of South Carolina -- has been searched since Feb. 9 for the missing men.

Below the surface two Navy deep-diving probes -- the unmanned Scorpio II and Deep Drone -- continue to search for debris.

The Ehime Maru was found at the bottom of the Pacific, 2,003 feet down.

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