Thursday, April 19, 2001

USS Greeneville

Admiral to explain
Waddle decision

By Gregg K. Kakesako

THE NAVY WAS TO SEND its commander in Japan to Uwajima today to explain why Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Thomas Fargo does not plan to court martial Greeneville skipper Scott Waddle, a Japanese wire service reported.

Kyodo news service said Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, commander of the U.S. Navy in Japan, was to meet relatives of the nine Japanese lost at sea when the fisheries training vessel Ehime Maru and the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville collided nine miles south of Diamond Head, to explain the court of inquiry's decision.

The Navy here had no comment on the Kyodo and other news reports which have said Fargo has decided against courts martial for Waddle and any other crewmen of the Greeneville.

Charles Gittins, Waddle's civilian attorney, also said he hadn't heard from Fargo as of late yesterday afternoon.

Chaplin, who will be accompanied by other Navy officers, will meet Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato at the Ehime prefecture government in Matsuyama before moving on to Uwajima, 430 miles south of Matsuyama, to meet the relatives.

MANY OF THE RELATIVES want the courts martial to find the cause of the accident Feb. 9 in which the Greeneville sank the fisheries training ship Ehime Maru.

Today, the Los Angeles Times also reported Waddle and Petty Officer Patrick Seacrest, the fire control technician who failed to warn Waddle that Ehime Maru was on a collision course with the Greeneville, will not be court martialed.

Instead, they will be ordered to appear before separate administrative hearings.

In Waddle's case, he will be granted an honorable discharge with a pension.

Four other officers, including the Submarine Forces' chief of staff who was on the Feb. 9 day cruise, will receive punitive letters or verbal reprimands, although these actions are not considered career stoppers, Navy sources told the Los Angeles Times.

Fargo, according to the newspaper, also will recommend a review of the Navy's Distinguished Visitors program and end the practice that allows captains to use their boats to "show off" for civilians.

On Feb. 9, the Greeneville's sole mission was to entertain 16 civilians for a day -- a violation of current Navy procedures. The Greeneville was performing an emergency surfacing drill for the civilians when its rudder sliced a hole in the Ehime Maru's hull, sinking it within minutes.

Both Waddle and Fargo, a former submarine captain, also plan trips to Japan to explain their actions.

Loss of command and career are seen as appropriate action for Waddle since there have been few cases of court martials for collisions at sea.

The Los Angeles Times said that in 1992 no court martials were ordered for the Navy accident where a U.S. warship accidentally fired two missiles at a Turkish destroyer, killing two.

Last Friday Fargo received a report from a three-admiral Court of Inquiry which recommended against court martialing Waddle. Fargo is likely to punish Waddle under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a private proceeding known as an "admiral's mast."

That would be a non-judicial administrative proceeding that would exclude the possibility of a prison sentence, although Fargo could force Waddle to retire at a lesser rank, dock his pay or give him a letter of reprimand.

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