Navy commander’s
visit to Ehime stirs
mixed emotions

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A Navy commander will be visiting Japan this month to apologize for an international incident nearly two years ago when his nuclear attack submarine struck a Japanese fisheries training vessel off the coast of Waikiki, killing nine.

However, the one-day visit to Ehime prefecture, where the Uwajima Fisheries High School is located, will not be met with open arms.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported on Nov. 22 that the school does not want retired Cmdr. Scott Waddle, 43, there.

The newspaper said Waddle will be visiting Uwajima on Dec. 15 to apologize for the Feb. 9, 2001, accident where the USS Greeneville surfaced into the hull of the Ehime Maru. Waddle was demonstrating an emergency surfacing maneuver for 16 visiting civilians.

Nine Japanese sailors, students and teachers were killed in the worst U.S. Navy-civilian accident since World War II.

Waddle will arrive in Tokyo on Dec. 14 and will meet the mothers of some of the victims and return to the United States on Dec. 16. The Pacific Fleet said the Navy is not coordinating or paying for Waddle's visit to Japan.

The Japanese newspaper said Waddle's visit was in response to requests by the attorneys representing the survivors and victims of the affected families. The attorneys also demanded that Waddle apologize again and lay flowers at a memorial there.

Charles Gittins, Waddle's civilian attorney during the rare Navy court of inquiry that investigated the accident, declined to talk about the visit. He is expected to be part of the Waddles' traveling party.

Japanese researcher Masaji Maeda of the School of Medicine at Kurume University told the Mainichi Shimbun that Waddle's visit has affected some of the students who survived the collision.

According to the headmaster of the Uwajima Fisheries school, all but two families have a negative view of Waddle's visit. The headmaster also is concerned on the effect Waddle's visit will have on the students.

The U.S. Navy agreed on Nov. 8 to settle the case and pay $13 million to the survivors and family members of the 35 people who were on the Ehime Maru when it was struck and sunk by the Greeneville.

Separately, the Ehime prefectural government signed a $11.47 million compensation deal with the Navy which covered costs to replace the vessel, equipment, cargo, crew salaries, mental health care for the survivors and the costs for a memorial service.

Waddle's visit to Japan was one of the demands of some of the Ehime Maru victims' families, the Japanese newspaper said.

The bodies of eight of the victims were recovered last year in an unprecedented $60 million U.S. Navy salvage operation. Three crew members, four students and two teachers were killed in the accident.

Once the recovery operations were completed in November 2001, the 190-foot Ehime Maru was moved to the deep waters off Kalaeloa and sunk.

A memorial to the victims was built at Kakaako Waterfront Park and includes one of the Ehime Maru's anchors.

Waddle was removed as skipper of the Greeneville the day after the collision. The Navy's court of inquiry found no evidence of criminal intent or deliberate misconduct, and Waddle was not court-martialed. He was allowed to retire in October 2001 with all the benefits and pension of a Navy commander intact, and now lives in North Carolina.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --