Nevertheless, Cmdr. Scott Waddle's career is effectively over, as he has been recommended to be detached from his duties as Greenville commander "with cause." That means he will not get his next promotion and must therefore leave the service. However, Waddle will retire with the full benefits due him.
Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Thomas Fargo fined Waddle one-half of two months' pay but suspended the fine, he said at a Monday press conference at Pearl Harbor.
Fargo found Waddle guilty of dereliction of duty and negligent husbandry of a vessel, but did not seek a court-martial because Waddle took full responsibility for the accident and had an exemplary record until the accident.
Fargo also said there was no evidence of deliberate misconduct by Waddle, so he therefore faced an "admiral's mast" – a formal reprimand by the highest-ranking officer in the Pacific Fleet.
Fargo said Waddle created a "false sense of urgency" on Feb. 9 when he was preparing his ship and crew for an emergency surface drill and did not spend enough time doing a sonar and visual search of the surface.
If he had, he would have seen the 195-foot Japanese ship, and the fatal accident would have been averted. Nine Japanese men and boys were killed in the accident.
"Let me be clear. There was no fault or neglect on the part of the Ehime Maru's captain or crew," Fargo said. "The collision was solely the fault of the USS Greeneville. The tragic accident could and should have been avoided by simply following existing Navy standards and procedures in bringing submarines to the surface."
Fargo also recommended that a Navy captain on board the Greeneville at the time of the accident, Capt. Robert Brandhuber, be admonished for failing to question Waddle on the speed of the preparation for the emergency main ballast blow.
Brandhuber, chief of staff of the Pacific Submarine Force, was a passenger on the boat escorting a group of civilians, but Fargo said he neglected to carry out his professional duties on the day of the accident.
Fargo said the 16 civilians on board the Greeneville did not contribute in any way to the accident. All 16 were crowded into the control room at the time of the accident, impeding communications between crew members, and three sat at the controls during the emergency drill.
Fargo conceded they were distractions but said it was Waddle's responsibility to be certain they did not affect his crew.
Fargo defended the visitors program but has also decreed that civilians no longer be allowed at the controls during "critical evolutions" like the main ballast blows, and directed that fleet commanders personally approve all civilian embarkations.
Fargo singled out five other members of the Greeneville crew for punishment.
He convened an "admiral's mast" for Lt. Michael Coen, the officer of the deck of the Greeneville, to counsel him on his responsibility for the safe navigation of the ship. An admiral's mast is a more serious reprimand than the court of inquiry had recommended for the junior officer.
Fargo also recommended Fire Control Technician Patrick Seacrest face a captain's mast with the Greeneville's new commander and that three more face admonishment by their skipper: Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeiffer for lack of administrative oversight; Chief of the Boat Douglas Coffman for lack of administrative oversight; and Sonar Supervisor Edward McGiboney, for allowing an unqualified sonar man to stand watch.
Fargo defended the Greeneville's search and rescue operation immediately following the accident, calling it "exceptional and immediate."
The Greeneville did not fish any of the Japanese passengers out of the water but rather called for a Coast Guard rescue of the boat.
Fargo also said the Greeneville was in an appropriate area of operations, attempting to quell critics who said the ship should not be conducting such a dangerous maneuver so close to land. The Greeneville was around nine miles from Pearl Harbor at the time of the accident.
Although Fargo's punishment decision formally end the proceedings, the crew of the Greeneville has at least one more test before it may return to sea:
Fargo is requiring that the watch team - which failed to detect the Ehime Maru - be evaluated by the commander of the Pacific submarine force before it is allowed to deploy.
Fargo also promised that the lessons of the Greeneville would not be forgotten. He is requiring that all prospective submarine commanders in the Pacific study the Greeneville accident and its lessons.
"It will serve to remind all that no matter how apparently routine the mission, there is nothing about going to sea that is forgiving," Fargo said.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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