HONOLULU – Cmdr. Scott Waddle, former captain of the U.S. submarine that hit and sank a Japanese fisheries training ship off Hawaii in February, has received a letter of reprimand that will effectively end his navy career, the U.S. Navy said Monday.
Nine Japanese from the Ehime Maru were lost at sea.
Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said at a news conference at Pearl Harbor that the navy imposed the nonjudicial punishment on Waddle, who was relieved of command of the submarine after the collision.
The “admiral’s mast” punishment included a letter of reprimand to be placed in Waddle’s military record, forfeiture of half a month’s pay for two months and formal dismissal as captain of the USS Greeneville.
Fargo said Waddle was not court-martialed because he had no criminal intent and there was no evidence of serious misconduct.
Fargo said that further investigation of the case is unnecessary. He made the decision after receiving recommendations from three admirals who sat on the bench of the March 5 to March 20 U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry on the incident.
Six other officers were also punished, including Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Seacrest and Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer, the sub’s executive officer.
Waddle notified Fargo that he will submit a resignation request in due course and that he intends to retire from the navy by Oct. 1, his lawyer, Charles Gittins, said.
Waddle is expected to receive an honorable discharge. He will qualify for full pension on May 27, when he will have completed 20 years in the navy.
In Tokyo, Defense Agency officials said they understand the U.S. Navy’s conclusion but expressed anxiety over how the Japanese public will react.
Rear Adm. Isamu Ozawa of the Maritime Self-Defense Force joined in the navy court of inquiry as an adviser.
A senior official of the MSDF said, “I doubt if the Japanese public will accept the result easily, though administrative punishment means guilt and is a fatally heavy penalty for a military person.”
Waddle released a statement through Gittins, saying, “I understand and accept the punishment.
“I again offer my most sincere apology and my hope” that the U.S. government will promptly and fairly settle all claims made by the families against the United States as a result of the accident, the statement says.
Waddle also said his navy life is effectively over.
The recommendation report submitted to Fargo by the court of inquiry says that five factors contributed to the the collision.
According to the nearly 2,000-page report, Waddle demanded “rapid manipulation” of the sub during an emergency surfacing maneuver. Second, Waddle neglected safety procedures. Third, crew members who were in charge of watching for objects near the sub failed to perform their duties.
According to the report, the fourth factor was that the sub’s crew members were too confident of their abilities. Lastly, the crew placed priority on looking after the civilians on board rather than safety.
Consequently, the presence of civilians in the sub hindered communications among crew members, the report says.
The report concludes the collision could have been prevented if the skipper had taken sufficient time to confirm that the area was safe and listen to crew members’ opinions, considering the sea conditions at the time.
Fargo also revealed at the news conference that he has recommended submarine crews not allow civilians to enter control rooms while subs conduct emergency surfacing operations.
Case considered settled
The Japanese government considers the question of responsibility for the Feb. 9 collision between a U.S. submarine and a Japanese fisheries training ship as settled with the punishments of the sub’s former captain and other crew members handed down Monday in Honolulu, officials said Tuesday.
“We believe the decision on the punishments clarified former captain (Cmdr. Scott) Waddle’s responsibility. The decision was reached based on the U.S. system, and we do not intend to make any specific demands” over responsibility, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said.
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono made a similar comment, telling a news conference he hopes the United States will make efforts to prevent such an incident from occurring again and act in good faith when dealing with the salvaging of the Ehime Maru and compensating the victims and families of the missing.
Kono said Japan is not in a position to say “this or that” about the outcome of the U.S. Navy Court of Inquiry.
Kono said the full cause of the accident was revealed in the March 5 to March 20 court of inquiry, suggesting the government is satisfied with the findings.
Takeshi Igarashi, a professor of U.S. foreign diplomacy at the University of Tokyo, said Japanese politicians should demand that the U.S. take accident prevention measures rather than reactionary steps such as calling on the former captain to be severely punished.
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