Sub Skipper Reprimanded for Ehime Maru Incident
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2001 The U.S. Pacific Fleet commander found that the former skipper of the USS Greeneville was derelict in his duties and had handled the submarine hazardously prior to the Feb. 9 collision with the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru.
After reviewing a 119-page court of inquiry report on the accident, Adm. Thomas B. Fargo administered nonjudicial punishment, a punitive letter of reprimand, to Cmdr. Scott Waddle April 23 in Honolulu. The letter directed Waddle's removal from command of the Greeneville "for cause," and ordered him to forfeit half his pay for two months, which was suspended.
"Commander Waddle has been stripped of his command and his career (is) effectively terminated," Fargo said at an April 23 press conference in Hawaii. "I would tell you that this is absolutely devastating. He has paid dearly."
The Greeneville was on a special cruise with 16 civilian guests aboard Feb. 9 when it struck the Ehime Maru during an emergency surfacing exercise about nine miles off
Honolulu's Diamond Head. The Japanese vessel sank within minutes and nine of its 35 crewmembers remain missing.
The naval inquiry report noted that Waddle, who was running late to return to port just before the accident, failed to take the time to make a proper periscope scan of the area before conducting the exercise, where a submarine rapidly shoots to the surface. Fargo also noted that several members of the Greeneville's crew "failed to work together and pass information to each other about" conditions on the surface.
Fargo said he didn't recommend Waddle for a court-martial because the inquiry produced no evidence of criminal intent or deliberate misconduct. Prior to the accident, Waddle's career and record were excellent, he noted.
It is expected that Waddle, who has always claimed responsibility for the accident, will be allowed to retire after he becomes eligible to do so next month.
In a memorandum for record on the court report Fargo noted that Lt. j.g. Michael J. Coen, officer of the deck, had received an official admonishment and recommended that Petty Officer 1st class Patrick Seacrest, fire control technician, attend a nonjudicial Captain's Mast hearing. Fargo noted that official admonishments would also be issued to Lt. Cmdr. Gerald K. Pfeifer, executive officer; Master Chief Petty Officer Douglas Coffmann, chief of the boat; and Petty Officer 1st class Edward McGiboney, sonar supervisor.
Fargo recommended that another officer on the submarine during the incident, Capt. Robert L. Brandhuber, also be admonished. Although the captain wasn't a member of the Greeneville crew, Fargo said, Brandhuber should have challenged Waddle's hurried periscope check.
At the news conference, Fargo called the incident "a tragedy in which mistakes were made, for which our people have been held accountable." He expressed his regret to the families of the Ehime Maru's lost crew, saying "there is no process that will compensate for the loss of life."