As far as the United States Navy is concerned, the case involving
one of its submarines and a Japanese fishing trawler is closed. The
accident has been investigated, the punishment meted out, the
apologies formally given.
But to many military officers and legal experts, the full story
behind the collision of the USS Greeneville and the Ehime Maru in
February has not been told.
The role of the 16 civilian VIPs on board at the time has not
been fully explored, critics say. The "command climate" created by
officers higher up the chain of command hasn't been acknowledged as
a possible reason for the accident. And the severity of the sub
skipper's punishment - especially when compared with the way
enlisted men often are treated - raises questions about the equity
of the military justice system.
There has been no criticism of the way Cmdr. Scott Waddle, the
former commanding officer of the nuclear attack sub Greeneville,
has conducted himself since the accident that took nine lives in
the waters off Hawaii. He has apologized, accepted responsibility,
shown sensitivity to the families of the Japanese victims, and
acknowledged that his naval career is over.
"Waddle stood up like a man and took his medicine, and he should
have because he's the guy," says Larry Seaquist, a retired Navy
captain who commanded four warships, including the USS Iowa. "But
he wasn't the only one who should have been standing up there in
There are other questions that need to be asked, says Captain
Seaquist. "How did those [civilians] get on board? Why did he feel
it was important to get them back to port quickly, that they were
so important that he would take his ship to sea on a day [when] he
didn't have any training, that he would take his ship to sea
without his whole crew, that they would man the watch stations
without all the qualified crew in the right places?"
Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Thomas Fargo noted such failings
when he cited Waddle for "dereliction of duty" and "negligently
hazarding a vessel," serious violations under the Uniform Code of
Military Justice. Admiral Fargo issued Waddle a letter of reprimand
and removed him from command. He ordered him to forfeit a month's
pay over two months, but suspended that punishment for six months,
by which time Waddle is expected to retire from the Navy with full
benefits and an honorable discharge.
Fargo ordered lesser punishments for several of Waddle's
subordinates and recommended that Capt. Robert Brandhuber, the
chief of staff of the Pacific Fleet submarine force who was
escorting the civilians, be admonished for not speaking up when he
believed the submarine was preparing to surface too quickly.
It is the role of the civilians and the senior officers (active
duty and retired) who organized the VIP cruise that has raised many