- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2001

The Navy has released the names of the 16 civilians on board the submarine USS Greeneville on Feb. 9 when it rammed and sank a Japanese fishing trawler, saying the group was part of a long-standing program to promote the Navy to the public.
The VIP list includes only the guests' names and hometowns. Most of the civilians on the Greeneville were associated with the USS Missouri Memorial Association, a private group raising $25 million to restore the mothballed battleship and open it to the public in Honolulu.
As the Navy for one week declined to release the visitors' names until late Saturday night, rumors swirled in Washington that some had been financial contributors to the campaign of President Bush. His spokesman vehemently denied it was selling seats on the Greeneville in the way the Clinton administration allowed wealthy donors to stay in the White House Lincoln bedroom.
A check by The Washington Times yesterday of federal campaign records showed none of the 16 listed as federal campaign contributors to Mr. Bush..
Their common link appears to be as boosters of the Missouri project. Most guests were brought to the Navy's attention by retired Adm. Richard Macke, who lives in Honolulu and once commanded all the U.S. forces in the Pacific. Adm. Macke, a volunteer for the association, submitted a list of names to the Pacific Fleet for a one-day trip on a U.S. submarine. Most of the 16 civilians were selected from that list, Navy officials say.
"There is nothing fishy here," said Lt. Cmdr. Conrad Chun, Pacific Fleet spokesman. "If influential people business leaders spread the word about the Navy, that's the kind of target audience you are looking for in our business. The news media is one of the top people we take because they reach the right people."
The list of 16 VIP guests included seven married couples. The Navy describes them all as business leaders from Texas, Kansas, Colorado, Hawaii and Massachusetts. Phone messages left for the people matching the listed names and hometowns were not returned yesterday.
The Navy said it had withheld the names pending the completion of a confidential preliminary inquiry. Now that that investigation is complete and the Navy has opted to conduct a public court of inquiry into the accident, the Pacific Fleet said the names were allowed to be released.
The inquiry, which will be presided over by three admirals, could result in court-martial proceedings against the Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle; its executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald K. Pfeifer; and the officer of the deck, Lt. j.g. Michael J. Coen. Some of the civilians likely will be called as witnesses, Navy officials said.
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on ABC's "This Week" yesterday that a congressional investigation should follow the military inquiry, which he praised.
"The seriousness of this accident and the tragedy involved requires that there be this kind of a very thorough, very high-level and perhaps most important very open hearing," Mr. Levin said. "I think this hopefully will give the Japanese some confidence as to just how seriously we take this tragedy."
The civilians' presence on the Greeneville received heightened scrutiny after the Navy belatedly acknowledged last week that two guests, although supervised, were at control stations when the submarine rammed the trawler Ehime Maru. Nine passengers, including students and crewmen, are missing and presumed dead. The Navy located the wreckage Friday night more than 2,000 feet below the surface off the Hawaii coast.
One VIP, supervised by a control room "watch man," sat at the helmsman's station, which controls the sub's direction. The other, guided by another crew member, activated the ship's main ballast switches which sent the Greeneville rushing to the surface from 400 feet in a drill called an "emergency blow."
In a statement issued yesterday, two of the civilians aboard the Greeneville, Michael and Susan Nolan of Honolulu, expressed their sorrow over the incident and said they did not believe it was caused by neglect or carelessness.
"We very deeply regret the loss of life resulting from the accident and extend our most sincere sympathy and heartfelt aloha to the survivors of the accident and to the families and friends who have missing loved ones," the statement said.
The Nolans also defended the Greeneville crew against criticism that crew members did not take survivors aboard.
The Nolans said, "They were frantic in their efforts to lend help immediately upon the collision and were prepared to lend all available assistance to help the people from the Ehime Maru. These are compassionate people, from the captain and his officers throughout the entire crew …"
The Navy has suspended the practice of having civilians on board during emergency surfacing drills or letting them sit at control stations at any time. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last week no evidence has surfaced that the visitors' presence contributed to the accident.
Investigators are focusing on why the attack submarine's crew failed to detect the nearby fishing vessel. The Greeneville is equipped with passive sonar to detect ship noise. An eyewitness said Cmdr. Waddle and another crew member conducted two periscope sweeps at a 60-foot depth minutes before the sub submerged to 400 feet and then executed the blow.
Ex-submariners, based on reports the Ehime Maru was traveling at about 12 knots and that the Greeneville submerged for only four minutes, said the trawler could have been within a mile of the sub during the periscope scan. A periscope can see as far as 10 miles, they say.
This has led them to believe that perhaps the scope was not extended high enough, and the ship was lost in haze or waves.
Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, announced the court of inquiry on Saturday at a press conference at Pearl Harbor, saying the proceeding could begin as early as Thursday. He said the blow was more for the benefit of the VIPs on board than for reasons of training or to check out equipment.
"I believe it was a demonstration," he said.
The admiral added, "The seriousness in which I view this tragic accident is reflected in the level of the investigation and the seniority of the court members. They will provide a full and open accounting to both the American and the Japanese people."
The court of inquiry is headed by Vice Adm. John B. Natham, commander of all Navy Pacific air forces. The other members are Rear Adm. Paul F. Sullivan, a career submariner, and Rear Adm. David M. Stone, commander of a surface ship group.
In other developments, the Navy's efforts to scan the wreckage of the Japanese trawler were set back yesterday when a deep-sea robot was removed from the sea for repairs. The Navy is using the robot to evaluate the feasibility of raising the Ehime Maru.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports

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