- The Washington Times - Friday, February 23, 2001

A confidential Navy report documents a series of errors by the USS Greeneville's crew shortly before the submarine rammed a Japanese fishing boat, stating that a critical periscope scan was too brief and not high enough to detect the oncoming ship.
The report also directly blames the presence of a large number of VIP civilians inside the Greeneville's control room for disrupting vital communications between the captain and a technician tracking the Ehime Maru vessel. A less-crowded area around the periscope "could have dramatically improved this situation," the report said.
Report excerpts were read yesterday by a Navy source to The Washington Times.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that civilians would be temporarily barred from the controls of U.S. warships, aircraft and combat vehicles.
The sub collided with the Ehime Maru while conducting an emergency surfacing drill nine miles off the Hawaiian coast on Feb. 9.
The report of a preliminary investigation, conducted by Rear Adm. Charles Griffiths Jr., says his findings "suggest a significant departure from the expected level of professionalism and performance of the ship's key watchstanders and senior leadership."
The Greeneville's captain, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, never learned from the fire-control technician that the fishing vessel was likely less than 4,000 yards away. Moreover, the submarine's executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald K. Pfeifer, believed Cmdr. Waddle was preparing for the surfacing "blow" too quickly. But he stayed silent because he did not want to challenge his boss in front of the civilian guests.
Nine Japanese students and crew members from the Ehime Maru's 35 passengers are missing and presumed dead. The incident has led to a public uproar in Japan, straining Japanese-American relations.
The Navy report states the crew failed to use all available detection equipment. They also did not properly execute a maneuver to acquire a new sonar reading that could have disclosed the Ehime Maru's distance from the sub.
The report states there were a "significant number" of crew and civilian guests nudged together on the periscope stand when Lt. j.g. Michael J. Coen, the officer of the deck, and Cmdr. Waddle were trying to locate the ship associated with the sonar signature. They failed to see the Ehime Maru, which at the time was likely about 2,000 yards away. The sub then submerged to 400 feet and executed the blow, which led to the tragic accident.
The report states: "The location and number of civilian visitors did interfere with the ability of the OOD (officer of the deck) and commanding officer to use the fire-control system and converse with the [technician] in ascertaining the contact picture from the time the ship was preparing for periscope depth until the emergency blow was conducted. Better distribution of the civilian visitors could have dramatically improved this situation."
Adm. Griffiths' findings conflict with statements from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Navy spokesmen, who said the civilians' presence did not contribute to the calamity.
"First of all, on the civilians, as Secretary Rumsfeld said, there is no indication at this point in the investigation that the civilians had any impact on the outcome. We'll continue to look at that," a Navy spokesman told reporters last week.
Asked last week on PBS if there was any evidence the civilians' presence contributed to the accident, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "None whatsoever."
Two of the 16 VIP guests were at control stations during the blow, including one at the helm. But Adm. Griffiths said in his report this played no role in the accident. The Navy has a long-standing policy of taking business and civic leaders out to sea to witness the fleet in operation. The Navy has suspended the policy of allowing civilians on board during emergency blows.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that Mr. Rumsfeld has decided to bar civilians temporarily from the controls of U.S. warships, aircraft and combat vehicles.
Navy Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Mr. Rumsfeld would order a moratorium within days even as individual military services studied their policies on visits and participation by civilian guests in exercises.
Based on Adm. Griffiths' report, Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, last week named three admirals to convene a Court of Inquiry to more fully investigate the accident. Scheduled to have convened Monday in Pearl Harbor, it was postponed yesterday until March 5 at the request of attorneys for Cmdr. Waddle, who was relieved of his command. Also named as subjects of the probe were Cmdr. Pfeifer and Lt. Coen.
Cmdr. Waddle this week retained Charles Gittins, a prominent defense attorney. Mr. Gittins represented Tailhook figure Cmdr. Robert Stumpf and Gene McKinney, the Army's former top enlisted man who was charged with sexual harassment. Cmdr. Stumpf was cleared by a board of inquiry. He retired after the Senate Armed Services Committee blocked his promotion to captain. A military jury acquitted Mr. McKinney of all but one charge and he retired.
Adm. Griffiths, a submarine group commander, submitted these findings:
The crew committed "fundamental errors" in not properly executing a maneuver known as Target Motion Analysis (TMA). This procedure could have allowed the fire-control technician to plot the distance of the Ehime Maru's sonar contact, labeled S-13 by the crew.
After the ship had finished a quick maneuver drill during which sonar is ineffective, the crew should have conducted a longer TMA "to adequately ascertain the current contact situation before proceeding to periscope depth."
Without TMA, passive sonar gives a ship's bearing based on engine or propeller noise, but not distance.
"As a consequence, S-13 was never recognized as a contact whose range was close enough to be of concern."
The periscope search by Lt. Coen and Cmdr. Waddle was insufficient.
"The ship was only at periscope depth for an estimated two minutes, which significantly limited opportunities for visual and electronic emitter search and detection… . Height of eye of the periscope was not high enough in the [four- to six-foot] seas to provide an assured adequate distance to the horizon."
The sub first did the scan at 60 feet, then moved up to 58-foot depth.
"A shallower depth for a better 'high look' was warranted in light of the condition of the seas and the importance of the search."
The sonar room was "improperly manned." One sonar operator was "unqualified" and was not continually supervised.
The crew "unnecessarily" classified a sonar analyzer, known as the BQR 22, as nonfunctioning. In fact, one of two displays in the control room could have worked and provided Cmdr. Waddle with a sonar signal of the Ehime Maru that he could evaluate firsthand.
The BQR 22 is used to evaluate what kind of contact is being tracked and can give some indication of speed by analyzing propeller RPMs. If the crew knows the contact's speed and its bearing from passive sonar it can estimate the range.
A lack of communication.
"There appears to have been a general breakdown in communications between the OOD, CO [commanding officer] and [fire-control technician]." The technician, just prior to the sub going to periscope depth, plotted the Ehime Maru at 4,000 yards from the Greeneville and moving to 2,000 yards.
But the technician did not tell Cmdr. Waddle or Lt. Coen. "As a result of the number of people on the periscope stand between the OOD/CO and the [fire-control technician], and the apparent intention of the commanding officer to rely solely on sonar information, the [technician] did not actively participate in tactical discussion with the commanding officer or officer of the deck."
A Navy source says this violated Cmdr. Waddle's standing order to report any contact within 10,000 yards. The source said that if the range had been conveyed, the commander likely would have conducted the search differently.
At some points, the clutter of people in the control room blocked the officers' line of sight of a TV screen showing the periscope view.
The Washington Times reported on Wednesday that some crew members believed the Ehime Maru's sonar signature was that of a small coastal boat sailing at a safe distance. This was due to the contact's poor "signal-to-noise ratio," which is a measurement of how much signal is discernible against background ocean noises.

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