- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Nine Japanese children, teachers and crewmen were killed due to the negligence of a Navy commander, and he is being released from duty with full pension benefits. For the Japanese families and friends of the dead, it appears the Navys respect for the lives of their loved ones died at sea that day.

Cmdr. Scott Waddle of the USS Greeneville was only given a reprimand Monday by Adm. Thomas Fargo of the Pacific Fleet for dereliction of duty in the collision of his submarine with a Japanese trawler. Cmdr. Waddle should have been court-martialed, but was not, and two of his officers bearing some responsibility for the accident have returned to service on the Greeneville. This distortion of justice by the Navy is inexcusable.

Cmdr. Waddle allowed the submarine´s schedule to be delayed by almost 45 minutes as his on-board VIP guests had lunch and he chatted with them. "I have it under control," were Cmdr. Waddle´s words when he was notified that the ship was behind schedule. That sense of overconfidence would prove to be fatal. The court of inquiry berated Cmdr. Waddle for creating a false sense of urgency on board and for creating a "command climate" in which those under him were reluctant to communicate necessary information.

Cmdr. Waddle later ordered the ship to go to periscope depth in five minutes, despite the fact that procedures require 10, and performed an 80-second periscope search rather than the required three-minute search. He had the sub do a rapid ascent while a display monitor showing the location of surface ships was broken. He also didn´t allow enough time for further collection of sonar data before performing an "emergency blow," a maneuver to bring the sub to the surface.

Yet Cmdr. Waddle 41, a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and one-month shy of 20 years of service will receive a pension with cost-of-living increases, medical benefits, "survivor" benefits, and other military privileges. While his sincere apology to the families was appropriate, it does not do proper justice to the loss of life. The Navy will use this deadly accident as a case study for future training. In Adm. Fargo´s words in the Los Angeles Times: "It will serve to remind all that, no matter how apparently routine the mission, there is nothing about going to sea that is forgiving."

Cmdr. Waddle´s negligence and overconfidence during a publicity tour aboard the USS Greeneville caused the deaths of nine persons and marred the lives of many others. Our military is there to protect life and uphold the highest standards of justice and honor. The Navy´s decision to lower that bar serves as a tragic memorial to the loss of young lives aboard the Japanese trawler.

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