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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Navy Destroyer Crash and its Seven Missing Sailors Raises Many Questions

By Douglas V. Gibbs
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UPDATE:  The bodies of the 7 sailors were found in the flooded berthings.

UPDATE: With the Philippines undergoing strife as a result of their Muslim population, some believe the container vessel rammed the naval vessel.

Seven American sailors are missing after the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collided with a larger container ship near Japan.  I served aboard a Guided Missile Destroyer (DDG) during my career in the U.S. Navy, and while it was a very long time ago that I served on the USS Chandler (DDG-996), I am very cynical about the idea of the crash being an accident.  I served during underway watch as a helmsman, as a lee-helmsman, on the status board and as a phone talker on the Bridge as well as at various locations on the ship.  The Operations Specialists and other operations rates are very specific, skilled, and normally diligent in their duties.  While nothing is impossible, accidents of this nature are near impossible.  How does a U.S. Naval vessel, regardless of the conditions (the conditions during the crash were clear, pre-dawn), not know that a large container ship four times its size is in the immediate vicinity?  And, why does seven sailors suddenly disappear when we are trained to handle these kinds of situations, even if it wakes us up during the pre-dawn hours?

Either, this was a purposeful attack on the U.S. Navy orchestrated potentially by personnel on board one of the vessels, or the general seamanship of U.S. Navy personnel has spiraled into a realm of unacceptability to the point where their possibly sloppy actions as military personnel has led to destruction of a U.S. Navy vessel that will cost the U.S. Navy hundreds of millions of dollars to repair the damage.

Note, the reports from the Associated Press say the number of sailors aboard was more than 200, however, from my immediate memory the complement itself for destroyers is usually closer to 300, and often over 300.  When I looked it up, the Maritime Bulletin News has the complement on board the USS Fitgerald listed as 33 commissioned officers, 38 chief petty officers, and 210 enlisted personnel for a total of 281.  Was the AP trying to somehow downplay the number of personnel aboard the vessel?  Why say "more than 200" which makes the reader believe the compliment is closer to 200?  Why not write, "near 300"?

Once again, while I am not making any specific allegations regarding foul play on the vessels, or purposeful misreporting by the Associated Press, I am feeling very uneasy about what happened, and how it is being reported.  Either, something sinister is going on and the AP is helping to cover it up, or like the possibility of sloppy seamanship, the writer from the Associated Press is guilty of sloppy research regarding the crew complement.

The missing personnel may be the result of the fact that two berthing sections (along with a machinery room and the radio room) were slammed by the collision, and in addition to the missing sailors there were three injuries severe enough to be worth mentioning.

The Fitzgerald calls its home port the Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo, and the container ship struck by the U.S. vessel is a Philippine-flagged ship normally berthed at Tokyo's Oi wharf.

The USS Dewey (DDG-105) assisted a myriad of other American and Japanese vessels and aircraft in the stabilizing of the damaged Fitzgerald, and searching for the missing sailors.  The missing sailors may be trapped in compartments on the starboard side of the ship where the damage occurred, sections that cannot be searched until the water is pumped out and the areas are shored and stabilized.

Naval sources indicate that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles (about 64.5 miles) southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet and the home port of the Fitzgerald.

The container ship sustained minor damage that does not compromise its seaworthiness, and reported no injuries.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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