Navy Keeps Quiet Regarding Sub Captain's Fate

Friday, April 20, 2001
Japanese officials on Friday were disappointed after U.S. naval officers failed to shed light on whether the captain of a submarine that sank a Japanese fishing trawler, leaving nine lost at sea, would be court martialed.

A team of U.S. naval officers visited local officials and families of the nine people, including four teenage fisheries students, lost after the USS Greeneville surfaced into and sank the Ehime Maru off Hawaii on February 9.

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet is prepared to order the captain and a key enlisted man to undergo disciplinary hearings but not courts-martial for their roles in the accident, a navy official in Honolulu said on Thursday.

"He's down explaining to the families the court of inquiry and what it entails," a naval spokesman said of Friday's meeting between Rear Admiral Robert Chaplin, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Japan, and local officials and families on Japan's southern island of Shikoku.

However, Chaplin gave the families no details of the outcome of the naval inquiry, said Yoshikatsu Matsuoka, a local official who was present at his meeting with Governor Moriyuki Kato of Ehime prefecture.

"The governor told the admiral that the families were hoping to be briefed about the outcome of the inquiry," said Matsuoka, an official of an Ehime prefecture panel handling issues linked to the sinking of the trawler, the Ehime Maru.

"But the admiral said no decision had been reached yet and that he did not know what the outcome would be," Matsuoka said, hinting that local officials were disappointed at the lack of detail. The sinking of the Ehime Maru, on a training voyage for students, provoked outrage in Japan.

In Honolulu, Admiral Thomas Fargo had accepted recommendations of a Navy Court of Inquiry that investigated the accident and will forego a court martial against USS Greeneville Commander Scott Waddle, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

However, Waddle will be ordered to an "admiral's mast" hearing, in which he will be asked to submit a letter resigning from his nearly 20-year Navy career, although he will depart with an honorable discharge and his rank and pension intact, the official said.

Meanwhile, much concern has been expressed by the families of the missing regarding the Ehime Maru's raising from the ocean bed.

Chaplin told the families that the salvage of the vessel could take place between June and September pending an environmental assessment, Matsuoka said.

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