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Reports: No Court-Martial for Sub Skipper

April 15, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A Navy spokesman at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, declined to comment Saturday on reports in Japan and the United States that the court of inquiry has not recommended a court-martial against the commander of the U.S. submarine that sank a Japanese fishing trawler.

A panel of three admirals delivered Friday its findings and recommendations for discipline to Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the Pacific Fleet and a former submarine captain.

The Navy said the report would not be made public until Fargo decides what action, if any, the Greeneville submarine's officers should face.

On Friday night, NBC News quoted unidentified Navy officials saying a court-martial for Cmdr. Scott Waddle is highly unlikely. On Saturday, a major Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, quoted an unnamed Japanese official saying that the panel is not recommending a court-martial for Waddle. And today, the New York Times echoes that report, citing unnamed Pentagon sources.

From the beginning, officials familiar with Navy history have suggested that it was highly unlikely the court of inquiry would recommend court-martial for Waddle and even more unlikely that Fargo would adopt such a recommendation.

The collision between the submarine and the trawler occurred Feb. 9 off Diamond Head in Hawaii. The nuclear-attack submarine had been ordered to take 16 civilians to sea as part of the Navy's Distinguished Visitors public relations program. To impress the civilians with the capabilities of his boat, Waddle ordered an "emergency blow" that sent the sub rocketing to the surface. The 6,500-ton Greeneville smashed into the Ehime Maru, which sank within 10 minutes.

Twenty-six people aboard the Japanese fishing vessel were plucked from lifeboats by Navy and Coast Guard rescue personnel. But nine others--including four teenagers who were students at a Japanese fishing academy--were lost at sea.

The deaths outraged the Japanese public, which now is registering disgust with the reports of the court of inquiry's decision against any courts-martial.

The Kyodo news agency on Saturday quoted Kazuo Nakata, whose son was an instructor killed on the Ehime Maru, saying that he would be "very angry" if no court-martial takes place. Nakata attended the court of inquiry, breaking down in sobs at some testimony.

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