Here’s a thorough – and thoroughly chilling – account from ProPublica of two separate collisions in the far Pacific involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain, both Navy destroyers, causing the death of 17 American sailors and injuries to many more. It’s called: Years of Warnings, Then Death and Disaster. How the Navy Failed Its Sailors. Read it here:
When Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was elevated to lead the vaunted 7th Fleet in 2015, he expected it to be the pinnacle of his nearly four-decade Navy career. The fleet was the largest and most powerful in the world, and its role as one of America’s great protectors had new urgency. China was expanding into disputed waters. And Kim Jong-un was testing ballistic missiles in North Korea.
Aucoin was bred on such challenges. As a Navy aviator, he’d led the “Black Aces,” a squadron of F-14 Tomcats that in the late 1990s bombed targets in Kosovo.
But what he found with the 7th Fleet alarmed and angered him.
Read Part I: Death and Valor on an American Warship Doomed by its Own Navy
Investigation finds officials ignored warnings for years before one of the deadliest crashes in decades.
The fleet was short of sailors, and those it had were often poorly trained and worked to exhaustion. Its warships were falling apart, and a bruising, ceaseless pace of operations meant there was little chance to get necessary repairs done. The very top of the Navy was consumed with buying new, more sophisticated ships, even as its sailors struggled to master and hold together those they had. The Pentagon, half a world away, was signing off on requests for ships to carry out more and more missions.
The risks were obvious, and Aucoin repeatedly warned his superiors about them. During video conferences, he detailed his fleet’s pressing needs and the hazards of not addressing them. He compiled data showing that the unrelenting demands on his ships and sailors were unsustainable. He pleaded with his bosses to acknowledge the vulnerability of the 7th Fleet.
Aucoin recalled the response: “Crickets.” If he wasn’t ignored, he was put off — told to calm down and get the job done.
On June 17, 2017, shortly after 1:30 a.m., the USS Fitzgerald, a $1.8 billion destroyer belonging to the 7th Fleet, collided with a giant cargo ship off the coast of Japan. Seven sailors drowned in their sleeping quarters. It was the deadliest naval disaster in four decades.
Barely two months later, it happened again. The USS John S. McCain, its poorly trained crew fumbling with its controls, turned directly in front of a 30,000-ton oil tanker. Ten more sailors died. Read more: