Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 years later - Japanese Continue to Mourn Their Loss - Ehime Maru Sinking

Commander Scott Waddle (graduated top of his class from the Naval Academy) was selected from a highly competitive field of 250 submarine "command qualified" officers to command the USS Greeneville fast attack submarine.  Waddle became the Commanding Officer of  Greeneville in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in March of 1999.  He was a "rising star" in the Navy submarine community, a man of incredible integrity.

On February 9, 2001, Commander Waddle's "star burned out".  On that fateful day, Commander Waddle forever changed the lives of 35 Japanese families (9 of those families lost a family member) forever when he hurriedly gave the order to perform an emergency surface maneuver that caused his 9,000 ton Los Angeles Class submarine to slice through the Ehime Maru, a 500 ton Japanese fishing and training vessel, killing nine people on board.

The Navy's investigation concluded that Commander Waddle, rushed his crew through mandatory safety/surfacing procedures while demonstrating an emergency surfacing drill for the benefit of 16 civilian VIP guests touring the 360-foot nuclear-powered submarine. Greeneville's rudder sliced into the hull of the Ehime Maru causing it to immediately sink in 200 feet of water off the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

The Navy's report said Waddle rushed through surfacing procedures because he didn't want the submarine's  16 VIP guests to be late returning to Pearl Harbor. Waddle did not attend the memorial on Wednesday.  Several Japanese indicated they would not attend the memorial if he were present.

Waddle was reprimanded by a military court of inquiry but was allowed to retire as a Commander with full Navy retirement, which drew criticism in Japan that the punishment was too light. Waddle personally apologized to the Japanese shortly after the incident. Waddle's lawyer was Charlie Gittens, an infamous military defense attorney.  Based on the findings and recommendations of the court of inquiry, Waddle was taken to Admiral's Mast, where he was found guilty of committing two violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: dereliction of duty and negligent hazarding of a vessel. He was "detached for cause" from his position as CO, which was documented in his Navy officer record. He submitted a request to retire, which was approved, and he retired effective October 1, 2001.

The Navy settled with the families of the 35 Japanese victims for $16.5 million. Damage to the Greeneville was $1.8 million; loss of Emihe Maru was $8.8 million; cost of recovering the Ehime Maru from the ocean floor was $60 million. Following the incident, Waddle wrote a book (THE RIGHT THING) and became a consultant and motivational speaker. Scott Waddle is self-described as an inspirational speaker, consultant and executive coach who has presented to thousands of audiences nationwide and abroad.  His "Gold Star Speakers Bureau - Our Word is Gold" fee to speak on the following topics is between $10,000-$15,000 per event:
  • Failure Is Not Final
  • Saying, "I'm sorry" Works
  • Communicate Effectively! It Doesn't Have To Be Lonely At The Top
President Bush said, "And like any good commander, he's taken the heat, he's taken the hit...This is an officer who bears all the responsibility, and to me, that says something about the man's character."  

The full NTSB report is HERE.
Court of Inquiry Report is HERE.

10 comments:

General Quarters said...

Sorry, could never agree that writing a book and becoming a highly paid motivational speaker is a proper method for Waddle to exorcise his personal demons borne of this horror. Nope, not the "right thing," at all. Everything is now a business model, it seems, even a tragic accident. Sad, sad for all participants.

subguy said...

Where to start? Nope...will not give Waddle the honor of being commented on...he was NEVER a rising star and he just plain violated every submarining rule out there during that surfacing - all because he (with much influence by the embarked SUBPAC COS) gave excess significance to a port arrival time.

Skippy-san said...

Why do you call Gittins, infamous? He's taken on tough cases for clients who might otherwise have been railroaded-and provided them with a skilled defense.

He defended Bob Stumpf who got screwed by the Navy out of a a CVW command he had rightfully earned, while Paula Coughlin walked away with 8 million unearned dollars.

Every man deserves a defense and in a high profile case better to have him than some appointed uniformed JAG.

Rubber Ducky said...

It's been years since I worked the numbers, but the reconstruction I was able to do back then with the help of a SubScol tactics instructor leaves an outcome that remains clear: the submarining sin was a failure to take a high look-around with the periscope before going deep to emergency blow.

Waddle did do a sweep, but he stayed way too deep and the look was perfunctory at best. The geometry of ordered depth, scope height, sea state, distance to EHIME MARU, and the curvature of the earth put visual contact just below the horizon and on a collision course. Waddle did not do an effective search for nearby hazards, the track and speed were worst on worst, and he came up at full tilt right under the merch.

By every account it was Waddle himself to orchestrated the whole evolution. I'd not heard before that SubPac COS (a friend and a good officer) was pushing to get back on a hurry, but that would not relieve Waddle of his clear and direct duties.

Months after this incident the next skipper ran GREENEVILLE aground at Saipan. He got fired. Months after that the boat hit a merch in the Persian Gulf. Third time's a charm: that guy stayed in command.

Anonymous said...

RD - they had the Ehime on SONAR! It wasn't just the high look. The seas may not have supported the blow. And yes...Brandhuber contributed to the decision making and was admonished as such...

Rubber Ducky said...

Sonar had a confused picture, not helped by equal confusion on the conn and an unwillingness by the OOD to sort out what he was getting from the sonar shack. They lost track of the surface picture and never identified their contact as zero-bearing rate/closing. Roger on Bobby. Still a good officer.

Anonymous said...

Rubber Ducky is spot on. I was a Pearl submariner and as soon as I saw the color of the sea on the TV report, I new the wx in the op area was poor and rightly guessed the skipper didn't go high enough at PD to overcome the rough seas (normally pristine). We always broached to get the highest look prior to the evolution. Who cares about OPSEC when you are going to fly out of the water 5 minutes later???

Julie Harris said...

I would like to respond in regards to Waddle becoming a speaker. Human error happens. I have been practicing as a registered nurse for 23 years and had the great privilege of hearing Scott speak. Scott spoke as part of a risk management seminar for our hospital system. This seminar occured in 2008. I was deeply affected by the information presented and the very obvious regret born of Scott's accountability and ownership of the outcomes of this trajedy.
I am personally thankful Scott is able to share what is obviously one of the most impactful days of his life. I have heard many speakers about many things but not a single one has impacted my practice as much as Scott did by walking me through that day and its ftermath.

Anonymous said...

Please, spare us. The Greenville was "entertaining" 16 VIP's. They were out on a joyride, on our dime. Oh? Just in case, because I know there is at least one wise guy out there? They WERE on a joyride. The names of those individuals have never been released. We can guess at some of them though. Bush, Cheney, Hadley, Wolfowitz, Perle, Cambone, Feith, Wurmser, Libby, Podhoretz, Kagan, Dershowitz, Abrams, Zakheim, Pipes, Cohen, Kristol. Say Captain Waddle,recognize any of those names as your guests that day? This is a simple case, cut and dry. Scott Waddle puffed his chest out and proceeded to "impress". The kind of appointment he received is not given to independent minded critical thinkers. Those commands are given to yes men. If those so called "guests" had not been there? None of this would have happened probably. This accident was caused by hubris, nothing else. Read closely, and see how a zero becomes a hero. Yes, that's right, first a hotshot, then a screw up, then a self help guru on the tour circuit. It makes this reader sick!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said it best....

ANd if my company told me to attend a seminar by a person with his baggage, I'd tell my boss "No way in hell this guy is teaching me anything other than how to be a reckless boat CP. Does he deserve to burn, NO. Although, He\ his DIRECT actions\orders resulted in 9 people being KILLED.

He's got a full pen$ion and needs to DO THE RIGHT THING and just fade away.