In my experience through life, all organizations or entities “circle the wagons” when under attack. I saw this in the military and in private life (as a district attorney prosecutor and private practice federal litigation lawyer).* It is human nature for people to “protect our own” and to “have your six,” at least initially after an event or situation; i.e., everyone puts on a united front.
This is a roundabout way of saying that it was not unusual for the Navy to INITIALLY circle around Commander Bryson (Fitz. CO), and by extension the Fitz. crew as a military unit. What would be remarkable is if the Navy right out of the gate left the Fitz Commander, XO, ODD, and night watch flying in the wind to fend for themselves. Of course, behind the scenes things are different.
One of my favorite WW II movies In Harm’s Way illustrates the point. In the film it accurately depicted what happened in real life. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor U.S. Navy heads were rolling. Admirals and Captains were quickly relieved of command, or ship captains suffered discipline for action or inaction during the attack. (In contrast, the public saw a unified Navy and were unaware about Navy “personnel decisions.”)
As all Navy and Coast Guard Vets, and active duty personnel know, after the situation stabilized on the Fitzgerald the crew and officers had on their minds “who would be going down for this.” As we all know, when an incident occurs whether in combat or at peace, the crew of the stricken vessel know what happened. They know who most likely screwed up. (The captain especially knows about his crew. Excuse my language, but the capt. knows who are the screw-ups, who can be depended on, who is a salty dog, and who to utilize where.)
The Fitz officers and crew almost immediately knew that some careers would be ending, and on proven gross malfeasance or major dereliction those responsible may be at risk for incarceration. (Recall the UCMJ, in a noncombat situation directly or indirectly causing the loss of life is the most grave charge a military man can face.)
- I am intimately familiar with the USS Frank E. Evans collision with the HMAS Melbourne; in Vietnam the USAF deadly friendly fire attack on a USCG patrol boat (Point Welcome), and my boat’s and other’s (almost fatal) mistakes while in combat. (In one battle a USCG boat had its guns trained on the target; just about ready to fire an alert competent PO1 Gunners Mate screamed to the officers on deck that the target was my boat. Saved with 5 seconds remaining on the bell)
P.S. Personally, after having served on a few ships, witnessed scores of incompetence, and knowing intimate details about the Frank E. Evans / Melbourne collision (where 74 sailors were killed) my immediate impression was that the Fitz dropped the ball here. What might have happened: Matt Bracken is probably 99% accurate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ED26UO2n2c