USS Fitzgerald collides with ACX Crystal off coast of Japan


#650

#651

Still that’s pretty open ended on what actions or inactions by the watch team and OOD led to that…


#652

True, but the first (and biggest) step in the Navy releasing exactly how they screwed up is them admitting that they screwed up.


#653

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


#654

CNN is in comport with what ex-Navy SEAL Matt Bracken said around the time this accident happened.


#655

Which as we all know, admitting mistake or error is one of the hardest things for anyone to do, followed by saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it.

Of course, we have to keep in mind the realities of the situation. Until liability is clear and apportionment of blame determined, I assume the respective ship crews have been told to STFU. If I was an insurance company or the one who will be writing the checks, so to speak, for the multi-millions needed to fix the Fitz, I don’t want the insurance investigators or DoD bean counters investigations hindered because someone’s statements might constitute evidence in establishing fault.

The lawyers all instruct their clients to STFU, don’t give interviews, nor should they stand on the Fitz bow and scream “I’m sorry.”

P.S. I pity the Fitz crew. This kind of inquiry is frightening to be involved with, especially since the Navy warns before each “interview” (aka interrogation) that not only must he testify and answer questions (there’s no taking the fifth in the military) and that any statements made by the witness can be used against him in a later prosecution.!


#656

Well, at about 2.50 hrs in the video Matt suggests that the Fitz was the standby (!) vessel crossing in front of Crystal on its starboard side, suggesting Crystal should have slowed down or changed course from Fitz on its port side… I think Matt got it wrong. Or do USN vessels have the right of way anyhwere?

Which reminds me when a US war ship stopped my ship (a ropax) in the Straits of Tiran during a trip in ballast between two Egyptian ports. We were going to Suez to drydock. The USN ship wanted to see what cargo was onboard.

We said on VHF there was no cargo but stopped to prove it. USN sent over a boat with an officer + six armed marines. The officer and soldiers refused cups of tea friendly offered by us but inspected the passenger accommodation (empty) and the roro garage (also empty) for something. Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

In the roro garage the USN found a locked TEU in a corner! What was this? Spare parts! Open it! Which we did. You do not argue with six armed killers on your ship.

It was spare parts. No WMDs! And then USN left and sailed away not even apologizing. We always wondered about the USN strategy.

In the PG USS Thunderbolt fired warning shots to stop a ship coming too close. Why the other ship stopped is unclear, though.


#657

it does not look good!


#658

Top Secret Released
USS Fitzgerald was sailing at top speed and wanted to cross shipping lane eastward .At 01.30 collided with ACX , contact point was the bridge hull section on Starboard with Christal’s Bulbous Bow below water line . The impact was tremendous so much so that the momentum of the Fitz acted like a Bow Thruster to the front bow of the Chrystal swinging the ship a good 90 degrees and while doing so disengaged from the blow with water rushing the berthing decks and the deck below it along the keel line , bilge water rushed to engine rooms . Emergency procedures started immediately on the Fitz . One shaft was locked and the other incapacitated at the transmission . The ACX carried on for half an hour or so until its crew realized what happened and taking it out of autopilot returned to the location of the accident . By then the Fitz was stabilized and reported the happening together with the ACX to local authorities . The ODD , Officer of The Watch , Helmsmen of the Fitz tried to hot shot , and cross the ACX in front of it looking at the RED PORT lights as doing so , miscalculated the distance , position , current , drift , angle and got Blindsided . The force of the impact was so hard that it swung the ACX a quarter turn . The Fitz hull was breached below the water line , the ACX acting like a giant crow bar ripping 3 decks simultaneously . The Officer of the Watch has to answer for this mishap . p .


#659

Seventy-four of the 273 crew on Evans were killed.[10] It was later learned that Evans’s commanding officer—Commander Albert S. McLemore—was asleep in his quarters at the time of the incident, and charge of the vessel was held by Lieutenants Ronald Ramsey and James Hopson; the former had failed the qualification exam to stand watch, while the latter was at sea for the first time


#660

Any source for that, or are you just an aspiring fiction writer?


#661

apparently they always leave port like that to escape the enemy reports of the vessel leaving port.
I heard this was the case here also


#662

But it sounds so convincing with the poor grammar added in. I myself was trying not to respond to Heiwa’s drivel since that just encourages him to post more idiocy.


#663

Vitally… that account of the USS Frank E. Evans is accurate. (It is from the Wikipedia page, I wrote part of that.)

I was friends of the McLemore family and went through this with them. (Trivia: I have a Frank E. Evans Zippo lighter given to me by Marc McLemore, Commander Albert McLemore’s son. Just before being the last one off the Evans, as he was passing the Evan’s ship’s store Cmdr. McLemore grabbed a box of Zippo lighters.)

Anyway, it was from the HMAS Melbourne collision with the HMAS Voyager and a mere five years later the same Aussie carrier Melbourne collision with the USS Frank E. Evans, that taught me at an early age that Navy ships make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes are fatal.

That “education” told me that on first hearing about the Fitzgerald collision that this was the Fitz’s loss of situational awareness.

P.S. What was the cause of the USS Evans collision: Here is a most illuminating and riveting video: check out minute marker 2:18 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1EQwWyf9sE&t=196s

It was no secret back in 1970 among a select few that the Evans was at fault, so I agree with this video and what Captain Stevenson says.


#664

#665

#666

I disagree on the notion of the Fitzgerald colliding with the ACX Crystal (as opposed to the other way around). The Fitzgerald was hit amidships on the starboard side and the Crystal impacted with her bow. There’s not really a scenario where one could make this into the Fitzgerald colliding with the Crystal. The Crystal clearly hit the Fitzgerald. The fitz made harbor Yokosuka with the help of tugs , I did not see any engine activity or wake from the props . The Turbines were supplying power for the electrical water pumps as they saved the ship from sinking . I tell you , that collision was very loud and forceful , swung the cargo ship a full quarter , just tremendous .

Regarding the ACX Crystal being unlikely to change directions, the course plots of the ship would seem to indicate it did exactly this, several times in fact, but the question seems to surround when it did this (i.e. before, or after, the collision). The question about the time of the collision is critical in answering this question. If the collision happened at 0130L as some claim, then these maneuvers would have taken place after the collision. However, if the collision occurred at 0230L, as reported by the US Navy, then the maneuvers by the Crystal took place prior to the collision.


#667

They both collided with each other. They are both at fault, period. Now, most of the recent updates seem to indicate that the Fitzgerald may end up having a larger portion of the blame. But they are both to blame.

That discrepancy got sorted out over three weeks ago.

Sure it did, I’m not sure what your point is though.

I don’t know enough about how these ships are set up, but this sounds incredibly unlikely that the gas turbines were the sole power to the dewatering pumps. More likely they have a diesel driven generator to supply most of the non-propulsion power needs.

I’m still trying to figure out what point you’re trying to make by simply doing a “copy-paste” from another website that’s trying to “propose a possible alternate theory about what may have happened” by pulling something out of thin air with nothing so far to back up that theory.


#668

It does not matter how you slice and dice it, this is looking like pure and simple multi layered incompetence and failures on board Fitz. At the tactical level multiple watch resources had the data, but none of them were able to interpret and act on it correctly, decisively, and urgently. Probably, they all saw what was going on on screens but assumed that the next guy up the chain was going to take care of the navigation (totally task oriented tunnel vision I guess). At the strategic level you have a leadership failure as well. Watch resources were not able to escalate the decision making to the right level in a hurry. If you have no idea WTF is going on you wake up the CO (not that he was going to make the right calls but still you let the top level authority available, at the time, make the call). Maybe that contact/safety bubble around the destroyer was not clearly defined by the CO or the crew was not comfortable waking him up even if all else failed = command failure.

Seven lives lost (and it is possible that some of those guys consciously decided to save the ship) and taxpayers are on the hook for another $500M.

The fact that Navy is silent about it, and would not release any nav track data or the pictures of the full hull damage (at least the external ones) kind of confirms who is at fault (and that they are in CYA mode). ACX has failures as well (sleeping on the job) but they have a better excuse as their ability to make sudden evasive maneuver is restricted. Fitz is a power boat that can turn on a dime. Theoretically, even the helmsman alone (violating the protocol) could have saved the day (if he/she was empowered to do so).


If you note, destroyer completes a 90 degree hard port turn within 25 secs in that video, and we know with relative certainty that, at the time of the impact, Fitz was gunning it because of that hard 90 degree starboard turn ACX made after the impact (Fitz acting like a bow truster). In other words, (about 30 seconds before the impact) Fitz had the necessary speed to complete a sudden hard port turn to avoid the collusion possibly with some minor scrapes on the strb side. I am not sure what ACX’s window of opportunity to make the last evasive action was but chances are it was ~3-4 mins before the impact.


#669

Failures, yep. But not pure and simple. Incompetence, while it should not be ruled out, can be used to tell everybody, “we’re going to do better next time,” while not actually fixing a thing. What I mean is that if you think the people involved were just incompetent, you don’t have to look at the actual process and ‘culture of safe navigation’ that may allow for a poor watch team organization or insufficient standards for the training and competence of watchstanders. If you think you have a great system, you lie to yourself and just tell everybody to work harder at what they are doing, yet never fix an underlying issue.

Nice term and good point.

True. If they were able, we would not be having this thread here.

You got that right.

Nobody has yet to confirm anybody was sleeping on the job so let’s quit with that outdated assumption. While it’s possible this could occur, it’s less probable with currently required equipment (BNWAS) than in the past if that equipment is operating correctly. Obviously it’s possible and has occurred in the past, otherwise ships would not be required to have BNWAS set up to keep the watch awake and alert others if there was no response to the BNWAS on the bridge. If the report from the Captain of the ACX Crystal in Rueter’s is correct, it sounds like the Crystal was aware of a ship in a close quarters situation prior to the collision, but the actions taken were not enough.

That excuse won’t fly one inch in an investigation or court.

Good point to consider but I would not yet be certain about it until we at least get a report from the Japanese Coast Guard or US Navy on the results of the investigation. Having a medium sized ship hanging off your bow with even a bit of headway could cause that possibly as well.