USS Fitzgerald - Why So Quiet After Impact

Following the great guidelines recently posted, I have read all the posts in the various threads about this incident. I am also starting this as a separate thread, so the moderators can simply delete if inappropriate.

To restate background, I am a retired (1965-1993) USN ship driver (a “mustang” or hausepiper), and a licensed Merchant Mariner.

Many of the posts have asked why nothing heard from the Fitz after the collision. In fact, it appears the first communication may have been their response to the JCG calling them, AFTER the Crystal reported the collision about 0225.

I am going to propose an extreme, and rather damning, case. What if the Fitz never saw what was coming at her? Yes, hard to imagine, but certainly possible considering the other things we (think we) know at this time. e.g. no apparent response to anything that may have come from Crystal, no evasive maneuvers, no sign of a collision alarm sounding, and no public call from the Fitz to JCG or others for assistance, etc.

So, out of the dark comes this bow and Fitz is shaken, holed, and flooding. If they really don’t know what has occurred, and Crystal simply disappears into the darkness, they may not even be able to determine which nearby vessel was involved. Force Protection considerations immediately kick in and the Fitz has to consider that she may have been attacked. Reaction to this is certainly damage control, but will also include assessment of available weapons for defensive measures, attempts to assess the possibility/probability of a second, or follow-up, attack, and to prepare to defend as best as possible. If communications were available, it would certainly include a Flash precedence message to shoreside naval authorities, but would likely not include any initial public communication. And all this while trying to control flooding, restore power, and stay afloat.

I am not saying this is what happened, as I certainly have no more information than most on here. I am simply presenting another issue to consider as we ponder, and discuss, why the Fitz was quiet.

Now, other than “confusion on the bridge”, why was they Crystal so quiet for 55 minutes? Based on the Captain’s statement, she knew she had collided with another vessel.


The radio room was all but destroyed by many reports. I suspect that had something to do with it.

Yes, well understood.

Many posts on the several threads have asked why Fitz didn’t call JCG, or anyone else, to ask for assistance. I’m assuming that the bridge VHF was operable as it is not dependent on the destroyed radio spaces, and simply trying to show a scenario where Fitz personnel had good reason not to immediately shout out in public.

The USS Cole did immediately call for assistance, and other actions, on open public circuits. But they were fairly certain what had happened to them at that fuel pier.

Just because the bridge itself wasn’t damaged, doesn’t mean that the wiring and such that leads up to those radios wasn’t. That said, my personal guess is that they were too busy trying to prevent her from sinking.

So, what you’re saying, is that one well placed shot to the radio room will render a billion dollar DDG mute?
No backup station?


This was one of my first thoughts also but another thought came in a close second. After having it blasted all over the news about the Radio Room being taken out, everyone know knows how easy it might be to take it out!

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You’re oversimplifying it, while also not giving any sort of nod to the possibility that they were fighting for their lives and too busy to worry about small things like the radio. Consider that every system on that ship is conatined within wires, tracts, and pipes etc. A great many of those systems would have been damaged by this particular strike. So in short, yes. It seems so, in this case. However, drawing a parallel between the cost of the ship and the results of this accident is non-sequitur.

I was asking a question, I did not mention any specific vessel name or situation, just wanted to know by knocking out the radio room, a DDG, or for that matter, any naval ship, they could be silenced. You would think that the designers of these vessels would take into consideration the vulnerability of a warship that cannot communicate.

I’ve never been on a USN bridge but as a deck officer, I’d be highly surprised if they couldn’t transmit on their bridge VHF. I imagine the people who had the authority to make such a transmission were too busy dealing with other things to think about it. You have to remember that in addition to everything else going on, the XO was probably assuming command, since the CO was trapped/injured. Probably no one wanted to make an external vhf call without someone above them saying it was ok.


Can’t disagree with that @Chiefluis

Sorry, but that argument does not pass the initial sniff test.

The combatant vessels I’ve been on all had physically-separate, redundant command-and-control and communication systems precisely for that reason. Wiring, such as for steering, pitch controls, etc. and other critical functions are well-protected and duplicated on each side of the ship so a collision or hit from a shell/missile/torpedo won’t instantly render the ship out-of-commission and/or defenseless.

In addition, emergency radios would have a charger-maintained back-up battery supply, completely independent of ship’s power, in close proximity to the radio, precisely for preserving communications in emergencies. Merchant ships have it too as part of a GMDSS installation, even just for Sea Area A1.

So I find it hard to believe that if in fact they didn’t communicate at all it was because they had completely lost the ability to do so. Not impossible, I suppose, but very improbable.

Unless, of course, the merits of redundancy have been discarded for some strange reason.


What combatant vessels have you been on? @captjacksparrow

I would imagine that EVERYBODY on board had at least one cellphone in their possession.
They were close to the coast and within cellphone coverage area. If nothing else they could call on the regular unsecured network.

PS> Someone apparently called home on Whatsapp abt. 36 min. after the collision.

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Sure. Let’s pause from saving the ship long enough to call someone. The kid that tried to use whatsapp to call his dad died. Have a little respect.

Mind explaining what you think is disrespectful about @ombugge post? I don’t see it.

Using a dead kid’s actions to make a point? If you can’t see it, @27182 I can’t explain it.

This speculation may not be substantive, in any case but I suspect that call was made via the Fitzgerald’s wifi. Hard to imagine cellular reception below decks on a ship that can also be thought of as a Faraday cage, from below the water line as well.

You can’t explain it because it’s not disrespectful, unlike calling the deceased a kid which is disrespectful. A sailor attempted to contact his father. It’s just a fact. Nothing at all disrespectful about that. Nobody’s commenting about the content of the call, or gloating that the man died, that would be sick. What is disrespectful is the many comments from people who’ve attempted to derail these discussions while claiming some sort of “respect” for the deceased. If you respect those men, you’ll let nothing get in the way of finding and exposing the truth, without regard to whether it harms a few Navy egos.


I’m sorry. I was not aware that the kid that made the call was dead.
If the report that the call was made 36 min. after the collision is true, it makes it even worse to think of,

I do not know for a fact that the call was made over the Japanese network, which looks unlikely if the above is true.

If the call was made via the vessel’s WiFi, doesn’t that prove that there were communication facilities available at that time?

@ombugge Upon consideration of @27182 's point, I was perhaps hasty in calling disrespect. So no apology needed. The call was unsuccessful for reasons that have not been reported yet – he didn’t get through to his dad.

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