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Fitzgerald (DDG-62)

1995-

William Charles Fitzgerald -- born on 28 January 1938 at Montpelier, Vt. -- the second child and first son of Louis and Mildred M. Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald graduated from Montpelier High School in June 1956, and followed in his father’s footsteps (his father had retired from the Navy as a chief petty officer) by enlisting in the Navy.

Fitzgerald served in destroyers Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), Hugh Purvis (DD-709), and Gearing (DD-710), as well as with Utility Squadron 6 while working on the Gyrodyne QH-50 Drone Antisubmarine Helicopter (DASH) program at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va. Seaman Fitzgerald then attained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. He excelled as a leader while at the Naval Academy, and also as an athlete in softball, football, fencing, basketball, and tennis, graduating on 5 June 1963. Fitzgerald returned to the fleet and served in destroyer Charles H. Roan (DD-853), eventually becoming her Weapons Department Head. He married Betty A. Dalton of Montpelier on 18 April 1964, and their union produced three children: Neil W., Penni L., and Lynda K.

Fitzgerald completed counterinsurgency training at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif., and then deployed to Coastal Group 16 in South Vietnam. The group established a base near the village of Co Luy, near the mouth of the Tra Khuc River, about 70 miles southeast of Da Nang, and monitored vessels smuggling troops and weapons to the People’s Liberation Armed Forces (PLAF).

The PLAF launched a number of attacks on allied installations throughout August 1967, and they moved a force of more than battalion strength against Coastal Group 16’s base. At 0300 on 7 August they opened fire with an intense mortar barrage on the base. The group’s U.S. advisors – Lt. Fitzgerald, Lt. (j.g.) Anthony C. Williams, Chief Engineman Harold H. Gunn, and Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Leo E. Pearman -- radioed for support. A U.S. Navy inshore patrol craft, PCF-20, operated nearby and raced to the camp within 15 minutes, Fitzgerald directing the boat to fire on the enemy mortar and automatic weapons teams deployed across the river.

The PLAF resolutely pressed their attack, however, and despite PCF-20’s support penetrated the base’s northern mine defenses, killing South Vietnamese Lt. (j.g.) Nguyen N. Trong, VNN, the group’s commander, and many of his men. An assault group estimated at more than 100 men detached from their main force and overran the central section of the base, and Fitzgerald and his men shifted positions to their bunker and continued to fire at the attackers. Another patrol craft, PCF-75, reinforced the beleaguered garrison at 0340 and opened fire at the PLAF, joined five minutes later by South Vietnamese patrol escort PCE-10.

Fitzgerald, William C.
William Charles Fitzgerald

The enemy troops nonetheless surged over the defenders by 0345. Fitzgerald realized that the men in his bunker comprised the last organized pocket of resistance in the camp, and he ordered an artillery strike on his position while also directing his men to escape to the river. Fitzgerald valiantly remained behind to direct the artillery fire to cover his comrades’ withdrawal. He then attempted to join them but an enemy round struck Fitzgerald fatally in the back of his head as he reached the exit. Fragments wounded Williams in his face and chest and Gunn and Pearman sustained minor wounds, but all three reached the river. A fisherman rescued Williams and took him to a USA hospital at Qui Nhon, and a Coastal Group junk picked up the other two Americans, treated them for their wounds, and returned them to the base at 0430 because the PLAF filtered back into the jungle.

Additional vessels reached the area, including radar picket escort ship Camp (DER-251), patrol gunboat Gallup (PG-85), PCF-15, and PCF-54, while a USAF Douglas C-47 gunship circled overhead. Some of these vessels and the gunship blasted the enemy as they retired, and the boats evacuated 40 South Vietnamese troops to Camp, 15 suffering serious wounds and being subsequently flown by helicopter to a South Vietnamese hospital at Quang Ngai. Further reinforcements secured the base later that day. Fitzgerald received the Navy Cross and Purple Heart posthumously.

The first U.S. Navy ship named Fitzgerald.

(DDG-62: displacement 8,960; length 505'; beam 66'; draft 31'; speed 30+ knots; complement 356; armament 1 5-inch, 2 Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) for BGM-109 Tomahawks, RIM-156 SM-2MR Standards, and RUM-139 VL-ASROC Antisubmarine Rockets, 8 RGM-84 Harpoons (2 Mk 141 launchers), 2 Mk 15 Close In Weapon Systems (CIWS), 4 .50 caliber machine guns, and 6 Mk 32 torpedo tubes, aircraft operate (but not embark) 1 Sikorsky SH-60B Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) Mk III Seahawk; class Arleigh Burke)

Fitzgerald (DDG-62) was laid down on 9 February 1993 at Bath, Maine, by Bath Iron Works; launched on 29 January 1994; sponsored by Mrs. Betty A. Fitzgerald, widow of the late Lt. Fitzgerald; and commissioned on 14 October 1995 at Newport, R.I., Cmdr. Gary M. Holst in command.

Fitzgerald arrived at her forward-deployed port of Yokosuka, Japan, on 30 September 2004. One of her missions included participating in the U.S. Theater-Wide Ballistic Missile Defense Program (TBMD).

070807-N-XXXXD-002
Fitzgerald fires a practice RGM-84 Harpoon antiship missile while training with the Kitty Hawk (CV-63) Carrier Strike Group during Valiant Shield 07 off Guam, 7 August 2007. Thirty U.S. ships and submarines, more than 280 aircraft, and 20,000 servicemembers take part in the joint multi-threat exercise. (Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Alexis M. Diazfigueroa, U.S. Navy Photograph 070807-N-XXXXD-002, Navy NewsStand)
Fitzgerald (DDG-62) 1995-090819-N-8534H-002
Left to right: Guided-missile cruiser Cowpens (CG-63) and guided-missile destroyers Fitzgerald and Mustin (DDG-89) maneuver during the Indonesian International Fleet Review in the Pacific Ocean, 19 August 2009. The event commemorates the 64th anniversary of Indonesian independence. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Hirayama, U.S. Navy Photograph 090819-N-8534H-002, www.defense.gov)
110714-N-EA192_002
Fitzgerald fires her 5-inch gun during Talisman Sabre 2011, a joint U.S. and Australian training exercise in Australian waters, 12 July 2011. The ship fires 150 5-inch rounds while working with Australian patrol frigate Balarat (FFH.155) and USMC and Australian spotters on an uninhabited island located off Australia’s northeastern coast. (Ensign Carrissa Guthrie, U.S. Navy Photograph 110714-N-EA192_002, Commander Seventh Fleet website, www.c7f.navy.mil)

The ship participated in FTI-01, a complex missile defense flight test that shot down five ballistic missile and cruiser missile targets, while steaming in the Pacific on 24 October 2012. Fitzgerald, the USA’s 32nd and 94th Air and Missile Defense Commands, and the USAF’s 613th Air and Space Operations Center used an integrated air and ballistic missile defense architecture involving multiple sensors and missile defense systems to detect, track, and shoot down the targets. While the other commands engaged targets over areas as far apart as Wake Island and Kwajalein Island, Fitzgerald’s Aegis system tracked a low flying cruise missile over water and the destroyer splashed her attacker. She also tracked a short-range ballistic missile, firing an SM-3 Block 1A Standard surface-to-air missile that missed the target. 

Fitzgerald and merchantman ASX Crystal collided at approximately 0130 on 17 June 2017, while the destroyer operated about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Fitzgerald had set out from her home port of Yokosuka on the morning of the 16th for routine training. The weather was pleasant with unlimited visibility and calm seas. After a long day of training evolutions and equipment loading operations, the ship charted a course to the southwest from the Sagami Wan operating area into the Philippine Sea at about 2300. Fitzgerald steamed following procedures established for U.S. Navy surface ships when operating at sea before sunrise, including being at “darkened ship” — the crew shut off all of the exterior lighting except for the navigation lights that provided identification to other vessels, and switched all of the interior lighting to red instead of white to facilitate crew rest and enable watchstander’s vision to adjust to the darkness. Fitzgerald set “Modified Zebra,” meaning that all doors inside the ship, and all hatches, the openings located on the floor between decks, at the main deck and below, were shut to help secure the boundaries between different areas of the ship in case of flooding or fire. Sailors left the watertight scuttles on the hatches open in order to allow easy transit between spaces. 

As the warship continued her voyage during the first watch and the mid watch, the seas were relatively calm at two to four feet. The sky was dark, the moon relatively bright, and there was scattered cloud cover and unrestricted visibility — her watchstanders could still see the Izu Peninsula. The shipping traffic increased as Fitzgerald passed Izu Ōshima [Oshima Island] and continued somewhat busy thereafter. About an hour into the mid watch three merchant vessels approached Fitzgerald from her starboard side, forward: Maersk Evora, a 141,716 ton container ship operated by the Maersk Line; Wan Hai 266, an 18,872 ton Singaporean-flagged container ship; and ASX Crystal, a 29,060 ton Filipino-flagged container ship owned by Olympic Steamship Co. SA of Panama. ASX Crystal carried a cargo of 1,080 containers from Nagoya, Japan, for Tōkyō Bay, where she expected to arrive during the first dog watch. All three vessels steamed eastbound through the Mikimoto Shima Vessel Traffic Separation Scheme. Local authorities establish traffic separation schemes in approaches to ports throughout the world to provide ships assistance in separating their movements when entering or leaving ports. The destroyer’s bridge watch team, and the Combat Information Center (CIC) watch team, which manned an area where they fused tactical information to provide maximum situational awareness, plotted the vessels’ movements and their closest point of approach appeared minimal and without risk. 

In accordance with the International Rules of the Nautical Road, Fitzgerald steamed in a crossing situation with each of the vessels. In such a state, she was obligated to take maneuvering action to remain clear of the other three, and if possible, avoid crossing ahead. In the event Fitzgerald did not exercise that obligation, the rules required the other vessels to take early and appropriate action through their own independent maneuvering. For 30 minutes, however, neither Fitzgerald nor ASX Crystal took such action to reduce the risk of collision. 

Fitzgerald’s officer of the deck (OOD) and junior officer of the deck discussed the relative positioning of the vessels, and whether to change course to avoid them. Initially, the OOD intended to hold to their course of 190° at 20 knots, and mistook ASX Crystal to be another of the two vessels with a greater closest point of approach. The OOD belatedly realized that Fitzgerald and ASX Crystal steered a collision course, and exhibited poor seamanship by failing to maneuver as required, failing to sound the danger signal, and failing to attempt to contact the merchantman on bridge to bridge radio. In addition, the OOD did not call Cmdr. Bryce Benson, the commanding officer, as appropriate and prescribed by Navy procedures to allow him to exercise more senior oversight and judgment of the situation. The remainder of the bridge watch team failed to provide situational awareness and input to the OOD, and the CIC team also failed to provide the bridge input and information. 

Precious seconds ticked away and at 0125 Maersk Evora came right, but Fitzgerald, ASX Crystal, Wan Hai 266 all held to their respective courses. The OOD ordered the destroyer to turn to the right to 240° at 0127, but within a minute rescinded the order. Instead, he ordered an increase to full speed and a rapid turn to port, but the team did not carry out his directive. Fitzgerald’s watchstanders finally realized their plight and at 0129 the bosun mate of the watch took the helm and put the ship’s rudder hard left and increased speed. The ships did not sound their danger signals and Fitzgerald failed to ring her collision alarm, and in barely a minute ASX Crystal tore into Fitzgerald

The container ship’s port bow, near the top where the anchor hung, staved-in Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side under the pilothouse above the waterline at approximately frame 160. ASX Crystal’s bulbous bow struck the U.S. ship’s starboard access trunk, an entry space that opened into Berthing 2 through a non-watertight door, near frame 138. The collision crumpled part of ASX Crystal’s bow, but the ship did not report injuries among the 20 crewmembers on board and eventually resumed her voyage. 

The merchantman’s stem crushed Fitzgerald’s false bulkhead – a non-structural steel wall used to divide a space – and non-watertight door within the Captain’s Cabin, trapping Cmdr. Benson inside while also throwing him out of his cabin and leaving him hanging precariously over the side of the ship. The collision tore a large 13 by 17 foot puncture below the waterline, spanning the second and third decks below the main deck, and opened the hull to the sea. Water poured directly into Auxiliary Machinery Room 1 and the Berthing 2 starboard access trunk, and the force of the impact and the resulting flooding pushed the non-water tight door between the starboard access trunk and Berthing 2 inward. The wall supporting this door pulled away from the ceiling and bent to a near-90° angle. As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, which flooded the berthing compartment and spaces directly connected to areas near the hole or not separated by a watertight barrier; Auxiliary Machinery Room 1 and associated spaces; and other spaces forward of the gash. 

Fitzgerald listed a reported 14° to port, and then settled into a 7° starboard list as the sea flooded into Berthing 2 through the starboard access trunk and weighted the ship deeper into the water on the starboard side. The warship lost external communications and power in the forward portion of the ship, and changed the lighting configuration at the mast to one red light over another red light, known as “red over red,” the international lighting scheme that indicates that a ship is “not under command.” Under the international rules, this signifies that, due to an exceptional circumstance such as loss of propulsion or steering, a vessel is unable to maneuver as required. 

Of the 42 crewmembers assigned to Berthing 2, five stood watch and two did not sail with the ship. Of the 35 remaining sailors in Berthing 2, some 28 escaped the flooding and seven perished. Some of the sailors who survived the flooding in Berthing 2 described a loud noise at the time of impact, while the collision threw some from their racks, and still others felt the ship shudder all but imperceptibly. The impact failed to awaken some of the crewmembers. A few members of the ship’s company reported hearing alarms sound following the crash, but others did not recall alarms. Seconds after impact, some of the sailors in Berthing 2 started yelling, “Water on deck!” and, “Get out!” One crewmember saw another knocked out of his rack by inrushing water, and some began waking up sleeping shipmates. One heavy sleeper only awoke when a sailor pulled the man from his rack and into the water. Senior sailors courageously defied the incoming sea and checked for people whom they feared might still be in their racks. 

The water poured rapidly into the compartment and nearly filled it within a minute. By the time the third sailor climbed up the ladder out of the berthing, the water reached his waist. Debris including mattresses, furniture, an exercise bicycle, and wall lockers, floated into the aisles between racks in Berthing 2, impeding people from escaping. The ship’s 5 to 7° list to starboard increased their difficulty crossing the space from the starboard to the port side, though battle lanterns activated as designed when the power failed and partially illuminated the gloom. The door to the Berthing 2 head was open and the flooding water dragged at least one person into that area, and debris sloshing about the head hindered the sailor’s escape. The impact stunned many sailors but they then lined up in a relatively calm and orderly manner to climb the port side ladder and exit through the port watertight scuttle. In places the water reached their necks but they moved forward slowly and assisted each other. 

One sailor reported that 37-year-old FCC Gary L. Rehm Jr., of Elyria, Ohio, pushed him out from under a falling locker. Two of the people who escaped from the main part of Berthing 2 stayed at the bottom of the ladder well and helped crewmembers until the water rose to their necks and compelled them to clamber up the ladder to survive. The pair nonetheless gamely continued to assist their shipmates as they climbed, and looked through the water and did not see anyone else; however, the rising water all but pushed them through the watertight scuttle. After they escaped through the scuttle onto the landing outside Berthing 1 they continued to search, reaching into the dark water to try to find anyone they could. From the top of the ladder, these two crewmembers pulled two other people from the flooded compartment, both of whom struggled completely underwater when they were drawn to safety. The last person rescued from Berthing 2 was in the head when the ships struck and the inrushing water knocked him to the deck. Lockers floated past him and he scrambled across them toward the main berthing area. The flooding sea suddenly pinned the sailor between the lockers and the overhead but he reached for a pipe and pulled himself free. The man sighted a faint light from the port side watertight scuttle and swam toward it, and as the water washed over the sailor he took a final breath but breathed in water before he was drawn clear, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. 

Another sailor returned with a dogging wrench to tighten the bolts on the hatch to stave off flooding, and the three crewmembers at the top of the ladder yelled into the flooded compartment below to determine if anyone still lived within Berthing 2. They tragically did not hear a response or see shadows moving. Water began gushing out of the watertight scuttle between Berthing 2 and Berthing 1 into the landing, and although they attempted to close the scuttle the surging sea prevented them from closing it. They left the scuttle partially open and climbed the ladder to the Main deck, and secured the hatch and scuttle between Berthing 1 and the Main deck. Twenty-seven of the survivors escaped Berthing 2 from the port side ladder. 

The 28th sailor who escaped that space did so via the starboard side of Berthing 2. After the ships collided, this man began to climb out of his rack, the top one in the row nearest to the starboard access trunk, but inadvertently kicked someone, so he crawled back into his bunk and waited until he thought everyone else got out. In just those seconds the water reached chest high and near to the top of his rack. The man struggled through the flooding water and lounge furniture to reach the starboard egress point through the lounge area. A sailor said, “Go, go, go, it’s blocked,” but the incoming sea washed over the man and just as he lost his breath he found a small pocket of air. The crewmember gratefully took a few breaths in the small air pocket, then one final breath and swam. He lost consciousness and did not remember how he escaped from Berthing 2, but ultimately emerged into Berthing 1, where he stood up and breathed. The sailor then climbed Berthing 1’s egress ladder through the open watertight scuttle and collapsed on the Main deck, the sole survivor who escaped through the starboard egress point. The man suffered from severe injuries and a helicopter lifted him off the ship at 0917 and flew him to Naval Hospital Yokosuka, where he was treated for near drowning, seawater aspiration, traumatic brain injury, and scalp and ankle lacerations and was released two days later. Once the sailors escaped some of them assembled on the mess decks, where they treated their injured shipmates and passed out food and water. Others manned their battle stations and assisted with the damage control, and another person ascended to the bridge and helped with medical assistance. 

Cmdr. Benson called the bridge requesting assistance, and five sailors used a sledgehammer, kettlebell, and their bodies to break through the door into his cabin. The crewmembers removed the hinges and then pried the door open just enough so that they squeeze through. The collision drove a large amount of debris and furniture against the door, however, and prevented them from entering easily. A junior officer and two chief petty officers removed debris from in front of the door and crawled into the cabin. The merchantman tore the skin of the ship and the outer bulkhead away and the men could see the night sky through the hanging wires and ripped steel. The rescue team tied themselves together with a belt in order to create a makeshift harness as they retrieved Benson and drew him back inside the ship. They then took the commanding officer to the bridge, where a medical team assessed his injuries; he had suffered traumatic brain injury with brief loss of consciousness, back contusion, and lower extremity abrasions. Benson’s condition worsened and a team of stretcher bearers thus moved him to the at-sea cabin at 0319, and shortly thereafter, due to the severity of his injuries, a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter flew to the ship to medically evacuate the commanding officer. Fitzgerald’s list prevented the helo from landing on the destroyer’s flight deck and the aircraft hovered over her and lowered a rescue litter. Sailors placed Benson within the basket and at 0710 the helo hoisted the captain aloft and flew him to the hospital at Yokosuka. He was treated and released on 18 June 2017. 

Additionally, water partially flooded spaces due to a ruptured fire main and burst Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (a firefighting agent) piping. Multiple compartments suffered structural damage: the Captain’s Cabin, Stateroom, and Bathroom; Officer Stateroom; Berthing 2 Starboard Access Trunk; Auxiliary Compartment 1; Repair Locker Number 2 passageway; Combat Information Center passageway; multiple Radar and Radar Array rooms; a number of fan rooms; Combat Systems Maintenance Central airlock and ladder-well; Electronic Workshop Number 1; and the Starboard Break. 

The destroyer meanwhile sounded general quarters and the ship’s company heroically prevented the flooding from spreading catastrophically. The damage control assistant and damage control chief took control of damage control actions immediately after the collision and organized the crew to quickly began dewatering, inspected the damage, and developed a plan for repairs and inspection of the spaces. Crewmembers responded initially unaware of the extent of the damage and reported that the impact tore a 12 foot by 12 foot hole in Auxiliary Compartment 1, and a 3 foot by 5 foot gash in the starboard passage to Berthings 1 and 2. Inspecting the damage revealed that these conflicting accounts actually referred to the same hole and the flooding that spread to two spaces. Supervisors attempted to direct the Repair Locker 2 team, the closest to the report location, in place to battle the flooding, but because of the location of the inrushing water could not communicate with the repair locker. They reassigned their focus to Repair Locker 5 as they established communications on internal communications networks still operable, and hand-held radios and sound powered phones. Damage control parties used eductors, which used a jet of water, typically supplied from the ship’s fire-main piping system, and three onboard pumps to remove water from flooded spaces. Two of the pumps functioned as designed and a third seized and stopped working. 

As crewmembers reported to their damage control duties and fought to save the ship, departments began to account for missing people. Reports were received that three sailors were trapped in Sonar Control as a result of the collision. The sailors in that compartment realized that water flooded the spaces above them and radioed for assistance. Damage completely obstructed the passageway, however, and blocked a team’s initial attempts to reach them. That area also suffered from cross-flooding through deck drains that could not be secured before the water advanced. The team reached the escape hatch above the Sonar Control space, which was topped with a few inches of water. They bravely went through the hatch and assisted the sailors trapped inside at about 0215. At 0225, the Combat Systems Department said that two sailors were unaccounted for. At approximately 0316, four more were reported as unaccounted for, and at 0540, a final, accurate all-hands accounting reported seven missing crewmembers. 

One of Fitzgerald’s two shafts locked but the engineering team kept the ship steaming on a single screw. She got underway again at 0453 but at steerageway, a mere three knots, and proceeded cautiously in order to avoid taking on additional water, varying her speed between three and five knots. The crew stabilized the flooding and restored most of the ship’s trim, keeping her list to about 5° on the starboard side. 

Dewey (DDG-105) emergency sortied from Yokosuka at 0745 and raced to the scene. Additional allied forces rendered assistance including a Boeing P-8A Poseidon, a Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12, a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Lockheed P-3C Orion, two helicopters, destroyers Hamagiri (DD.155) and Ōhnami (DD.111), and training support ship Enshu (AMS.4305), along with Japanese Coast Guard vessels Izanami and Kano. Some of these aircraft and ships also searched the area for the missing sailors of Fitzgerald’s ship’s company in case they were lost overboard. 

Fleet Activities Yokosuka sent a pair of U.S. Navy tugs that rendezvoused with Fitzgerald at 0815. The first tug took Fitzgerald in tow with a line astern to the destroyer’s stem, while the second operated in a “power make up” about half-way down Fitzgerald’s port side. The second tug’s configuration enabled the boat to control the destroyer in case the ship lost all propulsion and steering and could not move under her own power. Most of the ship’s power forward failed so that the bridge team could not steer the ship from the pilothouse, but a crewmember took the helm and stood a 15-hour watch in aft steering. 

A helo brought Destroyer Squadron 15’s deputy commodore, a doctor, damage control chief, and chaplain to Fitzgerald at 0911. The same helicopter lifted off with a Combat Systems officer, who suffered traumatic brain injury with brief loss of consciousness and facial abrasions and contusions, and the man who had escaped from the starboard egress point, and flew them back to Yokosuka for treatment. Fitzgerald requested a Rescue and Assistance Team and additional damage control pumps and hoses from Dewey at about 1000, and within a couple of hours Dewey dispatched her team and 14 additional sailors carrying another P-100 pump and firehoses to the damaged destroyer. The reinforcements assisted with dewatering and provided food and water through 1900, and remained onboard Fitzgerald until she returned to port. Fitzgerald entered Yokosuka’s inner harbor at 1607, but in order to set up an effective traffic separation scheme, the U.S. Navy’s base port operations hired a commercial tug to escort the destroyer and to provide an additional buffer against other vessels. Watchstanders navigated Fitzgerald into busy Yokosuka with a magnetic compass and backup navigation equipment, and the tugs carefully eased the warship to the pier and she moored at 1854 on 17 June. 

Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, Commander, Seventh Fleet, joined family members on the pier that greeted the ship. “This has been a difficult day,” Aucoin admitted. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew.” “I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors,” Rear Adm. Charles F. Williams, Commander Battle Force Seventh Fleet, Task Force 70, and Carrier Strike Group 5, reflected, “who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances.” 

“It could have been much worse,” Vice Adm. Aucoin observed during a press conference at Yokosuka on 18 June. “All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families,” Adm. John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations, said during a separate conference. “Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” Adm. Scott H. Swift, Commander Pacific Fleet, added. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.” “We are all deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our fellow shipmates,” Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean J. Stackley stated. 

Damage control teams and divers, however, came across the seven Fitzgerald sailors who had been initially accounted as missing, in the flooded compartments. The continuing efforts found the bodies of 24-year-old PSC Xavier A. Martin from Halethorpe, Md.; FCC Rehm; 26-year-old GM1 Noe Hernandez from Weslaco, Texas; 23-year-old FC1 Carlos V. G. Sibayan from Chula Vista, Calif.; 25-year-old ST2 Ngoc T. Huynh from Oakville, Conn.; 25-year-old YN2 Shingo A. Douglass of San Diego, Calif.; and 19-year-old GMSN Dakota K. Rigsby from Palmyra, Va. 

Fellow sailors, family members, and civilian employees from local commands and agencies including the United Service Organizations, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, Port Operations, Navy Exchange, and the Chief Petty Officer Mess, reached out to the crew and their grieving families with food, blankets, clothes, and emotional support. The Navy furthermore provided around-the-clock chaplain and counselor care to crewmembers and their loved ones at the USS Fitzgerald Emergency Family Assistance Center, located on the Command Readiness Center’s 4th floor at Yokosuka. Aucoin announced that he initiated a JAGMAN investigation (an administrative investigation governed by regulations contained within the Manual of the Judge Advocate General) into the incident, and that there would also be a safety inquiry. The U.S. Coast Guard was to take the lead on the marine casualty investigation. 

The investigators determined that the collision was “avoidable,” Adm. Richardson announced when he released the report on the collision on 23 October 2017. The crash, “along with other similar incidents over the past year, indicated a need for the Navy to undertake a review of wider scope to better determine systemic causes. The Navy’s Comprehensive Review of Surface Fleet Incidents…represents the results of this effort.” 

The Navy determined that numerous failures occurred on the part of leadership and watchstanders including:

Failure to plan for safety.
Failure to adhere to sound navigation practice.
Failure to execute basic watch standing practices.
Failure to properly use available navigation tools.
Failure to respond deliberately and effectively when in extremis.

Tugs including WBL-1 (right) gently nudge Fitzgerald to the pier as the destroyer, her side clearly showing the devastating damage incurred during the collision, returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, 17 June 2017. (MC1 Peter Burghart, U.S. Navy Photograph 170617-N-XN177-155, Navy NewsStand)
Caption: Tugs including WBL-1 (right) gently nudge Fitzgerald to the pier as the destroyer, her side clearly showing the devastating damage incurred during the collision, returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, 17 June 2017. (MC1 Peter Burghart, U.S. Navy Photograph 170617-N-XN177-155, Navy NewsStand)


Fitzgerald moors at Yokosuka, 17 June 2017. (MC1 Peter Burghart, U.S. Navy Photograph 170617-N-XN177-225, Navy NewsStand)
Caption: Fitzgerald moors at Yokosuka, 17 June 2017. (MC1 Peter Burghart, U.S. Navy Photograph 170617-N-XN177-225, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history pending. 

Mark L. Evans
7 November 2017

Published:Wed Nov 08 07:37:19 EST 2017