Powerful pumps designed to quickly move huge amounts of water failed. Coppock told Parker not to worry — she was tracking the ship. Thompson, pp. “We can’t slow down because it’ll make the situation worse.” Coppock worried that slowing down might bring her into the path of the ship that was supposed to pass behind them. He was found inside the bathroom, its door closed — the last place he had been seen by Mead, who credited Rehm with saving his life. But men had to squeeze through narrow passages in the dark, fighting past water to reach it. Radars are tricky instruments that need constant adjustments depending on weather and distance. 10â11, 117â18; Thompson, p. 129). The Fitzgerald steamed south at 20 knots. The crew gathered on the broad gray tarmac. Coppock directed the Fitzgerald to head south down the coast of Japan, toward open ocean. The Fitzgerald needed to be ready for war with North Korea. A federal judge dismissed the suit. Normally, Benson directed the officer of the deck to call him if the ship deviated from its planned course by more than 500 yards to avoid traffic. “Freddy,” Benson said, “Get your boots on.”, The young culinary specialist turned to the ranking officer standing nearby. He could make out lights from the distant shore of Japan. He also observed that abuse results when a powerful organization attempts to manipulate the press, as the U.S. Navy had apparently tried to do through leaks of information about the investigation. When Julie asked, "Why are you doing them?" After the crash, he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was especially worried about Woodley, who was responsible for watching the radars in the combat room. Still, Coppock, naturally self-assured, took the bridge undeterred. “Grab my hand.”. Ogilvie and White laid him on the floor of the bridge. Later media reports indicated that the U.S. Navy believed that Hartwig had intentionally caused the explosion after his relationship with Truitt had gone sour. He regarded Coppock as one of the best officers that he had. Visions of them attending his memorial service played in his head. On one thing, however, both supporters and detractors agreed on: She was superb at her full-time job. That made her responsible for the operation of the Fitzgerald’s combat information center — the warship’s fighting heart. 10â11, 13, 121; Thompson, pp. A young officer scribbled algebraic equations in a notebook to figure out how to right the listing vessel. Before the Fitzgerald, he had been working at a restaurant and an industrial supply company. , Captain Joseph Dominick Miceli, from NAVSEA, was assigned to Milligan's team to lead the technical investigation into the explosion. His body was found floating in the starboard side lounge of Berthing 2. But still, water seeped through air ducts and open conduits between compartments. 11â12). , Thirty-eight of the other Iowa victims' family members filed suit against the Navy, seeking $2.35 billion in damages for the death of their family members in the explosion. Shortly thereafter, the Navy issued a statement explaining that the safety violations and training deficiencies found aboard Iowa during the investigation were unrelated to the explosion. Sidelined during years of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy is now strategically central to containing North Korea’s nuclear threat, China’s expansionist aims and a newly aggressive Russia. A senior officer told White to take Benson to the sea cabin, a small room with a bed just behind the bridge. It was the first time that anyone on the Fitzgerald had realized that two ships were steaming toward the Fitzgerald’s starboard bow. He set foot on the Fitzgerald in January, then returned to the United States for additional training. Another could barely bring herself to look at the captain for a week. This was the 7th Fleet. In the morning, she brought fresh coffee to the sailors who stood watch. The 221-square-foot hole had exposed the Fitzgerald to open sea, allowing light from the sun rising at dawn to penetrate the hold. The Navy declined to directly answer ProPublica’s questions about its findings. Felderman has returned home to the United States with his wife and daughter. In January, the destroyer USS Antietam had run aground while in Yokosuka’s harbor. Benson spent his first week in command as though he were again captain of an aging minesweeper, trying to tackle hundreds of repairs and begging technicians to fly over from the United States for help. They gave firsthand accounts for formal inquiries. He mentioned Skelley's experiments, thereby appearing to endorse them (Thompson, p. 95). Not only was their [the Navy's] attitude arrogant, but they were dismissing work for reasons more connected to face than to fact. 192â93, 199, 207â08; Thompson, p. 376. The seven coffins sat on a makeshift bier in front of the transport plane. Coppock did not trust some of her team that night. They were his sailors and he was not giving up on them. Some officers considered her introverted, not the best characteristic for a tactical action officer responsible for communicating with the bridge. Seven sailors died. Over the next day, the crew swept, cleaned, and painted the inside of the turret. As hundreds of tons of water flooded into the warship, it settled into a 7-degree list. Milligan stated that the Navy believed Hartwig had caused the explosion, citing, among other evidence, the FBI's equivocal death analysis on Hartwig. That made the laptop an important link in the array of equipment designed to alert the Fitzgerald to nearby dangers. Coppock was inconsolable, sobbing and berating herself. 89â90, 97. As sailors began to disembark, Dora watched several friends explode in joy at the sight of a loved one. Her husband lay on a metal table in a body bag. Both are felony equivalents. “I just got so wrapped up in trying to do anything that I had to just drop the ball on everything else that I needed to do,” she said. She commanded the helmsman to gun the destroyer’s powerful engines to full speed and duck in front of the Crystal by heading left. Bonner, p. 58; Schwoebel, pp. Looking up, he saw the light coming from the open scuttle and fought his way toward it. “They didn’t want to get help because they didn’t know what it would do to their career or they figured they would get past it.”. The Navy explicitly ruled out problems with any of the ship’s radars. “We gotta slow down,” Parker told Coppock. NIS special agent James Whitener hadâwithout authorization, it was later revealed by NIS officialsâgiven Tepper and Francis classified computer diskettes containing the complete NIS files on the Iowa investigation. Friends hurried to check on him. , On 20 January 1989, off Vieques Island, Iowa's Turret One fired six of the experimental shells using the supercharged powder bags. None of the Crystal’s 20-member crew was seriously injured, but structural damage was significant. He could remember tracking only a few contacts, all of them far away. Miceli responded that Cooper's finding "has no relation to actual 16-inch gun conditions" and refused repeated requests from Sandia to conduct the tests. He took over the steering controls but found that they were not responding. Your lungs introduce water into your circulatory system, thinning your blood and causing abnormal chemical reactions. The Fitzgerald was carried by an ocean-going transport vessel from Japan to a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Technicians complained of being called to fix radar problems that were actually the result of operator errors. Coppock had grown up in Willard, Missouri, a town of 5,000 northwest of Springfield. The shock of cold, salty water snapped him awake. The Fitzgerald was now at war, the enemy the sea. Worked, ate and relaxed together. ", Also testifying before the Senate on 25 May was Frank C. Conahan from the GAO. The captain of the Crystal took evasive action that unfolded slowly as the big ships carefully maneuvered around each other in the crowded seas. The Fitzgerald is about as long as the Washington Monument, and wider than a four-lane interstate highway, with a main mast soaring 152 feet high above the deck. He often slept on benches in the lounge area, where he could stretch out more than in his bunk. Previously she covered the military, investigating such issues as the billions of dollars wasted by the U.S. government in Afghanistan and how the Pentagon was failing in its efforts to find and identify missing service members from past wars. He had first watch the next day. Uhden, who was the conning officer, thought they were getting too close. In August 1991, Sandia and the GAO completed their reports, concluding that it was likely that the explosion was caused by an accidental overram of powder bags into the breech of the 16-inch gun. My butt is on the line! The Archives has reviewed the deck log and war diary from Eldridge's commissioning on 27 August 1943 at the New York Navy Yard through December 1943. He further announced that he had directed the Navy to never again use an informal board composed of a single officer to investigate such an incident. Benson realized he was no longer in command of himself, nor of his ship. A pump lubricating the starboard shaft failed, forcing its shutdown. On the ship’s bridge, a crewman activated two emergency lights high on the ship’s mast, one on top of the other: The Fitzgerald, it signaled, was red over red — no longer under command. She didn’t think he could be relied on to aggressively search for ships. Ritarsha Furqan, the ship’s combat officer, worried that the constant pace was not providing enough time for necessary training and repairs. He took control of the helm and did as Coppock ordered: He pushed the throttle to full and turned the rudder hard left. A Navy doctor agreed on one condition. Perez stepped forward to finish the job. As a group, they decided: Whether the men appeared dead or alive, each would receive emergency treatment. 367â68. For 10 hours, about two dozen sailors at a time snaked in a long, tight line from below ship up three ladder wells to the main deck. He split open his hand trying to bash in the door. We conducted dozens of interviews with current and former Navy admirals and senior civilian leaders, including the former secretary of the Navy. In a very few cases, scenes rely upon interviews or testimony from a single source. ", In February the battleship returned to Norfolk. He told Benson the ship was flooding. The Fitzgerald had passed just seven of these tests. Miceli directed his team to begin testing to see if an electrical timer could have ignited the powder bags. Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was commander of the 7th Fleet at the time of the collisions. There's a flash! They spoke with therapists concerned about their mental health. Right before Benson assumed command, Shu had promised leaves to more than a dozen weary crew members. Babbitt refused. They stationed themselves by the Fitzgerald’s starboard side, which faced away from the pier to conceal the worst of the damage. She and her enlisted assistant, Alexander Vaughan, had stayed up almost 48 hours in the successful pursuit of a Chinese submarine off the coast of Japan. Sarah Coppock, lieutenant junior grade, was the officer of the deck, responsible for the safety and navigation of the ship while Benson slept. Loose or damaged equipment was tossed into the ocean. Also present at the briefing were Rear Admirals William Schacte, who had replaced Gordon as military commander of the NIS, and Robert Ailes, deputy commander of Sea Systems Command. 163â64, 321â22. As the watch progressed into the dark early hours of June 17, Combs did not see much to worry her. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are designed to be the most survivable ships in the Navy. The fireball spread through all three gun rooms and through much of the lower levels of the turret. They hauled them through surging water, slipping, stumbling toward exits. The force of the collision was so great that it sent the 8,261-ton warship spinning on a 360-degree rotation through the Pacific. In an interview on Fox Business News, President Donald Trump promised to stop them. “He was about getting things done. The. He loved to watch soccer, and his favorite video games were Fallout and Lethal Weapon. To keep from pitching overboard, Coppock seized the alidade, a large metallic instrument used for taking bearings. 370â71. Nor could commanders communicate over a classified email system. The Hartwig family filed objections, but on 10 November 1999 District Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. adopted the recommendation to dismiss, ruling that "however hurtful the government's action may have been, they cannot form the basis of a claim against the United States. I’m so fucked!" Navy investigators have praised her candor and cooperation. The resulting fire released toxic gases, including cyanide gas from burning polyurethane foam, which filled the turret. On 23 April Iowa returned to Norfolk, where a memorial service was held on 24 April. The investigations produced conflicting conclusions. At 6 feet, 1 inch and 230 pounds, Vaughan grabbed a nearby sailor by the T-shirt and hurled him toward the ladder that led to the deck above. Dark, cold water was rising quickly around him. Underneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, 12 miles off the coast of Japan, the tidy world of Berthing 2 had come undone. She said it would pass 1,500 yards behind the Fitzgerald. On Kissinger's recommendation, Moosally ordered Turret Two's magazines, annular spaces, and powder flats flooded with seawater, preventing the remaining powder from exploding. But the half-dozen ballistic missile defense destroyers in the 7th Fleet are the United States’ first line of defense against a North Korean nuclear attack. In his interview with Milligan, Moosally complained that the U.S. Navy had given him a bunch of "misfits" for his crew. 187â89, 285. Moosally was awarded the, Thompson, pp. Despite that, Benson, before going to bed, had ordered her to steam ahead at 20 knots. Exhaust from the gas-engine pumps reached dangerous levels in confined areas of the ship, creating an alarmingly thick haze. By then, Benson was convinced that the shortage of sailors had become critical. Schwoebel's team concluded that the fibers and various chemical constituents found by the Navy on the center gun projectile were unrelated to the explosion. Finally, he observed that the U.S. Navy was lacking a due process in military justice as it related to deceased personnel.. Some felt that Shu had become too hands off after three years in command. The flight deck on the rear of the ship was listing too hard for a helicopter landing. “They just kept telling me I was too aggressive, that I needed to ... tone myself down,” she said. It was roughly 20 miles wide and filled with scores of cargo vessels and fishing boats streaming into and out of Tokyo. Hernandez was there with 3-year-old Leon in a baby carrier strapped to her chest. “It definitely helped me to have people around,” Vaughan said. Daily news updates from the military community and abroad including military gear and equipment, breaking news, international news and more. Two more chief petty officers took shots. Seventeen seconds later, he reported that the left gun was ready. At 8:22 a.m., the divers raised Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc “Tan” Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut. 284â85, 288; Vistica, p. 291. On the Fitzgerald, that never happened. 363â65. In more than 20 years as a professional journalist and foreign correspondent, Miller has covered four wars, a presidential campaign and reported from more than two dozen countries. All 47 crewmen inside the turret were killed. Kelso noted that the Navy had spent a total of $25 million on the investigation. He did not attempt to stop the ongoing cleanup of the turret. It was made mostly of wood and was in constant need of repair. During her sophomore year in high school, she flew to Hawaii with classmates from the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Constant communication was needed to ensure that no dangers went overlooked. Moosally ordered Turret Two to load and fire a three-gun salvo. 3D rendering by Stefan Fichtel/ixtract GmbH. “There’s a lot of things that I didn’t know,” Womack would say later. They set out with pumps to drain the hardest hit areas. The Fitzgerald missed the fishing boat by a couple hundred yards. Nunn's chief counsel, Richard DeBobes, a retired Navy captain, and Richard Woodruff, Metzenbaum's chief deputy, in preparation for the hearing, met with Milligan, Captain Roger Pitkin, chief of the Navy's Office of Legislative Affairs, and Rear Admiral William Schachte, new chief of the NIS. After the crash, the Crystal found itself headed straight for the Maersk Evora. At 8 a.m. the morning of the shoot, Kissinger conducted a quick exercise brief behind Turret Two but gave out wrong information, such as that the guns were to fire to port (the opposite was true) and that nearby Navy ships would also participate in the shoot, which was wrong. The console had been scavenged for spare parts, leaving the station unmanned. Navy leaders planned a small ceremony at the U.S. Air Force base near Yokosuka to send the men on a military transport plane to Dover Air Force Base outside of Washington, D.C. Fitzgerald family and crew members begged to be allowed to attend the dignified send off. Shilts, p. 663; Johnson, "Their Hearts Said Navy Erred About Iowa Blast", Vistica, pp. Turret One's left gun remained in a "hang fire" condition until it was manually unloaded hours after the explosion in Turret Two. Benson had ordered all sailors to report to the Fitzgerald at 6 a.m. to get an early start so he could squeeze in some training. , Several of the officers and petty officers in charge of the main gun turret crews believed that Skelley's and Costigan's proposed experiments were dangerous, especially because of the age of the guns and the turrets, in addition to their numerous maintenance problems. He was bleeding and soaked from a water pipe that had broken above him and could feel his body temperature dropping. It may have been a good training exercise. Men were screaming. xvii, 39â42, 70; Thompson, p. 284. Robert Shu. Late that evening, after everyone had departed, Dora found herself left on the pier with a few friends. Even the slowest shift was supposed to be punctuated with check-ins. The No. But Womack did not immediately understand her order. The 60-page report found that the explosion was a deliberate act "most probably" committed by Hartwig using an electronic timer. The newspaper stated, "Each fumbled inquiry may have exposed a different U.S. Navy foible. Its sailors considered themselves the most driven in the Navy. Each shot was to use five bags of D-846, instead of the six bags normally used, and to fire at the empty ocean 17 nautical miles (20 mi; 30 km) away. Communication with the Japanese crew was difficult — one of those missing, Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Douglass, was the only person on board fluent in Japanese. The ship’s primary navigation system was run by 17-year-old software. The three petty officers went to a locker and retrieved diving fins and a mask. Beige metal footlockers bobbed through the water. ProPublica attempted to contact those mentioned by name in this story. 372, 380â82; Vistica, p. 341. There was panic. In the best of circumstances, the Fitzgerald had a narrow window of time to take out a ballistic missile. There was blood streaming down his face. Cooper and Schuler, for test drop number 18, spread the pellets out a little more in the trim layer (Schwoebel, p. 145). "No one was preserving the evidence," said Brian R. Scanio, a fireman present at the scene. Suddenly, the ship lurched to the right, knocking sailors from their feet. He did not go home for two months, crashing with friends on base. Five sailors were trapped in sonar compartments in the front of the ship. Johnson, "Their Hearts Said Navy Erred About Iowa Blast", Engelberg, "Navy Finding on Iowa Blast Is Drawing Criticism", Schwoebel, p. 27; Thompson, pp. He gave us focused, clear guidance.” Naval investigators blamed Shu for creating a “culture of complacency” and “longstanding weaknesses” in training and tackling equipment problems that Benson would have to fix. Over four months, the ship traveled from Guam, to the South China Sea to anti-ballistic missile patrols off the Korean peninsula. Benson was soaking wet, barefoot, and wearing only a long-sleeved T-shirt and exercise shorts. He learned to get material any way he could: scavenging equipment, pestering supply clerks and getting his machinists to make custom fittings. Farthest away was the 142,000-ton Maersk Evora, one of the beasts of the ocean at 1,200 feet in length. Scot replied, "We don't have a choice. Breau’s last trick was a bucket brigade. The concussion from Turret Two's guns shredded Turret One's gun bloomers (the canvas covers at the base of the main gun barrels) and damaged Turret One's electrical system. , Several journalists immediately began questioning the results of Milligan's investigation. ", Upon receiving Kubicina's letters concerning Hartwig's life insurance policy, Morse and Moosally turned them over to Milligan on 7 May. At the top, the men shot out the small opening, as the rising water forced the remaining air from the compartment. The tear in his cabin’s wall had left Benson with a 140-degree view of dark water and dark sky. He ordered the crew to speed through shipping lanes filled with cargo ships and fishing vessels to free up time to train his sailors the next day. Hernandez, a deeply faithful Roman Catholic, loved spending time with his wife, Dora, and 3-year-old son. The Navy’s investigators concluded that sailors bore the primary blame for the collision. In the summer of 2017, two Navy destroyers crashed into two cargo ships, killing 17 sailors in America’s most powerful fleet. The tests consisted of vertically stacking five D-846 powder bags under an 860-pound (390 kg) weight and dropping them three feet onto a steel plate to simulate a high-speed overram in a 16-inch gun barrel. The next night, May 11, as the Fitzgerald steamed through the busy Tsushima Strait outside of Sasebo, another young lieutenant junior grade named Stephany Breau was serving as the officer of the deck. Said Schwoebel, "It should have ended the Navy's case against Hartwig right then and there. However, he realized he had to get going. She, too, had grabbed only an hour of sleep since the start of the day. Some slipped beneath the surface. Benson got orders to join the armada. Smith said that the NIS agents also offered him a "testimonial grant of immunity" signed by Milligan. 7, 238; Thompson, p. 101. Benson strode to his captain’s chair. No untouched portions of the rotating band remained and Sandia was provided with a section to examine that had already been examined by the FBI. The Crystal’s prow and its protruding lower bow seized the Fitzgerald like a pincer. They had stretched a tarp over the boat to shield the operation from the media, family members and spectators. North Korea was launching missiles on a regular basis. Nunn added that Milligan's conclusions were not supported "by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence". 4â6, 62, 211â15; Thompson, pp. He had lain in his bunk — Berthing 2, port side, Rack 44 — and watched a movie before falling asleep. Perez won. The Navy’s search for accountability made healing more difficult, especially after the collision of the McCain in August 2017. Who is Jacob Anthony Chansley? But after the Navy charged him with negligent homicide and other crimes, Benson fought back hard. A wall of water rushed toward him, and a locker toppled onto him. Coppock said she stayed away from the officers’ mess because of criticism from fellow junior officers. The men resigned themselves. I'm not ready yet! He was coughing up water. Matthew King, a sonar technician first class, had just finished his watch shift. Many of the remains were released to family members for burial before they were positively identified. Mort! Combs, who had been through the area a number of times, judged the traffic a “three out of 10.”. It was the oldest such system among destroyers based in Japan. Benson, the captain, had spent hours putting the midwatch team together. “We must not be sinking anymore,” he recalled thinking. The gas ejection air valve for the center gun was located at the bottom of the pit, leading Mortensen to believe that Hartwig had been sent into the pit to turn it on before the explosion occurred. The Navy Times published a multipart series containing portions of the confidential reports that we reviewed. Hospital corpsmen tried to start an IV and piled warm blankets over him. Several witnesses told Woodruff that their statements to NIS agents Goodman and Goodwin had been altered or falsified by the two agents. China was aggressively sending warships to pursue its territorial claims to disputed islands off its coast. As water fills your mouth, it can flood the windpipe and the esophagus. 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