On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy released reports detailing the events that led to two tragic collisions between U.S. Navy ships and commercial vessels that occurred earlier this year.  These separate incidents, one involving the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and another involving the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), both shared a single culprit, according to the Navy investigations: the failure of the command on board.

“Both of these accidents were preventable and the respective investigations found multiple failures by watch standers that contributed to the incidents,” said Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson. “We must do better.”

On June 17, the Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the merchant ship ACX Crystal in calm waters and good weather, some 90 miles Southwest of Tokyo.  Two months later, on August 21, another destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, named for the father and grandfather of Senator John McCain, struck the Alnic MC off the coast of Singapore.  The two incidents resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors as well as dozens of injuries.  In the aftermath, the command elements aboard both vessels, as well as their senior leadership at 7th Fleet, have been relieved. Adm. Richardson commented:

Our culture, from the most junior sailor to the most senior Commander, must value achieving and maintaining high operational and warfighting standards of performance and these standards must be embedded in our equipment, individuals, teams and fleets.  We will spend every effort needed to correct these problems and be stronger than before.”

Now, the Navy has concluded that the sailors running bridge operations at the times of the collisions were to blame.


The USS Fitzgerald