Navy admiral will spare Greeneville's skipper a court-martial

Saturday, April 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The admiral who commands the U.S. Pacific Fleet has called the commander of USS Greeneville to an administrative hearing in Hawaii on Monday to punish him for his actions in the collision that sank a Japanese fishing boat in February, defense officials said Friday.

Adm. Thomas Fargo decided to punish Cmdr. Scott Waddle at a hearing known as an ``admiral's mast,'' rather than institute a court-martial proceeding, the officials in Washington and Honolulu said, speaking anonymously.

Fargo's decision is in line with the recommendation of a three-admiral court of inquiry which investigated the Feb. 9 collision off Honolulu that sank the Japanese ship and left nine Japanese missing at sea.

Fargo met with Waddle on Friday in Honolulu, according to Navy sources. There was no elaboration on the nature of their discussion.

It was not clear whether Fargo also met with other Greeneville officers who might face punishment or whether they, too, would face disciplinary procedures on Monday.

The session at Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor will be conducted under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It will mean the end of Waddle's Navy career, although he will not face the prospect of prison.

Fargo may issue a letter of reprimand to Waddle and grant him an honorable discharge with a pension, the officials said. Waddle could also be fined.

Waddle has said he knew after the accident that his Navy career was over.

News reports on the likelihood that Fargo would forgo a court-martial of Waddle have drawn sharp criticism in Japan. There are strong feelings there that Waddle was to blame for failing to detect the Ehime Maru before his submarine surfaced rapidly in a demonstration of emergency procedures. Navy officials have acknowledged that the demonstration was done only for the benefit of 16 civilians aboard, three of whom were seated at the sub's controls at the time of the collision.

Waddle has apologized for the collision and accepted full blame.

Rear Adm. Charles H. Griffiths Jr., who led a preliminary investigation into the collision, testified at the March court of inquiry in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that he did not believe Waddle had acted with criminal negligence, although he said the skipper had made serious errors of judgment.

On Friday a Japanese official said the families of those killed will not be satisfied unless Waddle faces a court-martial.

Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces in Japan, and eight other officers, met Friday with Moriyuki Kato, the governor of the state of Ehim, where the fishing school is located.

``We could expect quite strong resentment from the families'' if Waddle does not face court-martial proceedings, Moriyuki was quoted as saying by state official Masaru Inagaki. Moriyuki was citing news reports saying that the skipper will probably be given a lesser punishment.

Chaplin later met with relatives of the victims and students at the fisheries high school in the city of Uwajimain.

School official Toshihiko Nakao said the meeting lasted about an hour. Some relatives asked questions, he said, declining to give details. He also would not comment on the atmosphere of the talks.