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Fri Feb 9, 2024, 11:18 AM Feb 9

On This Day: Nuclear sub while doing public relations maneuvers kills 9 on fishing ship - Feb. 9, 2001

(edited from Wikipedia)
Ehime Maru and USS Greeneville collision

On 9 February 2001, about nine nautical miles south of Oahu, Hawaii, in the Pacific Ocean, the United States Navy (USN) Los Angeles-class submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Japanese fishery high-school training ship Ehime Maru from Ehime Prefecture. In a demonstration for some VIP civilian visitors, Greeneville performed an emergency ballast blow surfacing maneuver. As the submarine shot to the surface, she struck Ehime Maru. Within ten minutes of the collision, Ehime Maru sank. Nine of the thirty-five people aboard were killed: four high school students, two teachers, and three crew members.

Many Japanese people, including government officials, were concerned by news that civilians were present in Greeneville's control room at the time of the accident. Some expressed anger because of a perception that the submarine did not try to assist Ehime Maru's survivors and that the submarine's captain, Commander Scott Waddle, did not apologize immediately afterwards.

The USN conducted a public court of inquiry, blamed Waddle and other members of Greeneville's crew, and dealt non-judicial punishment or administrative disciplinary action to the captain and some crew members. After Waddle had been questioned by the Naval Board of Inquiry, it was decided that a full court-martial would be unnecessary, and he was forced to retire and given an honorable discharge.

In response to requests from the families of Ehime Maru's victims and the government of Japan, the USN raised Ehime Maru from the ocean floor during October 2001 and moved it to shallow water closer to Oahu. Once there, USN and Japanese divers located and retrieved the remains of eight of the nine victims from the wreck. Ehime Maru was then moved back out to sea and scuttled in deep water. The USN compensated the government of Ehime Prefecture, Ehime Maru's survivors, and victims' family members for the accident. Waddle traveled to Japan in December 2002 to apologize to the ship's survivors and victims' families.

The accident renewed calls by many in Japan for the United States to make more effort to reduce crimes and accidents involving U.S. military personnel who injure or kill Japanese citizens. In response to the accident, the USN changed its policies regarding civilian visits to its ships.


On 10 January 2001, Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing trawler owned by the government of Ehime Prefecture, departed from Uwajima Fisheries High School, a high school in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture. The ship, captained by Hisao Ōnishi, headed for Hawaii on a planned 74-day voyage to train high school students who were interested in pursuing careers as fishermen. The ship's curriculum included long-line tuna fishing, maritime navigation, marine engineering, and oceanography.

On 9 February, USS Greeneville, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine, prepared to depart Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to perform a public relations mission as part of the USN's Distinguished Visitor Embarkation (DVE) program. The program took civilians, members of Congress, journalists, and other "opinion makers" for rides on nuclear submarines to demonstrate the submarines' capabilities; its goal was to demonstrate the need to maintain a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.

The submarine was to display its operational abilities and then return the DVs (Distinguished Visitors) to Pearl Harbor.


Before beginning the maneuvers, Waddle (the submarine captain) checked the submarine's sonar contacts and noted that there were several surface vessels in the vicinity, but none closer than seven nautical miles away. The civilians were spread throughout the control room, with three on the periscope platform and others in front of the fire control station, restricting free access to some of the displays.

For 15 minutes Greeneville performed a series of drastic maneuvers, including high-speed, full-rudder, 35-degree turns side to side, as well as rapid up-and-down movements. Waddle personally directed the maneuvers. According to Waddle, the DVs "were loving it".

As the high-speed maneuvers finished, Waddle called for Greeneville to perform an emergency dive (called an "emergency deep " ) followed by an emergency main ballast blow, a maneuver that brings the submarine from a depth of about 400 feet to the surface in a few seconds by using high-pressure air to force the water out of the ship's ballast tanks as quickly as possible. The rise is so rapid that the submarine's bow rises high out of the water upon surfacing.

Before executing this maneuver, the submarine was required to go to periscope depth to check for ships or dangerous obstacles on the surface. After completing the high-speed maneuvers, standing orders required the submarine to hold a steady course for three minutes to reestablish sonar contact, which had been disrupted by the high speed maneuvers, with any vessels in the area. In this case, however, Waddle ordered the submarine to change course and go to periscope depth after holding the steady course for only 90 seconds.

Although Ehime Maru was heading toward Greeneville's location, Waddle failed to see the ship. Regulations mandated that Waddle conduct a three-minute, 360-degree periscope scan before executing the emergency main ballast blow maneuver. Waddle, however, aware that they were still behind schedule, conducted a short scan, searching primarily in the sector where he believed the known contacts were located, noted that the haze was still present, and saw no ships in the vicinity.

Waddle invited two of the civilian guests, John Hall, CEO of a Texas oil company, and Jack Clary, a free-lance sports writer from Massachusetts, to operate the controls for the emergency main ballast blow. Clary sat in the helmsman's chair and Hall stood at the high-pressure air valve levers, supervised closely by Greeneville crewmen. After the two civilians had taken their positions, Waddle ordered the maneuver executed, and they threw the control levers as instructed. The submarine began its rapid ascent toward the surface.

The rapidly ascending Greeneville surfaced directly under Ehime Maru , and the submarine's rudder sliced Ehime Maru's hull from starboard to port. The people aboard Ehime Maru heard two loud noises and felt the ship shudder from two severe impacts. Ehime Maru's bridge crew looked aft and saw the submarine breach the water's surface next to their ship. Within five seconds Ehime Maru lost power and began to sink. As Waddle watched through Greeneville's periscope, Ehime Maru stood almost vertically on its stern and sank in about five minutes as the people on the fishing ship scrambled to abandon ship.

Emergency response

Greeneville radioed a distress call to COMSUBPAC at Pearl Harbor for assistance.

COMSUBPAC notified the local United States Coast Guard (USCG) unit which began a search-and-rescue effort.

A USCG helicopter arrived, noted the survivors in the life rafts, and began searching for any survivors who might still be in the water. A USCG rigid-hulled inflatable boat and patrol boat arrived and administered first aid to the survivors in the rafts. Media helicopters also arrived during the rescue operation, and the incident was reported quickly by major news organizations. Of the 35 people aboard Ehime Maru (20 crew members, 13 students, and 2 teachers), the USCG rescued 26 people and took them to Oahu for medical treatment. Only one of the survivors had a serious injury, a broken clavicle; he was hospitalized for five days.

Nine other people were missing, including four 17-year-old high school students and the two teachers. None of the nine missing were seen by any of the survivors, Greeneville crewmembers, or USCG personnel after the ship sank. Captain Ōnishi stated that the nine missing people were probably in the ship's galley and engine rooms when the ship sank. USCG and USN aircraft and ships searched the ocean around Ehime Maru's last location continuously for 22 days, until 2 March. Two Japanese civilian vessels also joined the search. No remains of the nine missing people were discovered during the search.

Immediate aftermath

Since the collision involved a commercial vessel, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had jurisdiction to conduct the investigation into the accident.

Two days after the sinking, on 11 February, U.S. President George W. Bush apologized for the accident on national television, stating, "I want to reiterate what I said to the prime minister of Japan: I'm deeply sorry about the accident that took place; our nation is sorry."

On 11 February, during an "extremely emotional exchange", the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Thomas B. Fargo, personally apologized to families of the Ehime Maru's victims, who had arrived in Hawaii the day before. Several of the family members asked that Ehime Maru be raised from the ocean floor. Waddle had asked to accompany Fargo to apologize to the victims' families as well, but the COMSUBPAC public affairs office told him that he could not. The next day, the family members were taken by boat to view the accident site.

The perceived lack of remorse by Waddle, and reports in the Japanese media that Greeneville had made no effort to assist Ehime Maru's survivors as they waited for almost one hour for rescue angered many Japanese citizens, especially the family members of the missing. One Japanese family member publicly referred to Waddle as, "the most terrible criminal of them all". In response, Waddle delivered letters of apology to the Japanese consulate in Hawaii for delivery to the victims' families during the last week of February.

Japanese government officials publicly expressed concern about the reports that civilians had been at Greeneville's controls during the collision. Japan's foreign minister, Yōhei Kōno, complained that U.S. officials had not provided details of the civilians' involvement, stating, "I cannot help but say it is an extremely grave situation if it were the case that the participation of civilians in the submarine's surfacing maneuver led to the accident."

In February 2001, vice chief of naval operations Admiral William Fallon was given Presidential special envoy status and dispatched to Japan to apologize for the collision. Fallon, along with Ambassador Tom Foley, met with family members of the victims at the Ambassador's official residence in Tokyo and in the Ehime Maru's home port of Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, bowing deeply and expressing regret on behalf of the United States and President George W. Bush. His deferential show of contrition to the families, performed in front of news cameras, was widely credited with ameliorating a situation that had the potential to damage US-Japan relations.

Court of inquiry

In addition to the NTSB investigation, the USN also initiated their own investigation.

A USN court of inquiry is similar to a grand jury investigation in civil court. The court has subpoena power and provides legal safeguards for the affected parties, such as the right to be represented by counsel. The court is a military investigative process and as such has no judge. Instead, three admirals comprise the court and make a report based on the evidence presented in the inquiry. Testimony and other evidence presented in the court can later be used in court-martial proceedings.

The court of inquiry began on 5 March 2001.

The court made several findings, including that Waddle failed to take positive action in response to the non-availability of the AVSDU, nine of the 13 watchstations in and around the control room were manned by substitute personnel, and that one of the sonar operators was unqualified to stand watch. The court also issued numerous opinions, including that the accident was caused by "a series and combination of individual negligence(s) onboard Greeneville," "artificial urgency" by Waddle to rush the submarine through its demonstration schedule as it began to run late, failure to follow standard procedures, the abbreviated periscope search, distractions and obstruction caused by the presence of the civilian guests, crew training deficiencies, overconfidence and complacency, and Waddle's not paying enough attention to ship contact information. The court found that, although Brandhuber was the senior officer present on Greeneville, Waddle as captain was solely responsible for the safe navigation of the submarine. The inquiry report went into great detail on the purpose and rules surrounding the USN's DVE program.

The court recommended against court-martial for the officers involved because of an absence of any "criminal intent or deliberate misconduct." Instead, the court recommended non-judicial punishment for Waddle and [others]. The court recommended that the USN DVE program continue.

Relatives of Ehime Maru's crewmembers were angry that none of the USN personnel involved would be court-martialed and that Waddle could remain in the USN and would retain his retirement pension.


On 10 April 2002, the USN signed an agreement to pay the Ehime Prefectural Government US$11.47 million in compensation for the sinking of Ehime Maru. Some $8.87 million was to help pay to replace the ship, and the remainder was to pay for counseling and financial aid for the survivors as well as to pay for a memorial ceremony for the victims.

On 14 November 2002, the USN agreed to pay $13.9 million in compensation to 33 of the 35 families of victims or injured survivors. The remaining two families accepted a $2.6 million settlement from the USN on 31 January 2003.

Waddle's trip to Japan

On 14 December 2002, Waddle, accompanied by Charles Gittins, traveled to Japan to apologize personally to the victims' families. On 15 December, Waddle visited the Ehime Maru memorial at Uwajima Fisheries High School and placed a wreath of white lilies before a monument to the dead, bowed in silence and then read the victims' names aloud. No local officials were present during Waddle's visit, citing statements from some victims' families that they did not want Waddle to visit. Later that day, Waddle met with some of the families of the victims and with some of the survivors. The next day, in Tokyo, Waddle met with Masumi Terata. Speaking of her meeting with Waddle, Terata stated, "I am first and foremost the family member of a victim and Mr. Waddle is first and foremost a victimizer. But when I saw Mr. Waddle as a person who was crying and apologizing, I thought he was apologizing from the heart."

In a press conference on 17 December, Gittins criticized the USN for their continued insistence that Waddle not come to Japan to visit the victims' families. Said Gittins, "For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Navy did not want Scott to come meet with the families and do what is morally right and what is understood in Japanese culture to be the right thing to do". Gittins added that he had received emails from the USN as recently as the week before urging Waddle not to make the visit. Gittins stated that the reason that it took two years for Waddle to make the visit to Japan was because Waddle was forbidden to do so while he was still in the USN and because of financial constraints and fear of litigation after his retirement.

Later events

The NTSB released its report on the accident on 19 October 2005.[84] The NTSB report largely confirmed the USN's inquiry findings, including that Waddle was primarily responsible for the collision. The NTSB report, however, was more critical of the distractions caused by the DV civilians on Greeneville that contributed to the accident. The report concluded that the USN had recognized the "detrimental operating conditions" aboard Greeneville and had taken "additional measures to address the safety of operations" on submarines, including additional restrictions on DVE visitors.

On the 20th anniversary of the incident in February 2021, former commander Scott Waddle published an open letter of apology.


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On This Day: Nuclear sub while doing public relations maneuvers kills 9 on fishing ship - Feb. 9, 2001 (Original Post) jgo Feb 9 OP
I remember when this happened. It was absolutely disgraceful. NBachers Feb 9 #1
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