February 9

This Day in History

Disaster

Feb 9, 2001:

U.S. sub collides with Japanese fishing boat in Pearl Harbor

On this day in 2001, a United States military submarine collides with a Japanese fishing boat in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, killing four students and five other people. The USS Greenville was hosting a cruise for VIPs at the time, some of whom were actually at the controls of the sub when the collision occurred.

Scott Waddle was the commander of the Greenville, a 7,000-ton nuclear submarine. As part of the Distinguished Visitor program, 16 civilians were on board the sub on the morning of February 9. The last maneuver that was to be shown to the VIPs was the Emergency Ballast Tank Blow that brings the submarine to the surface very quickly.

It was at this point that proper procedures broke down completely. Commander Waddle gave orders that could not be completed properly in the time assigned. Appropriate sonar and periscope sweeps to determine the safety of surfacing were not completed. In addition, the crew failed to communicate its intentions properly in part because civilians were sitting at the sub controls. It also failed to notice that the Ehime Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel, was above them on the surface.

The Greenville's rudder sliced right through the Ehime Maru's engine room as it rose to the surface. The fishing boat, used as a training vessel for high school students, was damaged so severely that it sank within 10 minutes. Nine people, including four students, drowned. A week later, the boat was found resting on the ocean floor 2,000 feet below the surface and was carried (still underwater) closer to the island of Oahu for salvage operations. Divers recovered eight bodies in October and, later, a memorial was established at Kakaako Park in Honolulu.

Despite the failures of Commander Waddle, Navy administrators did not pursue a court-martial. Waddle received only a reprimand and was allowed to keep his rank and pension.

The Greenville went on to be involved in two other incidents the following year: In August, it ran aground in a Saipan port, and on January 27, 2002, it collided with the USS Ogden near Oman. Commanding officer David Bogdan was removed from duty following the Saipan incident but there were no disciplinary measures taken after the Ogden collision.

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