The Sinking of
the Ehime Maru: Was U.S. Sub Shadowing the Trawler?
It is now three weeks since the U.S. submarine Greeneville shot up 405 feet from the ocean depths and rammed a Japanese teaching trawler, the Ehime Maru. Nine people on the trawler were killed. Four were teenagers.
From the start the question was: how could the sub commander not know there was a ship nearby? Especially since this was a nuclear submarine. How could the commander not check thoroughly before performing a dangerous emergency procedure, a "rapid ascent"?
For two weeks the Navy stonewalled. Information emerged in dribs and drabs. We learned there were civilians on board, but the Navy said: so what?
Routine? One of the civilians went on TV and with cheerful idiocy revealed that he had actually been at the controls when the sub hit but:
The presence of a group of 16 oil executives and their wives on board was dismissed in the press as no big deal:
There's that word "routine" again. The implications of routinely allowing 'dignitaries' (i.e., oil executives) to handle nuclear submarines during dangerous procedures for the sake of Public Relations were apparently lost on the mass media. As George Szamuely wrote:
And the question remained, nagging: how could the commander of that submarine not check thoroughly before performing this "rapid ascent"? What was happening on that submarine?
Why didn't they see the ship? The answer came: they did.
But if a sonar operator spotted the ship 71 minutes before the collision why didn't he spot it again just prior to the 'rapid ascent'?
Would the sonar operator of a nuclear-armed sub decide on his own that "because of the presence of 16 civilian guests in the submarine's control room" he was not going to continue "tracking sonar contacts" and stop "performing that task"? On a military vessel? And this is why the sub's commander didn't know there was a ship nearby?
Common sense suggests that a) A sonar operator who did this after spotting a ship would be court-marshaled for gross negligence and b) the sonar operator would surely go to jail if he failed to warn his commander that he had seen a ship and c) in any case, why didn't the commander thoroughly check before engaging in a dangerous "rapid ascent?"
Now comes a new revelation which indicates that the near-universal description of this as an accident was a cover-up. The following comes from the National Safety Board people investigating the "accident":
What does this mean? Doesn't it mean that the Greeneville was shadowing the Ehime Maru and that the commander knew there was a trawler close by before ordering the "rapid ascent."
To believe otherwise one has to accept three things. First, that the sonar operator did not tell the captain he had seen a ship. Second, that the sonar was turned off, also without the captain being informed; this because there was too much of a crowd in the control room. And third, that the sub was shadowing the ship by "accident." I submit that this combinations of events is unbelievable.
The question is: why? What was going on on the submarine Greeneville?
A Likely Scenario
There were 16 guests on board the Greeneville that day. These were VIPS oil company execs and their wives. The trip had been arranged by one Richard Macke, former Commander of the Pacific Fleet. Macke was forced to resign his post following public outcry over an amazing remark he made when three US troops rented a car and kidnapped and raped a 12 year old Okinawan girl:
One assumes Commander Macke would not respond this way if a 12 year old child from his home town had been raped. The distinguishing feature in this instance was that the child was Okinawan, i.e., Asian. Because of this incident the Navy rightfully forced Macke into early retirement.
The VIPs he invited for a joy ride on the Greeneville were executives who had made contributions to a fund to fix up the US Missouri, the ship on which Japan surrendered in World War II.
Let's try and imagine the scene. They are all sitting there, partying and hanging out and talking about Pearl Harbor and the USS Missouri and then they spot this boat. And maybe somebody comments, "I bet it's one of those damn foreign trawlers, grabbing our fish." And someone, perhaps the captain, has a great idea. "Why not get real close to that ship and then perform a rapid ascent maybe 100 yards away? Break out of the water. Scare everyone on board to death."
And then, assuming the captain is not an actual madman, he miscalculated.
The original title of this article was 'The Sinking of the Ehime Maru: Not an Accident. ' We changed the title because it was confusing. The term, "accident", can be used to mean very different things. On the hand a person may be driving on an icy road and hit something and we could call that an accident.
On the other hand, what if the person flies down an icy road at 90 miles an hour planning to stop short behind another car? That is quite a different matter. The collision that occurs may not have been intended - and that may cause people to call it an accident because it is an unplanned and unintended event. Yet the occurrence of a crash and injuries or death were reasonably "foreseeable", that is not unlikely, given the actions of the driver.
The Greeneville is a 6900 ton nuclear attack submarine. It has classified tracking and detection equipment. To believe it altered course several times and thus stayed under the trawler, but did not know it was shadowing the ship, is preposterous.
The captain had performed the exercise called 'rapid ascent' before. But even without having performed this exercise, it is not rocket science to figure out that for a 6900 ton sub to shoot up 405 feet through the ocean in under a minute, which it did, would cause immense waves.
It would be "foreseeable" (that is, reasonably possible) that these huge waves could cause problems for a much smaller vessel (500 tons) if it were nearby. These could "foreseeably" lead to serious injury or death - all this without another foreseeable (i.e., possible) event, that the Greeneville's crew or captain would miscalculate, resulting in the deadly collision that in fact occurred.
Perhaps the commander of the sub was trying to harass the people on the trawler. Perhaps he simply did not care. But the foreseeability of harm, the possibility that it would occur, makes his action criminal, just as it would be a crime if someone threw a rock through another person's front window and "accidentally" killed someone inside.
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