PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – USS Greeneville Cmdr. Scott Waddle was given a letter of reprimand Monday as punishment for the submarine collision that killed nine people aboard a Japanese fishing vessel, his attorney said.
The punishment also included a forfeiture of half pay for two months, but that was suspended for six months. Waddle said he will retire Oct. 1, meaning he will receive his full pay until the end of his career.
"While I regret that my Navy career has ended in this way, I know that I am one of the lucky ones because I survived the accident," Waddle said in a statement released by his civilian attorney, Charles Gittins.
The punishment was imposed by Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacific Fleet commander, at an "admiral's mast" attended by Waddle, a military attorney and several officers at Pearl Harbor Navy Base.
Fargo concluded there was dereliction of duty and negligent hazarding of a vessel, Gittins said.
But he said the admiral did not mention allegations of negligent homicide in the deaths of nine Japanese students and adults aboard the Ehime Maru when it was rammed by the Greeneville Feb. 9 in waters off Hawaii.
"I understand and accept the punishment that Admiral Fargo imposed. He treated me fairly and with dignity and respect and I thank him for that," Waddle said.
Gittins, in an e-mail to news media shortly after the hearing ended, said Waddle explained his actions to the officers. It was not clear if Waddle would receive his pension, although Gittins has said in the past that he would keep full retirement pay.
"Admiral Fargo thoughtfully considered Commander Waddle's presentation and decided, nonetheless, that punishment should be imposed under the preponderance of the evidence standard applicable to such hearings," Gittins said.
Gittins said Fargo indicated he would accept Waddle's forced retirement. If he had chosen not to retire, he would have had to show why he should be allowed to remain in the Navy.
Gittins said the admiral told Waddle he was proud of his decision to testify before a court of inquiry without immunity.
"My heart aches for the losses suffered by the families of those killed aboard the M/V Ehime Maru and the grief that this accident unfairly has thrust upon them," Waddle said, apologizing once again for the collision and urging U.S. government settlement of claims made by the families.
"I think about those lost at sea every day and I grieve for the families."
Waddle has said he plans to travel to Japan to meet with the families of the victims. He previously has apologized and accepted responsibility for the collision.
Navy officials have acknowledged that the surfacing demonstration during which the collision occurred was done only for the benefit of 16 civilians aboard, three of whom were seated at the sub's controls at the time.
Waddle, in an interview with "Dateline NBC" taped before the hearing, described the shock he felt upon seeing the words "high school" through a periscope seconds after the collision.
"Those were the first words that I read and I thought, 'Oh my God, we've hit ... we've hit some kids."'
He said the Greeneville spent about 80 seconds at periscope depth before the surfacing.
In hindsight, he said, that was not long enough.
The hearing was conducted under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Waddle could face other disciplinary action including fines and critical performance letters.
On Saturday, Waddle received a copy of the report of a three-member military panel that reviewed the case. Gittins declined to describe the panel's conclusions, but Pentagon officials have said Fargo is following the officers' recommendation in not calling for courts martial of top Greeneville officers.
Gittins said at the time if punishment is imposed and there is grounds for appeal, "you can be sure we will pursue the appeal. He also said Waddle has "a number of very good job offers" to consider.