WASHINGTON – Navy Cmdr. Scott Waddle is likely to receive punishment short of a court martial for his submarine's deadly collision with a Japanese fishery training vessel off Honolulu, defense officials said Tuesday.
Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, is expected to decide Waddle's punishment shortly, the officials said. Last Friday Fargo received a report from a three-admiral Court of Inquiry which recommended against court martialing Waddle, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The officials said they believe Fargo is likely to punish Waddle under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in a private proceeding known as an "admiral's mast." That would be a non-judicial administrative proceeding that would exclude the possibility of a prison sentence, although Fargo could force Waddle to retire at a lesser rank, dock his pay or give him a letter of reprimand, the officials said.
Rear Adm. Charles H. Griffiths Jr., who conducted a preliminary investigation into the Feb. 9 collision, told the Court of Inquiry last month that although Waddle made errors, he did not act with criminal negligence.
Waddle, who was relieved of command of the USS Greeneville immediately after the collision pending the outcome of the Navy's investigation, has said he is prepared to submit his retirement papers.
Fargo's decision is especially sensitive given strong feelings in Japan 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.
The bodies of four students, two teachers and three crewmen from the Ehime Maru are believed to be entombed in the 190-foot ship, which lies 2,000 feet below the surface in waters off Honolulu.