In the early morning hours of June 17, the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan, 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka. Seven sailors died in the accident.

The Navy has completed and released a supplement to its line of duty investigation of the USS Fitzgerald collision.

The grim, partially redacted, 41-page line of duty investigation report is available here.

Damage to the commanding officer’s stateroom on the USS Fitzgerald, which collided with a cargo ship near Japan in June.(US Navy photo)

The U.S. Navy:

This report specifically reviews the crew’s damage control activities, the nature and extent of injuries to the crew and efforts to provide medical care to the most critically injured personnel, along with details regarding assistance provided by other vessels, diving activities and the ship’s return to port in Yokosuka.

Capt. Wilson Marks, who commands USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), led and assembled the supplement. He also conducted the initial line of duty investigation.

The supplement provides details and accounts of actions taken following the collision and reports:

* Through their swift and in many cases heroic actions, members of the crew saved lives.

* After the collision, Sailors responded to the myriad damage control scenarios occurring throughout the ship. Flooding, structural damage and reports of white smoke stressed the damage control organization; at the same time, efforts to restore power, propulsion, steering and navigation continued.

* No damage control efforts would have prevented Berthing 2 from flooding completely within the first two minutes following the collision

The initial line of duty investigation was limited in scope to establishing a line of duty determination for the three injured and seven deceased Sailors. It is separate from ongoing investigations into the collision between Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal. The line of duty investigation supplement is one of three Navy investigations into the collision and is meant to provide detail of what occurred following the collision.

Each of the injuries and deaths occurred in the line of duty and none was due to any member’s own misconduct.

The New York Times reported today:

About a dozen American sailors aboard a destroyer during a deadly collision off the coast of Japan in June will be punished for their roles in the accident, including the two top officers, who will be relieved of duty, a senior Navy official said Thursday.

The Times adds:

The ship’s captain, Cmdr. Bryce Benson; his second-in-command; the senior enlisted sailor and all who were on watch that night will face career-killing administrative punishments that are expected to be doled out on Friday by the head of the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Japan, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin.

However, The Times says:

What the report released on Thursday did not answer, and what is still under a separate ongoing investigation, is how the collision could have happened. Were lookouts on watch scanning the seas for other ships and, if so, why did they not see the 728-foot freighter ACX Crystal, stacked with more than 1,000 containers, bearing on the destroyer?

Lead photo: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald returns to Fleet Activities Yokosuka following a collision with a merchant vessel while operating southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart)

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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