USS Fitzgerald

USS Fitzgerald. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart

Several folks have mentioned the big ProPublica series on the crashes of USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald. But if you need to wreck your day, read this one first

At 1:30:34 a.m. on June 17, 2017, at 34.52 degrees north latitude and 139.07 degrees east longitude, the ACX Crystal slammed into the USS Fitzgerald. The 30,000-ton Crystal was moving at 18 knots. The 8,261-ton Fitzgerald had accelerated to 22 knots.

The Crystal’s prow and its protruding lower bow seized the Fitzgerald like a pincer. The top dug into Benson’s stateroom, 160 feet back from the Fitzgerald’s bow, shearing off the steel hull and crumpling his cabin. The bottom ripped across Berthing 2 and nearby compartments, leaving a hole 13 feet by 17 feet.

And this one second. Extraordinary work from ProPublica, including the graphics. Note that my iPad struggled to display some of the more interesting representations, so best to view on a computer.

There’s a good debate among naval bloggers about how to assess responsibility for the collisions.  Bryan McGrath makes the point that either crash could have been avoided by any of several professionals on the ships, and that the structural story of Navy-wide problems has bad professional implications. Graham C. Scarbro and Doyle Hodges push back on that.  I think the case that the 7th Fleet is overworked is very strong, but the solution should lay more with reducing the responsibilities of the fleet than increasing its funding.

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