Tears — and Questions — on the Ramming of USS Fitzgerald
One night too long ago to mention, I lay in my bunk aboard the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. watching condensation bead up on the hull and realizing suddenly that there was scarcely a half-inch of steel between me and the ocean.
At age 19, it was my first intimation of mortality.
But while that half-inch didn’t seem like a lot, it was a fact of life in the Navy’s so-called tin-can fleet. Destroyers, then and now, are light, fast and maneuverable, but not particularly good at absorbing punishment.
Destroyer crews understand this and practice incessantly at damage control — the art of defending the ship in the face of the most appalling challenges.
So whatever else happened last Friday, 50-some miles at sea off the Japanese coast, the damage–control parties of USS Fitzgerald seem to have gotten it right. The brass called them heroes over the weekend, and I’m not going to argue.
Fitzgerald, at 8,900 tons, was struck directly in its forward starboard quarter by a massive container-cargo freighter, the 29,000-ton ACX Crystal, at about 2:30 a.m. Some two-thirds of the crew would’ve been off-duty, presumably sleeping, when the impact occurred, causing substantial hull damage and massive flooding. Seven sailors died.
It’s far too early to draw even speculative conclusions about the collision, but the question is inescapable....
Bob McManus is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.
This piece originally appeared in New York Post