The commander of the U.S. submarine that rammed a Japanese fishing trawler, killing nine people, was formally reprimanded on Monday and resigned from the service effective next Oct. 1, his lawyer said.
Cmdr. Scott Waddle, who lost command of the USS Greeneville following the deadly Feb. 9 collision off the Hawaiian island of Oahu, was given a "punitive letter of reprimand" by Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, during an hour-long "Admiral's Mast" hearing at Pearl Harbor, attorney Charles Gittins said in a statement.
Gittins said Fargo also docked Waddle - who faced a Navy Court of Inquiry into the matter in March - one month's pay for dereliction of duty and "negligent hazarding of a Vessel" but spared him a court martial in the collision, which strained ties between the United States and Japan.
The reaction in Japan is expected to be highly negative as there have been calls for Waddle to face criminal prosecution and both he and Fargo plan separate trips to the Asian nation to again apologize.
Three admirals presiding over the Court of Inquiry urged Fargo to choose an administrative punishment rather than pursue a court martial, saying Waddle had not displayed any malice or criminal intent in the actions that led up to the collision.
The attorney did not say what punishment Fargo had imposed on two of Waddle's top officers, Lt. Cmdr Gerald Pfeifer and Lt. Michael Coen, who also faced the Court of Inquiry.
"I understand and accept the punishment that Admiral Fargo imposed," Waddle said in his own statement. "He treated me fairly and with dignity and respect and I thank him for that. This hearing concluded a very difficult time for my family and I and it has effectively ended my Navy career."
Waddle, who has repeatedly apologized for his role in the accident, said that as commander of the submarine he accepted responsibility for his actions and that of his crew.
"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," he said. "My heart aches for the losses suffered by the families of those killed aboard the Ehime Maru and the grief that this accident unfairly has thrust upon them."
He added: "I Think about those lost at sea every day and I grieve for the families. To those families, I again offer my most sincere apology and my hope that our Government will promptly and fairly settle all claims made by the families against the United States as a result of this accident."
Gittins said that during the hearing, which was conducted with all parties seated around a conference table, Waddle once more gave an accounting of his actions and was told that Fargo "believed that a preponderance of the evidence supported imposition of administrative punishment."
Waddle notified Fargo that he would submit his request for retirement effective Oct. 1, 2001.
"Admiral Fargo indicated that he was proud of Commander Waddle's decision to testify at the Court of Inquiry absent a grant of testimonial immunity and indicated that Scott had done the right thing by waiving his rights and taking the witness stand to provide testimony under oath," Gittins said.
The court of inquiry found that the surfacing procedure was rushed, that the sub was not properly staffed and its crew were possibly distracted by the presence of 16 civilians on board.
Fargo was also expected to give his findings on the future of the distinguished visitors program, in which civilians are allowed to travel on Navy vessels as part of its public relations efforts.
Fargo is expected to retain the program but impose tougher rules barring civilians at controls, allowing passengers on regularly scheduled cruises only and avoiding risky maneuvers.
During the inquiry, navy officers testified that the Greeneville embarked Feb. 9 solely to take out 16 civilians, three of whom were at the controls - albeit under supervision - when the collision occurred.
Testimony also indicated that the "emergency blow", the maneuver that shot the submarine out of the water under the trawler, was performed to entertain the guests.