Tag Archives: Greeneville

えひめ丸

10 Feb

Yesterday was the eighth anniversary of the sinking of the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru).

Do you know about this news?

If you were in Japan in 2001 you do, I’m sure. And probably if you were in the U.S. Navy or in Hawaii at the time, you know about it too.

The えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru) was a Japanese high-school fishing training vessel from 愛媛県 (Ehime Prefecture, Japan).

(Many ships in Japan have (Maru) as part of their name. This is because maru means “circle” in Japanese, so it implies the ship will always make round-trips…never one-way.)

In February 2001, the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru) was near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with a crew of 35 people…twenty boat crew, thirteen high school students who were studying to become fishermen, and two teachers.

Unbeknown to them, the U.S.S. Greeneville, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine captained by Commander Scott Waddle, was under the water below them. Some of the U.S.S. Greeneville‘s sonar equipment was damaged and they didn’t know the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru) was above them.

Onboard the U.S.S. Greeneville were “distinguished guests“…mostly politicians and journalists.

Cmdr. Waddle decided to demonstrate an “emergency main ballast blow” for his guests. This is a technique for a submarine to quickly surface in an emergency by forcing water from the sub’s ballasts with high-pressure air.

As the submarine’s sonar was damaged, Cmdr. Waddle checked the surface of the water for any ships by simply using the sub’s periscope. He didn’t see the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru) above them.

So, from a depth of 120 meters (almost 400 feet), the U.S.S. Greeneville performed an “emergency ballast blow” and flew to the surface in a matter of seconds…and crashed into the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru), sinking it.

Nine people, including four high-school students, were unable to escape and died.

In Japanese culture, it would be very important for all involved to personally apologize to the victims’ families…but the U.S. Navy forbade Cmdr. Waddle from formally apologizing.
The U.S. Navy issued a public statement expressing their regret for the incident.

But the victims’ families were disappointed by the results of the U.S. Navy’s hearing that found Cmdr. Waddle guilty of professional neglect and his punishment was simply a half-month’s pay for two months and suspension of his pay for six months, as well as a verbal reprimand in which his “resignation was expected”.

After Cmdr. Waddle resigned from the Navy, though, he made a trip to Japan on his own and personally apologized to the families of the victims. His apology was sincere and earned him the respect of the Japanese people.

The bodies of all who died on the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru) were recovered…except one. The body of 水口峻志 (Takeshi Mizuguchi), who celebrated his seventeenth birthday in Hawaii just two days before he died, is the only one divers were unable to find.
They did find his digital camera, though. And scientists were able to recover the photos on the camera’s photo-card. These photos include images of the boy celebrating his birthday, hauling a shark he caught onto the ship, and some others.

Understandably, the parents of the boy treasured these photos and kept them private. But the parents, who are in Hawaii for a memorial service for the victims of the えひめ丸 (Ehime-maru), decided yesterday to release some of the images from their son’s camera for public viewing.

I would like to see them when they’re shown in Tokyo.

The father of 水口峻志 (Takeshi Mizuguchi).

The father of 水口峻志 (Takeshi Mizuguchi).