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Taking The Blame

Cmdr. Scott Waddle, whose career was ended by the Navy Monday, raised eyebrows in legal circles when he decided to testify without immunity at a Navy court of inquiry into the USS Greeneville's collision with a Japanese fishing vessel.

But Waddle's attorney said Tuesday the skipper's testimony may have helped him avoid a court-martial. Charles Gittins, a civilian, said the initiative earned the respect of Adm. Thomas Fargo.

Fargo, who sentenced the sub captain,"indicated that he was proud of Cmdr. 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," Gittins said in an e-mail.

Waddle was found guilty of two violations of military law Monday and punished with a letter of reprimand for the submarine collision that killed nine men and boys aboard a Japanese fishing vessel.

Waddle also received a two-month cut to half salary, but that punishment was suspended - meaning Waddle will receive full pay until he retires by Oct. 1.

"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," Waddle said in a statement.

Fargo, who said Waddle created "an artificial sense of urgency" when he rapidly surfaced the Greeneville on Feb. 9 into the Ehime Maru, a commercial boat and training vessel for high school students.

Fargo imposed the punishment at an "admiral's mast" attended by Waddle, a military attorney and several officers at Pearl Harbor Navy Base.

"I understand and accept the punishment that Admiral Fargo imposed. He treated me fairly and with dignity and respect and I thank him for that," Waddle, 41, said in the statement.

Japan Reacts To News
Japan said Tuesday it was satisfied with the punishment imposed on the captain of a U.S. submarine that sank a high school fisheries training vessel, but officials in the town where the ship was based said the penalty was not severe enough.

"The Japanese government considers that the U.S. government has acknowledged all responsibilities regarding this incident," said Kazuhiko Koshikawa, spokesman for Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

The nine killed included four students and two teachers from a fisheries high school in Uwajima. Some in the city 470 miles southwest of Tokyo felt Waddle's punishment was not strong enough.

"Unfortunately, I canot help but feel the punishment may be too light," said Mayor Hirohisa Ishibashi. (AP)

All other officers of the Greeneville also escaped courts-martial. Those included the officer of the deck, Lt. j.g. Michael Coen, and the executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Pfeifer.

Fargo read his findings at a news conference several hours after issuing them to Waddle at the disciplinary hearing.

Waddle ordered the emergency surfacing drill that caused the Greeneville to sink the Ehime Maru. Navy officials have acknowledged that the surfacing demonstration was done only for the benefit of 16 civilians aboard, three of whom were seated at the sub's controls at the time.

Fargo said the Greeneville crew conducted an inadequate search of the surface before the submarine ascended and failed to pass information to each other.

He said the accident could have been avoided if the Greeneville crew had simply followed Navy procedures.

The bodies of the dead have not been recovered, and the decision not to have Waddle face a court-martial has angered many Japanese.

The Navy said Waddle will receive his pension and full retirement pay.

Gittins said Fargo indicated he would accept Waddle's forced retirement. If he had chosen not to retire, he would have had to show why he should be allowed to remain in the Navy.

Gittins earlier said Waddle is pondering job offers outside of the military and deciding where he and his family will settle following his discharge from the Navy.

Waddle also plans to travel to Japan to meet with the families of those killed. He has already apologized and accepted responsibility for the collision.

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