Former USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier reportedly knew he’d be sacked when he broke protocol to send a memo urging the Navy to respond more quickly to a coronavirus outbreak onboard, but he’d reached ‘breaking point’ and seriously feared for the lives of his crew members.
As reported by The New York Times, Cozier is said to have watched on helplessly as COVID-19 ravaged through the narrow corridors of Naval aircraft carrier in late March, which was housing over 5,000 sailors in shared bunks off the coast of Guam.
Having been warned by doctors that more than 50 sailors aboard the vessel would die without drastic intervention, Crozier pleaded with his superiors to evacuate the boat but they eschewed his appeals, believing the measure to be too drastic.
After four consecutive days of rebuttals from his superiors, on March 30, Crozier took matters into his own hands and composed an unclassified email to 20 Navy personnel in the Pacific, disclosing the desperate situation on board and asking for their help.
Insisting in the message that ‘Sailors don’t need to die’, friends of Crozier told the Times the 30-year veteran would have known sending the email would likely end his career, but he persevered regardless.
Surely enough, Crozier was controversially fired by acting Navy secretary Thomas B. Modly after the email leaked.
Former USS Theodore Roosevelt Captain Brett Crozier reportedly knew he’d be sacked when he broke protocol and sent a memo urging the Navy to respond more quickly to a coronavirus outbreak onboard, but he’d reached ‘breaking point’ and feared for the lives of his crew members
As reported by The New York Times, Cozier is said to have watched on helplessly as COVID-19 ravaged through the narrow corridors of Naval aircraft carrier (shown above) in late March, which was housing over 5,000 sailors in shared bunks
Three weeks on and the former captain is currently quarantined in Guam, along with 584 other crew members, after they all contracted COVID-19 aboard the ship. More than 1,700 sailors who have tested negative are isolating in hotels, while the sick remain on base, Navy officials said.
It’s believed Sailors aboard the Roosevelt picked up the virus during a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam on March 5.
Modly, meanwhile, has resigned as acting secretary. According to officials, he decided to oust the captain because he thought it was what President Trump would want.
Officials told the Times Modly was hoping to avoid a confrontation with the Commander in Chief and avoid the same fate of his predecessor, but the self-serving motion was miscalculated and he was forced to step down.
The Navy has conducted an investigation into the incident, the results of which are expected to be released sometime this week.
Crozier was first made aware of an outbreak aboard the Roosevelt on March 24, when three sailors in the reactor department – operating the ship’s nuclear reactors – tested positive for the virus.
The three men were extracted from the ship by helicopter and flown to a Navy hospital in Guam. Two days later the ship docked in Guam and tests were conducted on the entire crew.
It was during this time that Crozier began feuding with his superior on board the ship, Rear Admiral Stuart P. Baker.
Acting US Navy Secretary Thomas Modly was hoping to avoid a confrontation with the Commander in Chief and avoid the same fate of his predecessor, but the self-serving motion was miscalculated and he was forced to step down
Three weeks on and the former captain is currently quarantined in Guam, along with 584 other crew members, after they all contracted COVID-19 aboard the ship. More than 1,700 sailors who have tested negative are isolating in hotels, while the sick remain on base, Navy officials said
Crozier believed it was necessary to evacuate the majority of those onboard, except for 400 members of the crew, quarantine them and have them tested while the ship was subject to a deep-clean.
But Baker disagreed, and back in Washington Modly and other members of the Navy high command sought alternative options. Baker believed an evacuation was too drastic and Modly expressed concern that Guam could not house the carrier’s crew even if they did.
Instead, the Navy suggested sending the Roosevelt to Okinawa, Japan, or San Diego instead. They also suggested leaving 4,000 on board the ship and allowing 1000 to disembark.
While his superiors meandered, COVID-19 cases aboard the ship continued to increase and Captain Crozier began composing a four-page letter to sent via email.
Titled ‘REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC’, Crozier wrote: ‘There are two end states T.R. could achieve…We go to war with the force we have and fight sick,’ in which case he said ‘there will be losses to the virus.’
Alternatively, the Times reported, Crozier suggested the ship could try to ‘achieve a COVID-free T.R.,’ with all the necessary evacuation.
‘As war is not imminent, we recommend pursuing the peace time end state,’ Captain Crozier wrote.
The captain showed the letter to a number of senior officers on the ship, who asked to sign the letter in solidarity with him. However, the captain declined, fearing the implication it could have on their careers.
The following day, on March 31, Crozier’s letter was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, having likely been leaked by one of the email’s 20 recipients. Crozier’s letter contradicted the Trump administration’s claims that the situation aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt was under control.
‘It’s disappointing to have him say that,’ Modly said during a press conference on April 1. ‘We’re doing everything we can.’
Having been warned by doctors aboard the vessel that more than 50 sailors on would die without drastic intervention, Crozier pleaded with his superiors to evacuate the boat in Guam, but they eschewed his request, believing the measure to be too drastic
According to the Times, Modly was fearful that Crozier’s letter would irk president Trump and so he sought advice from colleagues for how he should handle the situation, with many advising him to open a thorough investigation into the incident first.
But, in light of his predecessor Richard V. Spencer being fired as US Navy Secretary late last year for opposing the president’s intervention in support of Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, Modly decided to fire Crozier on the spot – hoping to avoid a similar fate.
Chairman on the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, quickly and fiercely criticized Modly’s decision, as did three other Democrats on the panel.
‘Throwing the commanding officer overboard without a thorough investigation is not going to solve the growing crisis aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt,’ Smith and his colleagues wrote in a statement. ‘What’s more, we are very concerned about the chilling effect this dismissal will have on commanders throughout the Department of Defense.’
Crozier departed the ship with a hero’s farewell; hundreds of sailors and aircrew members formed a guard of honor on the hangar bay, cheering his name and applauded him as he walked down the gangway.
Footage of his ceremonious exit went viral online, infuriating Modly further, and prompting him to board a business jet from Washington to Guam – at a cost of $234,000 – in a 35-hour round-trip to condemn Crozier’s actions in person.
Upon his arrival, Modly spoke for 15 minutes over the ship’s PA system, admonishing the crew for applauding Crozier. He called Crozier ‘naive’ and said he’d been ‘too stupid’ to effectively command the Roosevelt. He then blamed China for the virus and left Guam 30 minutes later.
Modly later issued a statement reiterating his views of Crozier, saying: ‘I stand by every word.’ The outburst further outraged lawmakers who called for Modly to be fired.
Crozier was first made aware of an outbreak aboard the Roosevelt on March 24, when three sailors in the reactor department – operating the ship’s nuclear reactors – tested positive for the virus
Just seven hours after the statement was issued, Modly attempted to retract his comments. ‘I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naïve nor stupid. I think and always believed him to be the opposite,’ he said.
But his about turn had come too little, too late. The following morning Modly was forced to offer his resignation. Modly was placed in quarantine after he returned from Guam but the Pentagon has declined to comment on his health status.
The top Navy admiral now overseeing the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Vice Admiral Bill Merz, has revealed that its sailors are ‘struggling’ after their captain’s controversial sacking and admitted the crew should have been told sooner about the ‘true dangers of coronavirus’.
Admiral Mike Gilday said on Thursday that the investigation of the USS Roosevelt matter, which he ordered last week, is now complete and he has started to go through the report.
Gilday, the Navy’s chief of operations, said he has not ruled out any options, including possibly reinstating Crozier, if that’s where the investigation leads.
‘I am taking no options off the table,’ he said when asked about Crozier’s fate. He said hasn’t spoken to Crozier. He said he has gotten no pressure from anyone about the investigation and just wants to make sure his actions are fair.