The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that a group of students from Ehime, Japan paid respects to the victims of the sinking of the Ehime Maru by the USS Greenville submarine:
Seventeen students and three teachers from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime prefecture in Japan paid their respects yesterday to the victims of a tragedy nearly a decade ago when a Pearl Harbor-based nuclear submarine surfaced into the hull of a small Japanese fishing trawler, killing nine people.
The unpublicized visit by the Japanese students to the black granite memorial in Kakaako Waterfront Park occurred as Japanese, Navy and other organizations plan a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy in February.
The accident, which caused a major controversy in Japan over the lack of a swift apology, happened on Feb. 9, 2001, when the 360-foot, 6,900-ton USS Greeneville collided with the 191-foot Ehime Maru, nine miles south of Diamond Head.
The Ehime Maru, which had been carrying 35 people, sank within minutes. Four 17-year-old Japanese students and two teachers from Uwajima Fisheries High School and three Ehime Maru crew members were killed. The USS Greeneville was demonstrating its emergency surfacing capability to a group of 16 civilians when it surfaced beneath the Japanese vessel, slicing its hull.
The accident caused a major international incident between the U.S. and Japan:
After the mishap, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the accident was probably caused by “inadequate interaction and communication” among senior naval officers. “The failure of the crew, in particular the commanding officer (Cmdr. Scott Waddle) to adequately manage the civilian visitors so that they did not impede operations” probably contributed to the calamity.
Although Waddle later apologized to the victims’ families, in an autobiography — “The Right Thing” — he wrote, “Somebody had to take a fall for it, and, as the court of inquiry progressed, it became more and more obvious that the court had already decided that the sacrificial lamb would be me.”
The sinking of the Ehime Maru by the USS Greenville nuclear sub was caused by routine, reckless maneuvers by the Navy in militarized ocean zones surrounding the entire Hawaiian islands. The commander of the submarine fleet at the time was campaigning to maintain levels of funding for the attack submarine fleet, a relic of the cold war that was facing possible downsizing. The Navy conducted routine joy rides for wealthy political donors as a way to cultivate advocates for the submarine program. That’s why civilians were allowed to touch the controls in the dangerous maneuver that smashed the Ehime Maru.
The Japanese government exerted pressure on victims’ families to accept the financial compensation and make this incident go away. Money was used to silence the demands for justice and truth:
The Navy paid $11.47 million in compensation with $8.87 million used to replace the ship, and the remainder was to pay for counseling and financial aid for the survivors. In addition, the Navy paid $13.9 million to 33 of the 35 families of victims or injured survivors. The remaining two family members accepted a $2.6 million settlement.