Plague Ships

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The USS Theodore Roosevelt suffered casualties as a result of a rampant COVID-19 infection and was forced to go to Guam rather than patrolling the Chinese Coast. Sailors were likely infected during a port call in Vietnam. 

That’s not the real story. Flu and infections race through aircraft carriers all the time because 5,000 people live together in very tight quarters. There are different names for it, “crawling crud” may be the most popular. No, this time the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, CAPT Brett Crozier, was relieved of command.

Crozier Wrote a four page letter to the Navy pleading for help in isolating his crew (ashore) amid a coronavirus outbreak board the aircraft carrier. The Navy claims that it did not relieve CAPT Crozier over the letter itself, but because they believe he leaked it to the media. The Navy claims that the crew lost confidence in their captain.

In the opinion of this former naval officer and blogger, your first duty in peace time is to the health and welfare of your crew.

But who am I? I don’t know CAPT Crozier personally, but I know the Navy, and there have been a lot of officers over the years who have had their carriers crashed because of caring too much for the people under their command.
MS Zaandam, of the Holland America line is docked in Florida with people who have died of COVID-19 and others who have tested positive for the infection. “Passengers on board the cruise liners have been demanding authorities help them get to land, with one bluntly stating, “Get us the hell off this ship!” (link).
The hits keep coming for the embattled cruise industry. The State of Florida doesn’t want the plague ships to keep docking with sick people, exposed people and corpses.

18 thoughts on “Plague Ships

  1. Wow. I had just heard this morning that Crozier was safe, that someone else leaked the letter.
    But it seems he showed too many people on board the letter before he sent it.
    Rookie mistake.

    1. Crozier went through the chain of command to obtain permission to airlift infected crew to shore. DENIED. He said that if they didn’t get a handle on containment, that the entire ship would be infected and they could suffer fatalities. DENIED. Told to continue patrol off China. Then he wrote the letter and showed it around.

      Should he have written the letter? I can’t say. I wasn’t there. However to err on the side of safety to your crew speaks to a captain who loves his crew and ship. We are not in a war. Returning to Guam to try to deal with the infection was prudent in my opinion. Then again, I don’t have a big desk and an even bigger ego, in the Pentagon.

  2. It may be possible that the USN will get to the point that no officer is willing to command a ship, or even a shore base. Guess not though, ambition will outweigh good sense.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

    1. This situation with the Navy goes back generations. It’s a part of the culture. Perhaps Old NFO will comment as well. CO’s are axed to save face. For some reason, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps behave differently.

      1. Larry, did you get to watch Phantoms trap on a carrier in the Navy?
        Those guys flying them must have had balls of cast iron landing a beast like that at night in a storm with 20 ft swells, or those Vigilantes, holy cow!. Full effin’ afterburners at the end of a cable.

        I’m an aerospace welder, did a stint at JFK for Pan Am in their engine/landing gear shop in the 80’s. The shop door was right next to the warm up apron where the SST would get backed into to have enough runway to get airborne. Every day at 1pm, they would shut down all flight Op’s. Those four afterburners would literally push that plane into the air, before the wings developed lift, they would rotate to about 45 degrees, the flames would deflect off the tarmac. Never ever got bored watching it. Once it turned out over the water they put it into OD and it was gone! Looked like this monster dystopian sci-fo pterodactyl as it banked.

        1. I was part of the camouflage navy and then in the intelligence community. I have never been at sea on an aircraft carrier while aircraft, much less F-4’s, trap. The F-4 was a huge airplane, a heavy jet. I’m amazed that it was as successful as it was. I appreciate your perspective.

  3. Crozier, from what my contacts are saying, did the cardinal sin of going ‘out of channels’… You and I both know there isn’t anyway on Guam to just ‘dump’ 4000 people. Word is the Navy was ‘working the issue’ when he went public and that is what got him canned. Still, O-6 retirement isn’t chump change, and he won’t have any problem finding a job even after this, because he did try to stand up for his folks. Having said that, ultimate responsibility always resides with the CO. And ANYTHING that gives higher pause is enough to get them canned.

    1. I’m sure that Crozier will be fine once the dust settles. He will pass into ship’s history and his replacement will be stuck with the problem of dealing with a sick crew on Guam. True, there isn’t anywhere for 4,000 people to go on the Island….without making it capsize…..

  4. Hey, finally occurred to me to press F5, and now I can see that you’ve been posting after all!

    This is probably going to be an extremely unpopular post, and I’m sorry to offend any that I do. I’ve never served, and those of you who have, if you want to tell me to go fuck myself, well that’s fair. You’re all far better men than I.

    The armed services are serious business, and dangerous in peace or war. I would also suggest that the US has never been at peace for any meaningful length of time except for eight years during the Great Depression. We’re currently in one nearly 60 year long declared war, and about a dozen undeclared ones.

    I think it’s a good, fine, and admirable thing for officers to care about the men serving under them. However, some of them are going to die, in or out of combat, no matter what you do. you still have to do your job and take the risks. I betcha the chance of dying of the Kung Flu on those carriers is way lower than the chances of aircrew dying in peacetime accidents in the ’50s and ’60s… Our Armed Forces personnel have to accept that there is no difference between wartime and peacetime – you can be ordered to attack, or come under attack at any time with no warning. The military is not a pension machine, or the Boy Scouts (the old one) with guns. When you sign the paper, you need to realize that you put your life on the line – not just for a cause you like, not only for good reasons, but also because a skid falls off a deuce-and-a-half and squishes you on base on a Friday night before leave.

    We can’t have an useful military if the well-being of our servicemen becomes the overriding priority. The same goes for Law Enforcement, and we’ve seen the results there, when some asshole decides to shoot up a school, and the police response is to set up a perimeter and wait for reinforcements and instructions from command, instead of doing what every single person in the world knows they should do, and immediately enter and try and confront the shooter.

    Maybe that CO was the best Captain in the Navy, but he should have known he was writing his resignation letter, and I can’t fault the Brass for canning him. The TR at 50% (or even 1%) efficiency on it’s patrol station is worth infinitely more to the US than it is tied up pierside Guam. If a crisis pops up and the TR isn’t there, way more people can easily be at risk, and they’ll be at more risk because some of those who swore an oath to stand between them and danger are sidelined because their command cared too much for them.


    1. I hear you.

      This is the problem that I have. TR was needed to patrol the Coast of China along with its battle group. No argument. But if you lost 100 crew members, all young people, somebody from that crew – blend of officers and non-coms will follow each body back to the home town for a funeral. That’s how the Navy does it. And they try to explain how and more importantly, why, the loved one died. “Johnny (or Sally) caught the Chinese Plague and died at sea.” It raises a lot of questions and family would be burning down the phone lines to their congressman – appropriately. “Why couldn’t Johnny be saved?”

      The seriously ill (as opposed to critically ill, who you’d have to keep on the ship) could have been flown to Japan or to Guam on a COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) cargo aircraft, because the capacity of the carrier to provide treatment to infectious disease quarantine. The CO did the math and based on best guess from the Pentagon, they’d all get sick and some would die. Sure, they’d die for their country, but they were young and they didn’t have to.

      In wartime, the tempo is different and the situation is different. I lost two men in my command. One was to an O2 hit while training, using a Drager LAR 5. Those things happen. You go into a seizure because of too much oxygen and you expire. Tough to explain to his family but he was a SEAL and they understood that it was all risky. The other was to a young petty officer during Desert Storm. We had Jeeps, not Humvees, and he rolled one and broke his neck. You can call it a traffic accident. Those things happen everywhere. People grieve but they understand. “We could have saved 100 men but patrolling the coast of a nation with whom we are not at war” is a tough sell. The Captain would have been court-marshaled for that.

  5. I’ve been following this and have to ask, why were they allowed ashore in Vietnam during a PANDEMIC originating in China.


    Still, he seems a good Captain badly treated. At least to me and the crew who cheered him off.

    1. There were just a handful of Chinese Plague cases when they had a port call and many including highly placed CDC and NIH physicians in the US said that there was no cause for alarm. Then things went to pot.

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