I have been following with much interest the story about the COVID-19 outbreak on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

credit: businessinsider.com

USS Theodore Roosevelt and the unceremonious canning of its CO, Captain Crozier. Acting SECNAV Modly says he fired him not because he failed to follow the chain of command but because, “In sending (his email request to SECNAV) out pretty broadly, he did not take care to ensure that it couldn’t be leaked.”

Some context is needed here. Modly himself has come under public criticism because he has pursued “business as usual” in the Navy while apparently doing little to prepare for the inevitable impact of the virus on close-quartered crews. Whether this is justified, I don’t know, but it seems clear that a top officer’s career is now toast because of political embarrassment. This is further evidenced by a recent NY Times report that acting SECDEF Esper had “urged American military commanders overseas not to make any decisions related to the coronavirus that might surprise the White House or run afoul of President Trump’s messaging on the growing health challenge.”

Captain Crozier did not get his job by being stupid or ignorant, needless to say. My very strong suspicion is that his initial reporting of the virus aboard the TR was not getting the attention it deserved and he was leveraging wider knowledge in the Navy community to get proactive action and save sailors’ lives. And, it unintentionally leaked to the press. I have no doubt his actions saved lives.

I recommend at least the following two links on the situation:



About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
This entry was posted in Accountability, military, Politics, USN. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to LOOSE LIPS?

  1. aFrankAngle says:

    Right with you, Jim. After all, there are plenty of incidents of being fired or reassigned when running afoul with this administration.

    Hope you are well … stay safe.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Good to hear from you, Frank! I miss your blog. We are indeed well and hope you are the same.

      Sadly, I see the Crozier incident as evidence of the brass getting their priorities backwards. It was Admiral Rickover who summed up the essence of leadership this way: Know your stuff, take care of your men, and do your job. In this case, they are neglecting number two.


  2. PiedType says:

    This story infuriated me when I saw it. Capt. Crozier was trying desperately to get help for his crew. He was doing his very best to protect them. The incompetents above him should be fired. Crozier deserves a medal for choosing the well-being of his crew over his own career.


    • Jim Wheeler says:

      There is a fine line, PT, between good order and discipline and doing the right thing. When I first read of this I thought the CO may have intentionally violated the chain of command. That”s something a military leader simply must not do. Interestingly, judging by one comment I read, it appears that even some Democrats in Congress think he did that, but still back him. That is indicative, I submit, of how few pols have real military experience. The Crozier incident will be discussed and debated for a long time, I think. I hope the debate is constructive. It’s one more example of how divisive this administration is.


  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    After the firing of Capt. Crozier, acting SECDEF Modly, admitting to colleagues that he wanted to avoid the fate of his predecessor at Trump’s hands, doubled down by visiting the TR and delivering a diatribe over the ship’s PA system, reinforcing the national impression of the politicizing of the U.S. military. WAPO columnist Max Boot described it this way. I am indebted to Mr. Boot not only for updating the situation but for adding to my vocabulary a word that may become increasingly useful as the first-term Trump administration plays out, to wit, TRUCKLE, v. intransitive, to act in a subservient manner. Synonyms: apple polish, bootlick, fawn, toady


  4. Jim Wheeler says:

    Here is the text of my email reply to a friend of mine, a retired nuclear submarine CO who believes Crozier was justifiably fired:

    There is more to the Crozier story than we know, or at least that I know. I would much like to see his “email” letter, including its addressees. If indeed it was addressed to “Dear fellow aviators” as (submarine CO) says, and they were outside the chain of command, then I must have some sympathy with Modly’s point of view. I must say that I just read a transcript of Modly’s speech aboard the TR and except for calling Crozier “stupid” and “naive”, I found his sentiments appropriate. Even so, though, I still think he should have left the matter to Crozier’s chain of command. Did he think those admirals were incompetent to deal with this? That would say a lot about him, eh? I do know that he dismissed advice from the CNO and others. I just can’t get my head around the idea that a man with a career like Crozier’s just “lost it” that way.

    Other missing pieces of the puzzle are whatever communications transpired leading up to the denouement of this episode. There had to have been. It very hard for me to believe that Crozier went “public” without believing that his chain of command was about to place a routine operating schedule ahead of dealing with the COVID crisis aboard the TR; it was (is) an unprecedented crisis. But if he did act out that way, he should have been relieved. I look forward to learning more. If anyone (Anson?) knows where to get the text of Crozier’s letter, please let us know.

    There’s always more to such events. In the meantime, here is a link to yet another perspective:




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