Notes from around the Human Experience…
ANCHORS AWEIGH: Last week the Navy released its reports on collisions involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John McCain. Both suffered catastrophic collisions this past summer, the Fitzgerald off the southern coast of Japan and the McCain near Singapore. A total of 17 sailors were killed.
We have experience navigating and standing lookout on US naval vessels and at the time we said we would not die of shock if the investigations showed the crew of both ships were not doing their job properly. There wasn’t really any other possibility, really. A Navy vessel manned by properly trained sailors standing their watches properly is very difficult to collide with.
Fly In The Ointment: Neither the Fitzgerald or the McCain were manned by properly trained sailors standing a proper watch.
The Fitzgerald was heading south and the ship it hit, the Crystal was heading northeast and were on a collision course for about 15 minutes. Nobody did anything. Fitzgerald watchstanders must have been having a spades tournament because the ship could not be bothered to maneuver, sound an alarm or contact the Crystal. Lookouts and radar and sonar operators failed to provide any information, either, and you do not have to be John Paul Jones to surmise these watchstanders may well have been sleeping, although we read the report and this was not mentioned, although crew fatigue was cited as a cause. The captain was not contacted and had some zero clue his ship was in danger until the bow of the Crystal appeared in his stateroom.
FunFact: One of the Navy’s favorite phrases, lessons learned, was first used in the second paragraph of the report. ‘Systemic causes’ appears in the third paragraph.
“…Complacency, Over-Confidence And Lack Of Procedural Compliance”: Meanwhile, on the McCain, the captain was on the bridge but there were steering problems and the report cites a lack of situational awareness – code for nobody knew what in the hell was going on – as the cause of the collision.
Standard Navy Phraseology 101: 242 years into it and the Navy can still muck up a wet dream, as sailors like to say. 17 shipmates are dead because of it. Yes, the appropriate people got fired and some might be subject to court-martial, but it’s too late to the 17 dead shipmates any good. One of the great lessons of seamanship – take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves – still has not been learned.
ON THIS DATE! ON THIS DATE! Jeannette Rankin becomes the first woman elected to Congress on this date in 1916, winning election from one of two at-large districts in Montana. During her term, the Montana legislature voted to replace the two at-large districts with two geographical districts and Rankin, a Republican, declined to run in her new, heavily Democratic district.
FunFact: Rankin was also elected to Congress in 1940, again serving one term.
“I Can’t Go To War…And I Refuse To Send Anyone Else”: Rankin served during momentous times. She would be one of 50 in the House of Representatives to vote against US entry into World War I and she was the only member of either the Senate or House to vote against declaring war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Dry, Technical Matter: A lifelong advocate of, among other things, peace and women’s rights, Rankin never bothered to get married.
Well, This Isn’t According To Specs: The Tacoma Narrows Bridge – then the third-longest suspension bridge in the world – collapses into Puget Sound on this date in 1940 during a windstorm. The only fatality was a dog who had been left in a car on the bridge. Rescuers were not treated well by the dog, who insisted on biting them and the dog fell into Puget Sound along with the car he was in. His body was never recovered.
Great Moments In Magic Johnson: Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers announces he has HIV and retires from the NBA on this date in 1991. Johnson attempted a comeback before the following season, which he abandoned during the exhibition season, but would return to play 32 regular season games and four playoff games in the 1995-96 season.
Quotebook: Truth is generally the best vindication against slander. – Abraham Lincoln
Answer To The Last Trivia Question: The first college football game that involved running the ball, eleven men on a side and a play ending with the tackling of the ball carrier was played on June 4, 1875, when Tufts defeated Harvard 1-0.
Today’s Stumper: When did Montana go from having two members of the US House of Representatives to having one member? – Answer next time!