Home » Military Personnel » USS John S. McCain Collision, A Year Later


USS John S. McCain Collision, A Year Later

(top left to right) Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon
(bottom left to right) Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckles, Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell

Last year, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) collided with a merchant ship while approaching Singapore, an incident that resulted in the death of 10 sailors and prompted the Navy to take a hard look at how it operates and trains crews on forward-deployed ships.

McCain was the second deadly collision to occur last summer, and the fourth in a series of U.S. warship collisions and groundings to occur in 2017. On June 17, USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) collided with a merchant ship, killing seven sailors.

A year later, McCain is undergoing extensive repairs, the Navy has completed two reviews of how it trains crews and operates ships in its surface warfare community, the Navy has taken actions to hold people accountable for the collision, and the Navy added a namesake to the ship.

Ship Repair Efforts

The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) departs Subic Bay, Philippines aboard heavy lift transport vessel MV Treasure, Nov. 28. Treasure will transport McCain to Fleet Activities Yokosuka to undergo repairs. US Navy Photo

When McCain collided with a civilian tanker, the merchant ship’s bulbous bow struck the port side of McCain, causing extensive flooding below the waterline, and crumpling berthing and some mechanical areas. The damage was severe, but the flooding did not damage many of McCain’s electronic components. The Navy determined McCain could moved from Singapore, where it pulled into port following the collision, and repaired in Japan.

However, a crack developed in McCain’s hull while being transported to Japan on a heavy lift transport. Due to the 4-inch crack amidship on McCain’s starboard side and bad weather from a Typhoon, McCain’s transit to Japan took a detour to the Philippines.

In December, McCain arrived in Japan to begin an estimated year-long, $223-million repair job to make the ship seaworthy again. This project will be one of the largest to occur at U.S. Naval Ship Repair Facility-Japan Regional Maintenance Center, according to the Navy.

Legislative Fallout

Meanwhile, Congress acted to create some reforms to help prevent such incidents from occurring again. The recently approved Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act put into law several recommendations made by two internal Navy studies the service initiated following the death McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.

The bill limits how long ships can remain forward-deployed, requires readiness reviews, requires ships to always meet minimum staffing and establishes a new logbook policy for officers on watch.

Legal Actions

Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez. US Navy Photo

The Navy has also acted to hold crew members and leaders accountable for the collision. The Navy conducted a series of non-judicial punishment hearings for several members of the crews of both McCain and Fitzgerald.

In September, U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Philip Sawyer removed Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Combined Task Force (CTF) 70, and Capt. Jeffery Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, from their positions due to a loss of confidence in their ability to command. DESRON 15 includes command over both Fitzgerald and McCain, and CTF- 70.

In February, Cmdr. Jessie L. Sanchez, former executive officer of McCain, was found guilty of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice during a non-judicial punishment hearing in Washington, D.C. Sanchez received a punitive letter of reprimand in the hearing overseen by Adm. James Caldwell, who is serving as the consolidated decision authority for all punitive actions related to the two destroyer collisions.

In May, former McCain commander Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez pleaded guilty to a single charge of negligence for his role in the incident that killed 10 sailors. Sanchez admitted to not setting the proper watch team for the busy shipping lane the ship was entering, or taking proper action when the bridge crew lost control of the ship due to a poor understanding of the helm controls.

Sanchez was sentenced to a punitive letter of reprimand and forfeiture of $6,000 in pay. He also requested to retire as part of the agreement. Sanchez also has a federal misdemeanor on his record as a result of the court-martial.

Also in May, McCain Chief Boatswain’s Mate Jeffery Butler entered a guilty plea to one count of dereliction of duty and was reduced in rank to E-6.

McCain Namesake

Adm. John S. McCain Sr., Adm. John S. McCain Jr., Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.)

In July, Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) had his name added to USS John S. McCain (DDG-56). When commissioned in 1994, the ship was named for the senior senator from Arizona’s grandfather, Adm. John S. McCain Sr., who served as a carrier task force commander during World War II; and his father, Adm. John S. McCain Jr., who served as U.S. Pacific Command commander from 1968 to 1972. Sen. McCain himself was a naval aviator who was shot down during the Vietnam War and held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five and a half years, including the entire span of his father’s tenure as PACOM.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced the new name added to McCain while visiting the destroyer, which is currently being repaired at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan.

  • Centaurus

    Argh ! The story never ends…

    • .Hugo.

      what’s wrong with it? 🙂

  • .Hugo.

    in the picture the destroyer was abroad the mv treasure, which was converted into a semi submersible heavy cargo lifter by cosco china in 2008.
    .
    i guess when accident strikes, even the most powerful usn will have to rely on some chinese help when it has no support vessel of such kind. 🙂
    .

    • TomD

      The sad thing is, the day will come when Chinese workers will finally get paid what they deserve, and just as the Chinese economy begins to benefit from their higher wages such conversion work will move elsewhere – unless China follows others and adopts subsidies which will wear on the economy. Unfortunately that’s the way of the world, until the day comes when we all live basically the same.

      • Centaurus

        why not have the teeney-weene Chinese work on it for $1/day ?

        • TomD

          Well, of course that is to our benefit, but not theirs. In fact, one of the biggest reasons we won the Cold War was we constantly struggled to keep the Defense budget down and the Soviets didn’t.

          On the other hand, it would be to our benefit if the Chinese became prosperous and content. too

          • Centaurus

            Deth from above to the menace

      • .Hugo.

        don’t worry, cosco was paid for the lifter. maybe the usn should also place an order with cosco for its own ship? 🙂
        .
        the way of the world is not set by the u.s., and china has no obligation to follow the u.s. way either.
        .

        • TomD

          Uh, the world (i.e., human nature) sets the way of the world. Communism and other such ideologies tried to reset it, and failed, because human nature is what it is, we are not infinitely mallible. Deng and other realists were obligated to follow it. Why do you think the U.S. has anything to do with?

          • .Hugo.

            if “human nature” is your standard, then why was china not involved in setting most of these rules when 1 out of 5 humans is a chinese? 🙂
            .
            also i don’t know what communism has to do with this, when i am talking about who can set the rules. 🙂
            .
            communism will always fail, that’s why only socialist countries/governments will survive.
            .
            deng had not said china would have to follow the u.s. or the rest, he had only instructed china to reform, and china is challenging the rules set by only the u.s. today. 🙂
            .
            enough diversion from you? why not tell us why the u.s. navy has no lifter instead? 😀

          • TomD

            “If ‘human nature’ is your standard, then why was china not involved in setting most of these rules when 1 out of 5 humans is a chinese?”
            China WAS involved. More than 6,000 years ago, long before there was a U.S. You really need to broaden your views.

            “why not tell us why the u.s. navy has no lifter instead?”
            I already mentioned why, in a reply to another. Because it’s cheaper to hire one than to own one. That’s the same reason we lease An-124s instead of building more C-5s. We own what we ordinarilyneed, and lease what we need for unusual situations. As I wrote, the Soviets bought more than they needed, and wrecked their economy in the process (of course there were other causes too). China’s purchases in the last 40 years shows that China has learned from the Soviet’s mistakes. Does the Chinese government OWN a heavy lifter? Not to my knowledge. Why not? Because they are smart.

          • .Hugo.

            actually not 6000 but about 2000 years ago when china could do what you said, and of course long before there was a u.s.
            .
            but i am afraid you need to broaden your views instead, when the u.s. has never observed any rules set by china when the u.s. has grown much stronger. it has even set its own rules without involving china. 🙂
            .
            so the rich u.s. cannot even afford just one lifter for its navy, got it. 🙂
            .
            and you really need to broaden your views now, when you didn’t even know the chinese navy does have its own heavy lifter. this is the dong hai dao (east sea island) of the pla navy southern fleet, pennant number 868:
            .
            imgDOTmpDOTitcDOTcn/upload/20170714/
            0038cf29201f4ac2854d815532420dd0_th.jpg
            .
            here are some chinese lifters from the merchant navy:
            .
            (tai an kou)
            wapDOTeastdayDOTcom/thumbnailimg/month_1605/
            ef4425b8-e023-4311-aa50-f0f27046503c.jpeg
            .
            wwwDOTcoscolDOTcomDOTcn/pics/ubbpic_200641395120.gif
            .
            http://www.DOTscholarship-positionsDOTcom/wp-content/uploads/
            2013/01/TALISMAN-POSTGRADUATE-SCHOLARSHIP.jpg
            .
            (xin guang hua)
            staticDOTheavyliftnewsDOTcom/media/a0/c/
            54990927e5b77fa259b66d4a38483a15f4da
            771d8985eac31cf4bd0eea425c0a_m.jpg
            .
            (xia zhi yuan 6)
            staticDOTheavyliftnewsDOTcom/media/dd/4/3818569f4fdf1b48d886c201242bf26af910ebadb39443a00bbce05f630824dd_m.jpg
            .
            (hai yang shi you 278)
            imageDOThnolDOTnet/c/2015-05/24/20/2015052420532487515-167450.jpg
            .
            .
            i guess i have listed more than enough.
            .
            and yes, the chinese are really smart of putting them into different civilian roles so it won’t become a burden of the government. maybe the americans are….well….you know….hehe…. 🙂
            .

          • TomD

            “actually not 6000 but about 2000 years ago when china could do what you said”

            I’m curious why you wrote that. Human nature is independent of culture. A man or woman in China about 6,000 years ago has the same human nature as someone in China today. Yes, the culture would have changed, but they share things with each other that all humans share. How could they not?

          • .Hugo.

            having that nature doesn’t mean having the ability and the conditions to influence and to maintain it.
            .
            china did it 2000 years ago, and the west broke it 200 years ago, and today china is coming back.
            .
            and i believe you can’t say more about the chinese lifters? 🙂
            .

          • TomD

            Well, human nature in a sense is not maintained (and need not be maintained) and can’t be broken, even though people have tried to break it for thousands of years. Human nature is what makes you angry when someone comes into your country and tries to sell opium, for example. Human nature in fact is what causes people to decide that they have an identity (including nationhood) in the first place. Human nature is what makes a person have empathy with a foreigner, because that person recognizes a shared humanity.

            Regarding the lifters, I tried to access the PLAN ship’s link but my browser could not display it. Not the first time my browser disappointed me. Oh well. In any case give my regards to the PLAN.

          • .Hugo.

            never mind your human nature anymore, the fact is that the west, particularly the u.s., has set new rules without china’s participation, and china is now taking the initiative back. 🙂
            .

          • TomD

            Never mind a rational discussion of a shared human nature? You have just entered dangerous waters. Actually, you are already in danger if it is true that Falun Gong devotees are held until their organs need to be harvested for the benefit of CCP officials. Human nature being what it is, all the CCP is doing is fertilizing the earth to grow more people like Lin Liguo.

          • .Hugo.

            your human nature won’t change the fact that the u.s. has ignored china when setting the rules, so you can stop using human nature as an excuse. 🙂
            .
            falun gong is a cult, and its leader has escaped to the u.s., i am feeling lucky to really witness how the u.s. sponsors overseas anti government troops to attempt to destabilize a rival country, and in the name of “human nature”, hehe….
            .

          • TomD

            Any political party that imprisons people for organ harvesting and says it is for Sinoization but denies that its philosophy is a European import is a cult too. You work for a government, Hugo, that was once a cult and which now appears to be heading back into those roots after a few decades of sanity.

            Actually, many people with power in the U.S. today deny “human nature” too, so you will fail in debate if you go down that road. They don’t act ‘in the name of “human nature”‘ at all. Much of the turmoil in U.S. politics today is at its root a philosophical debate over the proper place of “human nature” in governance.

          • .Hugo.

            when i don’t see any solid proof i will only treat that as an empty accusation with the aim of helping a cult to weaken the prc governance.
            .
            you can say there were fanatics and people who tried to take advantages of the chaos, but there was never a cult.
            .
            by the way, i am not a public servant, not even close. 🙂
            .
            i don’t really care what the americans accept or deny, i care more on how some of them are trying to frame and weaken china with all sorts of excuses and false accusations.
            .

  • publius_maximus_III

    Heart breaking to see those ten sailors again. All looked like “good guys” — a cross-section of America and the USN. Sad to die so young, but already reaction to their untimely deaths has potentially saved other lives.

    Complacency and urgency, two sides of the same coin: failure to plan. Worse enemies than any Russian or Chinese fleet.

    • DaSaint

      Excellent post.

  • publius_maximus_III

    In reading the rates of all those deceased John McCain servicemen, it occurred to me that all were either communications, electronics, or IT specialties. Is it wise to cluster such specialties in one berthing area? I’m sure it was in closer proximity to their work areas than other berthing spaces. But wouldn’t it be better for the ship’s survivability during an emergency not to lose, say, all of the machinist mates, or all the helmsmen, sonar operators, etc. at one time due to such a very localized strike?

    • Michael Hoskins, Privileged

      In wartime they are dispersed, by GQ and DC section and to minimize the very incident that concerns you. In peacetime berthing spaces are assigned to work center/division/department mates for administrative ease.

  • Duane

    It will take a few years for all the repercussions to get worked through and the effects of changes assessed. The Navy did a pretty thorough job of investigating and coming up with fixes, but it will take more than a one time effort. The Navy needs to reevaluate the changes made and results achieved at least annually for several years before it can close the books on 2017.

  • Secundius

    A recent report by the USCG, has determined that LED Panel Lighting can have an impact on Communications Systems and Navigational Systems.

    https : // www . passagemaker . com / trawler – news / led – vhf – interference

    https : // www . dco . uscg . mil / portals / 9 / DCO %20 Documents /5p /CG-5PC / INV / docs /boards / ELFARORO Ifinal . pdf

  • MMC(Retired)

    So the results are a Chief gets reduced in rank to E-6 and probably forced to retire (which would be best so it doesn’t affect his retirement), and 2 Officers get a punitive letter… It’s awesome how “Military Justice” works… if you are taking the time to Court Martial them then set the example by actually punishing people that are responsible for the loss of lives.

  • Pete Novick

    If you stand at the centerline pelorus of a DDG-51 class destroyer and look up at the pilot house bulkhead just above the window, is there a repeater to let the OOD and conning officer know both the status and control configuration of the rudders and engines?

    • Secundius

      What is the Lighting Conditions on the Bridge during Late Night and/or Early Morning Shifts. Is “White” Light used or Blue, Green or Red light used. Also are the Instrument Panels LED Backlite…