Fired captain sent memo to fewer people than former Navy head alleged: report

An email containing a now-famous memo from the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier was sent to fewer people than the Navy said it was when officials justified firing him, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The email from Capt. Brett Crozier was sent to three admirals and copied to seven other captains, according to a copy obtained by the Post, contradicting former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly’s assertion it was sent to “20 or 30” people.

Attached to the email was the letter Crozier wrote pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak aboard the Roosevelt. The letter has now been widely reported, but the email it was attached to had not been released before the Post’s report.

In the email, Crozier called the recipients “incredible leaders” who he would “gladly … follow into battle whenever need.”

“I fully realize that I bear responsibility for not demanding more decisive action the moment we pulled in, but at this point my only priority is the continued well-being of the crew and embarked staff,” Crozier wrote. “As you know, the accountability of a commanding officer is absolute, and I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.”

The email was addressed to Rear Adm. Stuart Baker, commander of the Roosevelt’s carrier strike group; Adm. John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet; and Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander of Naval Air Forces. Seven other captains were copied on the email.

An unnamed senior defense official told the Post that Crozier could have sent what’s known as a “personal for” message to senior service leaders that would have flagged the issue as sensitive and important without looping in as many people.

Crozier was fired after the attached memo — which warned that “sailors do not have to die” — leaked to the press.

At a news conference announcing Crozier’s firing, Modly cited the number of people the email was sent to as one of the reasons he lost confidence in Crozier’s ability to command the ship.

“It was copied to 20 or 30 other people,” Modly said then. “That’s just not acceptable. He did not take care and what that did is it created a little bit of a panic on the ship.”

Modly later resigned after traveling to Guam to give a speech aboard the Roosevelt where he called Crozier “stupid” or “naive.”

Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke conducted an investigation into the situation on the Roosevelt. The results are being reviewed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and are expected to be released as soon as this week.

Top officials have not ruled out reinstating Crozier when the investigation is done, with Defense Secretary Mark Esper saying Thursday he has “an open mind” about the possibility.

As of Thursday, 655 sailors from the Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus. One sailor has died, and six are in the hospital, with one of them in intensive care.

Tags Coronavirus Mark Esper

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