The grounding of the USS San Francisco has been a curiosity to the general public, a failure of procedure and informational systems to the Navy and a true tragedy for the crew of SSN 711 and the family of one brave and dedicated sailor. I’ve watched the 60 Minutes segment, read the reporting of both Christopher Drew of the New York Times, Robert Hamilton of the New London Day and finally read the Navy’s unclassified investigation report. One thing I have always come away with is that the Officers and Crew of the USS San Francisco are men of integrity and courage.
Cmdr. Mooney has done what many a Commanding Officer before him has done and taken full responsibility for what has happened aboard his ship. In doing so the Commander has demonstrated integrity that is rare outside of the military and seems almost non-existent among our captains of industry. A letter of reprimand has essentially dead ended his naval career. But Cmdr. Mooney should know that he has done what few men would or could do, that is, taken on the responsibilities of command of a U.S. Navy nuclear fast attack submarine.
The crew’s actions to save their crippled ship, to tend to their injured shipmates and attempt to save the life of critically injured MM2(SS) Joseph Allen Ashley demonstrated the courage that is only found in dedicated and confident men. Throughout the grounding’s investigation the crew of the USS San Francisco has stuck together and only asked that the truth lead where it may to benefit others who operate in a similar submerged environment. Therefore the crew has shown additional courage in voicing their belief that the grounding’s responsibility must also include those who provide the systems and information that every submarine relies on.
You may think I’m glossing over any failures that caused the grounding but what I wanted to provide here was only my observations on the demonstrated character of the men of the USS San Francisco SSN 711. These observations are why I still proudly say “I once wore the silver dolphins of the US Submarine Service”.
Former NavET ET1(SS)
SSBN 641, SSBN 731