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Naval Investigator Testifies Before Inquiry Part I

Adm. Griffiths served as the primary investigator into the collision between the USS Greeneville and a Japanese fishing boat.


THE CLERK: At this time the Court calls Rear Admiral Charles Griffiths to the stand.

RDML STONE: Admiral Griffiths, will you please stand in front of the witness box, face me and raise your right hand to be sworn.

(Witness duly sworn.)

THE WITNESS: I do.

EXAMINATION BY RDML STONE:

Q Admiral, would you state your full name and spell your last name for the record, please.

A Charles Henry Griffiths, Jr.. G-R-I-F-F-I-T-H-S.

Q What is your rank, sir?

A Rear Admiral, lower half.

Q What is your current duties?

A Commander of submarine group nine.

Q And what are your duties and responsibilities as commander of submarine group nine?

A I have several hats. The top four I’ll mention, I’m commander submarine group nine, that’s the administrative commander of the submarine who’s associated with that submarine group, which include eight tribal ballistics missile submarines and the sixteen crews that are on those submarines.

I’m also the commander of the submarines of the west coast, in this hat I’m the senior submariner on the west coast of the United States and act four commander submarines Pacific in that regard, liaison with all military and civilian activities.

I also have commander submarine training group north west, which is CTG 14.9, and commander submarine training activities west coast which is CTG 14.– I think I mixed that up, 14.9 and 14.6. And in that regard I exercise operational command over submarines in the waters that are contiguous to the west coast to the United States to a certain point towards Hawai’i where I pass that responsibility on to the commander submarine force Pacific.

Q How long have you been at submarine group nine?

A Approximately six months. I relieved on 25 August the year 2000.

Q Could you describe to the Court your various duty assignments previous to your assignment — current assignment at sub group nine?

A Just prior to this command assignment I served on the staff of Admiral Meece (phonetic) who is the CINC who is the commander of strategic command at Omaha Nebraska Air Force base. I was there approximately a year and a half as a deputy J5 deputy for plans and policy and my primary duty there was to prepare the nation’s nuclear war plane on an annual basis.

Prior to that assignment I served for approximately two and a half years on the joint chiefs of staff in the J5 direct rate which is the plans and policy directorate, a number of assignments in that two and a half years in that directorate culminating with being deputy director for international negotiations, a job focused on arms control in the military, and also a second assignment incumbent in that job is to be in charge of political military activities with Russia and the States of the former Soviet Union.

Q Previous to that, sir?

A Prior to that I served for eight months as the executive assistant to the chief of naval personnel, in Arlington Virginia, then Admiral Bowman, and prior to that I served as the commander of submarine squadron two in Grotton, Connecticut. This is an operational submarine squadron of attack submarines with approximately at that time 16 nuclear submarines assigned. These are single crew submarines.

Prior to that assignment I served for just over three years in the headquarters of naval reactors, NAVCO 8 which direct the naval’s nuclear propulsion program in Washington, D.C., and primarily I focused on training and personnel while in that assignment.

Prior to that assignment I was the Commanding Officer of attack submarine, the earlier version of the Greeneville, a Los Angeles class submarine, the SSN 720 and served for about three years just under three years in that assignment, also in Grotton, Connecticut in squadron two.

Prior to that assignment I served on shore duty in Washington D.C. for about three years, and had a number of assignments within that office in the bureau of personnel where I either managed nuclear enlisted program personnel, or I acted as the number two detailer for the officers in the submarine force, the XO detail.

Q How many years have you been qualified in submarines?

A Including the assignments that I had prior to the last one I mentioned, a total of approximately 17 and a half — correction, approximately 27 and a half years.

Q Sir, of those assignments how many have been operational sea assignments?

A Roughly half of my assignments have been sea duty or operational duty, about 14 years and counting right now.

Q I’d like to direct your attention to the 10th and 11th of February, 2001. Were you assigned temporary additional duty away from Thomas (inaudible)?

A I was.

Q What was that TAB assignment?

A In the wee hours of the 10th of February I received a call from a member of Admiral Konetzni staff at SUBPAC alerting me that I was to report as soon as possible to Hawai’i, and become the Preliminary Investigative Officer for the collision between the Greeneville and the Ehime-Maru. And I proceeded to Hawai’i the following day, now Sunday the 11th, arriving in Hawai’i about noon, local time.

Q Had anyone begun the preliminary investigation prior to your arrival in Hawai’i?

A Yes. Commadore Fred Bias, the commander of squadron seven at Pearl Harbor had commenced the investigation upon the arrival of the submarine Greeneville back at home port the morning of the 10th of February, Saturday morning.

Q So when you arrived you took over the investigation from Commadore Bias?

A Yes, I did.

Q Did he continue to assist you in that investigation and provide support?

A Yes. The matter in which I conducted the investigation commenced on my arrival, Sunday, I was able to get to SUBPAC offices at about 1400 local, and at that time met with Commadore Bias and Admiral Konetzni, received my charter which was in writing and verbally from the Admiral, and then commenced meeting with Commadore Bias to a simulate all that he had done to date, which included discussions and reviewing the material he assembled, including interview statements from the interviews he conducted.

Q Yes, sir. Sir, you mentioned that charter that you received from Admiral Konetzni, can you describe for the Court what your charter was?

A Well, it involved at my arrival on Sunday the 11th my initial charter dated that date in writing consisted of doing a dual purpose investigation, called a litigation investigation. And that was my initial understanding of my tasking, and the due date for that to be completed was the 10th of March, roughly a month after I had arrived.

By Monday the following day in the morning my tasking had changed. I received a new written direction from Admiral Konetzni and it detailed that I should conduct a preliminary investigation per the JAG manual for the collision. And my due date had moved up to the next day, Tuesday, which would be the 12th.

Q Did you ever get an extension on that due date, sir?

A I did. On the 12th I reported my state of progress to Admiral Konetzni and he extended me until 2000 on the 13th which was a, let’s see now, let me get the dates correct here, the 14th. It was extended until 2000 on the 14th, and I actually did complete my preliminary investigation four hours after that at about midnight on the 14th, on Wednesday.

Q Sir, do you feel that you were given sufficient time to fully investigate the matter?

A I feel I was given sufficient time and resources to get a good cut at what happened. I would have preferred to have more time and obviously could have done a more thorough job had I had more time. However, I think I was given sufficient time to have a good preliminary understanding of the nature of the collision and what happened, and provide appropriate recommendations to the Admiral at that time for the subsequent course of events.

Q Sir, what areas did Admiral Konetzni ask you to investigate in the preliminary?

A Admiral Konetzni directed that I investigate the aspects of the collision that would pertain what was its cause and how can we develop recommendations to prevent it from happening in the future.

Also to evaluate injuries, damage and circumstances of the search and rescue evolution after the collision; and finally to evaluate the aspects of peripheral perhaps to the direct collision itself, but that may have a bearing such as the embarkation of a senior officer and distinguished visitors.

Q When you say a senior officer, do you mean Captain Robert Brandhiever (phonetic)?

A I do.

Q Sir, did you look at any other areas during your preliminary inquiry, other than the ones that you’ve just outlined for us?

A Yes. I understood my tasking to be also whatever I considered under my discretion appropriate to evaluate, so I looked at the operating areas, I looked at — to the degree I had time the stay of training and qualification of the crew and manning of the ship on the day in question, the communications associated with shore activities and the Coast Guard, particularly in conjunction with the search and rescue assignment. The nature of the mission, the plan for the day, its reasonableness, whether it was executed properly. And aspects such as that.

Q Sir, what types of evidence did you consider in preparing and completing the preliminary investigation?

A First of all I tried to assemble all relevant data that the ship would normally generate associated with operations at sea, such as logs and recordings.

I additionally reviewed the plan of the day the ship generated. I reviewed the operation orders that might apply from higher authority to govern distinguished visitor embarkations, I looked at the waters assigned in the operating area and the charts. I also somewhat broadly assumed I had the authority to deputize significant members of the staff of COMSUBPAC, Admiral Konetzni and did so, so I would — for example I tasked the material shop, the N4 shop at SUBPAC staff to develop and test the ship’s sensors, to determine if they were fully operable.

I tasked the N3 shop, the operations and plans shop of SUBPAC to provide examples of other attack submarines from Pearl Harbor that had conducted visitors programs to determine if similar agendas existed and made comparisons to that of the Greeneville.

And I also asked for the amount of time those other ships were provided to conduct those operations to compare to the amount of time provided to Greeneville to see if it was a reasonable agenda. I tasked the communication shop N6 at SUBPAC to provide a record of the communications that Greeneville participated in that were associated with the search and rescue phase of the operation.

And most importantly I tasked the N7 shop led by Captain Thomas Kyle who also participated in the National Transportation Safety Board investigation to provide a significant amount of analysis of the tactical data pertinent to the time the ship was operating in the proximity of the Ehime-Maru, such as the evaluation of the passive sonar operation and the ship’s tracks, geographically.

Q So, sir, you had access to much of the same information through Captain Kyle of the National Transportation Safety Board had access to?

A Very much so. I would say in general, although they were conducting interviews that I was not able to participate in, the intent of the JAG manual was for my investigation to be very much separate and independent, but not interfere with the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

So, in general this documentary data was commonly available to both investigations in parallel, although provided except separately.

Q Did you eventually compile all of this data that you retrieved from Greeneville and the witness’ statements? Did you compile that into a report that you forwarded to Admiral Konetzni at SUBPAC?

A Let me table that question for a moment to make sure I answer a previous question thoroughly. You asked earlier what evidence I considered, and I want to make sure it’s clear to the Court I also considered all the documentation of interviews that have been conducted by Commadore Bias prior to my arrival, in addition to the few interviews that I was able to conduct. So I digested his rendition of those oral interviews that he conducted with several members of the crew and considered that as part of my body of evidence.

Now back to your most recent question, yes, I provided a written report of my preliminary investigation at about midnight I completed it, Admiral Konetzni rogered over the telephone that it was complete and said he’d review it first thing in the morning. I provided it to the staff to give it to him first thing in the morning and he came in that Thursday at 6:00 in the morning and digested it and I met with him at 9:00. So at that point he’d read it and we had a chance to discuss it.

Q Admiral, I’d like Commander Harrison to show you what has been marked as Court Exhibit number 1 which is the preliminary inquiry which you conducted. Sir, would you take a look at those binders and the evidence that supports them and tell us, is that the preliminary inquiry you submitted to Admiral Konetzni?

RDML STONE: For the information of the Court and the parties, I would note that the preliminary inquiry portion without the closures that it’s Admiral is looking at, the opinions and recommendations that Admiral Griffiths made in the inquiry report have been redacted and taken out. What remains are the findings of fact and the enclosures that support those findings of fact.

A Without reviewing the enclosures in detail, this appears to be the report that I submitted and its enclosures.

Q Sir, I’d like to talk now about the factual determinations that you were able to make as a result of your preliminary investigation.

Did a collision between a U.S. submarine, involving a U.S. submarine and a Japanese motor vessel occur on 9 February, 2001?

A Yes, it did.

Q Sir, what submarine was that?

A The USS Greeneville.

Q And what time did the collision occur on the 9th of February?

A Approximately 1343 and 15 seconds local time.

Q Do you know the name of the Japanese motor vessel that was involved?

A Yes, it was the Ehime-Maru.

Q Sir, where did the collision take place?

A Approximately nine to 10 miles south of Diamond Head in the waters south of Oahu.

Q And were you aware of the rules of the rode provisions related to who is the stand-on and give way vessel as between a submerged submarine and a surface vessel?

A Well, I know the submarine is always burdened when its submerged, so a submarine who was operating submerged or surfacing would be burdened to avoid contact with surface vessels.

Q I’d like to show you now what has been marked as Court Exhibit number 2. Which are excerpts from FXP 1 and CON subland and CON SUBPAC instruction 3120.25.

Would you read to the Court what is contained in FXP 1 with respect to the give way and stand on vessel?

A Citing FXP —

MR. GITTINS: (Inaudible) If we’re going to use documents, can we get copies of them?

RDML STONE: They were forwarded yesterday.

MR. GITTINS: Marked?

RDML STONE: All counsel should have received those yesterday. Commander Harrison, if you would retrieve the Court Exhibit number 2 and show all the parties.

VADM. NATHMAN: Commander Herold, did you get a copy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we did.

BY RDML STONE: Admiral Griffiths, if you could again read for the Court from FXP 1?

A I’m citing par a 3.2.1, responsibility for avoiding collision in FXP 1 provision J. When submerged a submarine accept the responsibility for avoiding collision with a surface ship.

Q Okay, sir. And would you also look at the CON sublands and CON SUBPAC instruction 3120.21. Would you read for the Court from that document?

A The pertinent paragraph here is the responsibility for collision avoidance rests solely on the submerged submarine.

Q Thank you, sir.

Sir, on 9 February, 2001, who was Greeneville’s Commanding Officer?

A Commander Scott Waddle.

Q And her Executive Officer?

A LCDR Gerald Pfeifer.

Q OOD?

A The OOD was Lieutenant J G Michael Coen.

Q Sir, what is Greeneville’s administrative chain of command?

A Greeneville’s administrative chain of command passes from Commander Waddle north to the squadron commander, squadron one who is Captain Rich Sneed and passes to COMSUBPAC Admiral Konetzni then to Admiral Fargo and as the Pacific Fleet commander and back to washing to the chief of naval operations.

Q How about Greeneville’s operational chain of command?

A Her operational chain of command is more streamlined. Passes directly from Commander Waddle on to Greeneville north to come SUBPAC as their operating authority and then the fleet commander as the component for the area CINC, and then Admiral Blair who’s CINCPAC.

Q Sir, what was Greeneville’s mission on 9 February?

A Greeneville’s mission predominently was to embark distinguished visitors and operate for a period of time in local waters and then return to port that same day.

Q Who assigned her that mission?

A Submarine even force Pacific Fleet Admiral Konetzni staff.

Q Was there a itinerary associated with her mission that day?

A There was, it was as published in a plan of the day for the USS Greeneville. I might add, the underway in addition to being an embark for visitors of course accomplished simultaneous missions of training and proficiency for the crew, training for people who are qualifying in proficiency for those who are already qualified, every underway always has that purpose, and it’s an important purpose.

Q Admiral, I’d like Commander Harrison to show you part of enclosure 24 in binder two, the plan of the day on the 9th of February that was published by Greeneville.

Can you tell us what Greeneville was scheduled to accomplish on the 9th of February?

A The Greeneville was scheduled to prepare the ship to get underway, which includes some preliminary activities on the ship before the guests would arrive, and then to embark the guests and get underway at 0800, conduct a dive, then a deep dive, serve lunch, then conduct angles and an emergency blow to the surface and then return to port to moore at approximately 1500.

Q In your experience, Admiral, is that a fairly typical distinguished visitors embark schedule?

A It was a good question for me to resolve when I arrived because I have little recent experience for Pearl Harbor. It would not be a good schedule in my home port right now of Banger Washington with my class of submarines the Tridents, because of unique constraints of geography and configuration of that ship.

So, I pursued whether it was reasonable in this area, and I obtained samples of other ships that had performed the similar evolution to determine the evolutions that they conducted, and I think I had two other submarines that I reviewed. And I also looked at about a year and a half’s worth of data of the duration of those underways for attack submarines from Pearl Harbor, and I believe it averaged a tenth of an hour less than that same period assigned to Greeneville this time, so from my reviews I determined that it was a very reasonable scope and duration mission for the day for Greeneville.

Q Sir, what time did the ship actually get underway on the morning of the 9th?

A Approximately 0759 recorded in the deck log, as I recall.

Q Admiral, what is Papa hotel time?

A Papa hotel time is an orientation point time for existing and entering Pearl Harbor. Papa hotel is an imaginary place, that is there’s no object there, it’s a point in the ocean that is south of the entrance channel to Pearl Harbor, and it’s routinely used by local operating authorities to orient ships to when they will enter the port and to arrange services in support of their arrival.

Q And what’s the significance of Papa hotel time, to a submarine?

A If you’re running your submarine without problem in a smart and seaman like manner you would be at Papa hotel when directed. If you are late then you’ll probably need to make arrangements to let the port know so that they can make changes as necessary and other ships that are due to enter and leave port, or the services that are provided to you like ton services, line handlers and so forth. So there are arrangements that need to change if you’re late, and you just pretty much avoid being early because being early could have the same problems as being late.

Q Who controls or assigns Papa hotel time?

A My understanding is that Papa hotel time is assigned by the regional commander through the port authorities that he direct under the auspices of CINCPAC Fleet, but in close coordination with the type commander of SUBPAC. So, in other words, there’s one person who makes the assignment, but it’s in close collusion with the other authorities here so that there is agreement and concensus.

Q Admiral, you mentioned I think earlier in your testimony that Greeneville was scheduled to return to port at 1500 on the 9th?

A Yes. Her mooring time was 1500.

Q What was her Papa hotel time?

A 1400 local.

Q 1400, sir?

A Yes.

Q What time that morning did she embark her distinguished visitors?

A To be honest I don’t know, but it would have been sometime prior to the 0759 underway, and logically not much before that because of not wanting to inconvenience the guests on having to get up too early, but I think that will have to be pursued with other witnesses. My guess is 730.

Q Admiral, do you know how many distinguished visitors embarked that morning?

A Yes. Embarked 16 civilian distinguished visitors, and one senior officer Captain Brand Humer (phonetic) who was a chief of staff at SUBPAC.

Q How many Greeneville crew members and officers were on board that morning?

A I reviewed the sailing list provided to me by Commadore Bias, and it appears that 95 enlisted members of 146 enlisted members assigned to the crew were aboard that day, and approximately 11 of the 17 officers assigned were aboard that day, so a total of 95 plus 11 or 106 members of the ship got underway with Greeneville that day.

Q Admiral, in your experience would that be a standard, pretty standard underway compliment for a one day cruise?

A Yes, that would be a reasonable number.

The actual ingredients of how that crew is made up would of course be important, and do they have the right and types and qualification levels of sailors in that crew, and so forth.

But, as a rough order of magnitude that’s about right because you would not want to take everybody in the crew to sea that day, for a couple of reasons. First of all, these are relatively confined submarines internal to the decks, and additional people would take up more room and it would somewhat get in the way of these visitors trying to get around and see into the ship.

And secondly you try to give some of the crew a break. The life on a SSN is arduous, and even when you’re not at sea you have the ship to maintain, and to train on and qualify on, so when you have an occasion when you can give a subset of the crew a day off for these daily underways, ships normally avail themselves of that. So for those reasons 106 is about what I would have expected the ship to take to sea that day.

Q Where was Greeneville assigned to operate on the 9th?

A The operating area she was assigned was a generous amount of water space, generally south of Oahu, commencing just a little north of where the collision occurred, and continuing south for scores of miles.

Q Was there any particular location that she operated in that your investigation discovered where she actually operated?

A It would be helpful I think to look at the chart at some point to describe this more fully, but in general she biased her operations to the northern portion of her operating area, predominently because this was deep water, safe to operate in, not in a shipping lane, reasonable place to operate a submarine, and yet not far from home port so she could keep to her schedule to get her visitors back on time.

Q In your opinion, sir, a smart decision by Greeneville to operate there?

A If I were Captain of the Greeneville that’s the area I would have chosen to operate, given the circumstances.

Q Sir, I’d like to turn your attention to the morning events on Greeneville. Were you able to determine which distinguished visitors evolutions were accomplished that morning?

A Yes.

Q And could you describe those events to the members of the Court?

A It generally went according to the plan of the day plan. They got underway on time, they submerged, when they reached their operating area, they conducted an excursion to test depth which is the limiting depth the ship could operate at, to demonstrate that capability to the guests.

They then came more shallow and they conducted tours of the ship, and they fired water shrugs from the torpedo tubes, which are ejecting pulses of water from the torpedo tubes but it provides similar indications to if you were ejecting a weapon like a torpedo. And then they led into the lunch time period.

Q Sir, according to the plan of the day that we showed you previously, did she complete her morning events on time?

A Yes, according to the plan of the day the best I could determine she did.

Q And, sir, when was lunch scheduled that day?

A Well, lunch was scheduled from 11:00 to 12: 00 on the plan of the day but that requires some explanation, in the wardroom of one of these submarines you can only seat 10 people around the table at most, we call that seating arrangement of 10. Because she had more than 10 distinguished visitors it was clear that they needed what we call a second setting in the wardroom, so in the case of the crew’s mess you would expect them to feed within the confines of schedule on the POD of one hour, 11:00 to 12:00, but it would be reasonable to expect that to extend somewhat in the wardroom.

Now, on these small ships, the submarines we eat out of the same galley, it’s the same food for the officers and the crew and they eat generally the same times because of the convenience for the cooks who have to prepare this food to not extend their duty hours. So, I would guess starting at 11:00 in the wardroom would be appropriate to run the first setting through. When the Captain was done with the first setting he would excuse those guests, bring in the remainder of the guests and have a second setting in the wardroom and that would extend beyond noon.

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