On a moonlit early morning with calm seas on June 17, the U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald was conducting routine operations within sight of land, near Japan’s Izu Peninsula. At about 0130 the port side of ACX Crystal, a commercial ship, struck the starboard side of the Navy vessel above the waterline. Beneath the water, the container ship’s bulbous bow punctured a 17-by-13-foot hole in a berthing area and auxiliary machine room spanning the second and third decks. The official investigation report describes the impact of the collision, which threw some sailors from their bunks. Within seconds, there were yells of “water on deck” and “get out.” The berthing area was flooded in less than a minute. One sailor survived by breathing in a small air pocket and then swimming across toward the starboard egress ladder. The last sailor to escape had to swim around floating lockers and debris toward the only light he could see and was said to be taking his final breath when he was pulled from the water. Five sailors used a sledgehammer, a kettle bell, and their bodies to break down the door to rescue the injured commanding officer, who was in his cabin at the time of the collision. Seven sailors died.
Read the full op-ed in War on the Rocks.
More from CNAS
VideoThe Pitch: A Competition of New Ideas
On June 17, 2020, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) hosted its premier event to elevate emerging and diverse voices in national security. Sixteen applicants made t...
By Richard Fontaine, Michèle Flournoy, Michael J. Zak, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Shai Korman, Carrie Cordero, Kristine Lee, David Zikusoka & Cole Stevens
VideoThe Bottom Line
Although lawmakers and the public frequently debate the size of the U.S. defense budget, a fundamental question usually receives less attention: What does U.S. military spendi...
By Susanna V. Blume
PodcastRichard Fontaine appears on Utrikespodden med Axel och Zebulon
A bonus episode of the pod, all in English! Axel talks to Richard Fontaine, who is the CEO of Washington-based think Center for A New American Security (CNAS) and a former for...
By Richard Fontaine
CommentaryHow to Prevent a War in Asia
Amid all the uncertainty about the world that will follow the pandemic, one thing is almost sure to be true: tensions between the United States and China will be even sharper ...
By Michèle Flournoy