Day: April 6, 2020

Theodore Roosevelt captain followed in footsteps of ship’s namesake by writing bombshell letter

Navy officials are finding themselves in controversial waters in the wake of Thursday’s announcement that the service was relieving Capt. Brett Crozier of his command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, a decision made following the leak of a four-page letter Crozier penned pleading for U.S. assistance to help stymie the spread of COVID-19 on the 4,800-person ship.

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”

Crozier’s letter was sent via a “non-secure, unclassified” email that included at least “20 to 30” recipients in addition to the captain’s immediate chain of command, Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly told reporters Thursday.

It was an act that “raised alarm bells unnecessarily,” Modly said. “It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Crozier’s firing sparked a maelstrom of criticism, with a mother of one Roosevelt sailor telling Navy Times she was “devastated” by the captain’s dismissal, adding that Crozier “risked his own livelihood. That is so hard to do. Not a lot of men, not a lot of women, not a lot of people out there who would do that for others.”

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the aircraft carrier’s namesake was once entangled in a similar conundrum, noted retired Navy commander Ward Carroll in Proceedings Magazine.

As the Spanish-American War drew to a close in the summer of 1898, the Santiago de Cuba-based men of the U.S. Army Fifth Corps — Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and his famed Rough Riders among them — encountered one of their toughest challenges yet: Malaria and yellow fever.

Lt Col. Theodore Roosevelt in the uniform of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (Rough Riders), 1898. (Alamy via Library of Congress)

Lt Col. Theodore Roosevelt in the uniform of the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (Rough Riders), 1898. (Alamy via Library of Congress)

In all, nearly 4,000 of the 4,270 men in Fifth Corps would contract severe illnesses. Many were on the verge of death.

“The soldier who storms the heights and wins them is a hero in the world’s eyes,” war correspondent Kit Coleman wrote from the troop transport ship SS Comal, a vessel tasked with ushering the ill soldiers to Florida. “Uncle Sam’s boys did that; but far more to the credit of the American soldier is the uncomplaining way in which he bore that which was inflicted by the blundering of his own people.”

Rife with disease, “the eight divisional commanders, including Roosevelt, were convinced that if they remained in Cuba, Fifth Corps would be wiped out,” Carroll writes.

The dire situation prompted senior officers to meet with Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter, commander of the Fifth Corps, to recommend that troops be withdrawn from Cuba posthaste. That result of that meeting — whether Shafter agreed or not — remains unknown.

Regardless of the outcome, the commanders were compelled to put their request into writing –– a task that fell to Roosevelt because, as the only non-general among the senior officer group, had less to lose career-wise. The eventual U.S. president drafted what is now known as the infamous Round-Robin Letter:

MAJOR-GENERAL SHAFTER. SIR: In a meeting of the general and medical officers called by you at the Palace this morning we were all, as you know, unanimous in our views of what should be done with the army. To keep us here, in the opinion of every officer commanding a division or a brigade, will simply involve the destruction of thousands.

There is no possible reason for not shipping practically the entire command North at once. Yellow-fever cases are very few in the cavalry division, where I command one of the two brigades, and not one true case of yellow fever has occurred in this division, except among the men sent to the hospital at Siboney, where they have, I believe, contracted it. But in this division there have been 1,500 cases of malarial fever. Hardly a man has yet died from it, but the whole command is so weakened and shattered as to be ripe for dying like rotten sheep, when a real yellow-fever epidemic instead of a fake epidemic, like the present one, strikes us, as it is bound to do if we stay here at the height of the sickness season, August and the beginning of September.

Quarantine against malarial fever is much like quarantining against the toothache. All of us are certain that as soon as the authorities at Washington fully appreciate the condition of the army, we shall be sent home. If we are kept here it will in all human possibility mean an appalling disaster, for the surgeons here estimate that over half the army, if kept here during the sickly season, will die.

This is not only terrible from the standpoint of the individual lives lost, but it means ruin from the standpoint of military efficiency of the flower of the American army, for the great bulk of the regulars are here with you. The sick list, large though it is, exceeding four thousand, affords but a faint index of the debilitation of the army. Not ten per cent are fit for active work.

Six weeks on the North Maine coast, for instance, or elsewhere where the yellow-fever germ cannot possibly propagate, would make us all as fit as fighting-cocks, as able as we are eager to take a leading part in the great campaign against Havana in the fall, even if we are not allowed to try Porto Rico. We can be moved North, if moved at once, with absolute safety to the country, although, of course, it would have been infinitely better if we had been moved North or to Puerto Rico two weeks ago. If there were any object in keeping us here, we would face yellow fever with as much indifference as we faced bullets. But there is no object.

The four immune regiments ordered here are sufficient to garrison the city and surrounding towns, and there is absolutely nothing for us to do here, and there has not been since the city surrendered. It is impossible to move into the interior. Every shifting of camp doubles the sick rate in our present weakened condition, and, anyhow, the interior is rather worse than the coast, as I have found by actual reconnoissance.

Our present camps are as healthy as any camps at this end of the island can be. I write only because I cannot see our men, who have fought so bravely and who have endured extreme hardship and danger so uncomplainingly, go to destruction without striving so far as lies in me to avert a doom as fearful as it is unnecessary and undeserved.

Yours respectfully, THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Colonel Commanding Second Cavalry Brigade.

Signed by all the officers, the letter was delivered to Shafter and meant for delivery to the Army Headquarters in Washington.

Perhaps fearing inaction on the side of Shafter, a copy of the letter also found its way to an Associated Press correspondent –– allegedly at the hands of Roosevelt — who cabled immediately to AP headquarters.

The letter was published that same day on August 4.

When the news broke stateside, President William McKinley was indignant, requesting that “every possible effort [be] made to ascertain the name of the person responsible for its publication.”

An F/A-18E Super Hornet flies above the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. (Cmdr. Damon Loveless/Navy)

An F/A-18E Super Hornet flies above the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. (Cmdr. Damon Loveless/Navy)

McKinley was close to concluding peace negotiations with Spain and sought to maintain a military presence in Cuba until that end was achieved. He was cognizant, however, that public sentiment would turn against him if he kept the troops in Cuba. To counteract the effect of the Round-Robin Letter, the men of the Fifth Corps were hastily recalled to Long Island, New York.

Secretary of War Russell A. Alger insisted the letter had nothing to do with the return of the Fifth Corps, “however, [Alger] was on record as previously having asserted that no ships were available” to transport the men back from Cuba, Carroll notes in Proceedings.

Similar to Modly’s press conference Thursday, Shafter decried the leak, saying, “it would be impossible to exaggerate the mischievous and wicked effects of the ‘Round Robin.’ It afflicted the country with a plague of anguish and apprehension.”

In his memoir, “The Rough Riders,” Roosevelt offers a contrasting perspective, stating that keeping the Army “in Santiago meant its entirely purposeless destruction.”

In going over the heads of his immediate chain of command, Roosevelt’s leaked letter to the Associated Press was eventually credited with cutting through the red tape of bureaucracy and saving the lives of 4,000 men.

Despite the hasty dismissal of Capt. Crozier, the large crowd of Theodore Roosevelt sailors who gathered Thursday to chant his name and cheer as he departed the hulking ship for the last time may indicate how fondly the skipper’s actions will be viewed in the years to come.

Military Times editor J.D. Simkins contributed to this report.

He Led a Top Navy Ship. Now He Sits in Quarantine, Fired and Infected.

Eric Schmitt and John Ismay
 

 
a man wearing a hat talking on a cell phone: Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was removed last week from command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, addressing the crew in San Diego in January. © Alexander Williams/US Navy, via Reuters Capt. Brett E. Crozier, who was removed last week from command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, addressing the crew in San Diego in January. By Sunday, friends said, he had come down with the coronavirus himself.

The military has long adhered to a rigid chain of command and tolerated no dissent expressed outside official channels. Capt. Brett E. Crozier, the skipper of the aircraft carrier, knew he was up against those imperatives when he asked for help for nearly 5,000 crew members trapped in a petri dish of a warship in the middle of a pandemic.

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But colleagues say the mistake that could cost Captain Crozier his career was charging headlong into the Trump administration’s narrative that it had everything under control.

Pentagon officials said that although President Trump never ordered Captain Crozier dismissed, he was displeased with the captain’s actions and let the Navy know — a sentiment Mr. Trump made very public on Saturday when he lashed out at the captain.

Even so, the Navy’s top brass clashed about what to do.

Adm. Michael M. Gilday, the chief of naval operations, privately urged against dismissal and argued that, per usual Navy procedures, an investigation into what went wrong on the Roosevelt should be allowed to play out. But the acting Navy secretary, Thomas B. Modly, overruled the Navy’s top admiral, saying Captain Crozier had cracked under pressure.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Sunday that he supported Mr. Modly’s decision. The Washington Post first reported the differing opinions among Navy officials.

Navy officials acknowledged on Sunday that tensions between Captain Crozier and his immediate boss, Rear Adm. Stuart P. Baker, the commander of a multiship task force including the Roosevelt, most likely complicated the Navy’s response to the viral outbreak and prompted the captain to send a four-page letter pleading for help. Officials said the letter, sent as an unclassified email, went only to other Navy personnel, but it leaked to the news media last week.

Indeed, the Navy hinted at such tensions in a statement on Sunday that the findings of the investigation into what happened aboard the Roosevelt and the chain of command in the Pacific, including its “command climate,” would be submitted to Admiral Gilday on Monday.

According to those who have known Captain Crozier for more than three decades, the picture Mr. Modly paints of their friend and classmate is not one they recognize.

Jeff Craig, who recently retired from the Navy after serving as a captain, including a tour as second in command of the Roosevelt, worked extensively with Captain Crozier after attending the Naval Academy with him. Captain Crozier became a helicopter pilot, Mr. Craig said, earning a nickname that he retained even after he transitioned to flying jets and ultimately to commanding a carrier: Chopper.

“Chopper is one of the best people I have ever known, both professionally and personally,” Mr. Craig, who now works with Amazon’s air cargo division, said in an interview Sunday.

On Sunday, Captain Crozier was in quarantine in Guam, the American territory in the Pacific, dealing with a dry, raspy cough, say people who know him. At least 400 sailors from the Roosevelt who have tested negative for the virus are expected to be sent from the ship to hotels, joining 625 other sailors who have already tested negative.

It is not known when Captain Crozier’s diagnosis was made, or whether the Navy was aware of his infection when he was removed from command, if the medical results came before his punishment.

Friends and colleagues say Captain Crozier, 50, is at peace with a decision that most likely ended a career that vaulted him from the United States Naval Academy to the prestigious job as captain of one of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers.

Captain Crozier, a native of Santa Rosa, Calif., started his career flying helicopters. He was then accepted for an exceptionally rare transfer to fly fixed-wing jet aircraft, eventually rising to command an F/A-18 Hornet fighter squadron. From there, he began climbing the nearly decade-long pipeline to command an aircraft carrier.

Captain Crozier entered the Navy’s academically daunting nuclear power school to learn how to run the twin nuclear plants at the heart of a Nimitz-class carrier like the Theodore Roosevelt. Then, he served as the second in command of the carrier Ronald Reagan, and later as the top officer of the Blue Ridge, an amphibious command ship, in Yokosuka, Japan.

But little had prepared the captain, who assumed command of the Roosevelt in November, and his crew for what happened in March.

The carrier was steaming in the western Pacific, ready to respond to any emergency involving North Korea, an emboldened Chinese Navy in the South China Sea or another emerging crisis. On March 24, two weeks after pulling out of a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam, two sailors aboard the Roosevelt tested positive for the coronavirus and were flown to Guam for treatment. Two days later, fearing the scourge of a fast-spreading virus aboard the aircraft carrier, with its cramped quarters for nearly 5,000 sailors, the ship steamed into a previously scheduled stop in Guam, which has a major Navy base and hospital.

Captain Crozier appealed to his superiors for help and Navy officials began responding, but that apparently was not enough.

The tipping point was a four-page letter dated March 30, first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday, in which Captain Crozier laid out the dire situation unfolding aboard the warship. He described what he said were the Navy’s failures to provide him with the proper resources to combat the virus by moving sailors off the vessel.

“We are not at war,” Captain Crozier wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

Back at the Pentagon was a furious Mr. Modly, who had moved up from the Navy’s No. 2 job in November after Mr. Esper demanded the resignation of his boss over his handling of the case of a Navy SEAL commando whom Mr. Trump had championed. The acting secretary told reporters last week that the Navy was rushing badly needed supplies to the Roosevelt well before the captain sent his letter to several officers in his chain of command over unclassified email. Mr. Modly said the captain had become “overwhelmed” by the crisis, and said he removed him over a loss of confidence — and not retribution for the letter. Navy officials say they do not know who leaked the letter.

But in removing from command a captain who complained that the Navy was not doing enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the Navy opened itself to criticism that it was insufficiently concerned about the health of its sailors. Even though Mr. Modly stressed that he welcomed blunt assessments from subordinate officers, the removal of Captain Crozier could have a chilling effect, several senior officers said.

Online, members of Captain Crozier’s Naval Academy class of 1992 have rallied behind their classmate. Members of the class, most of whom have long since left the military, say their private Facebook group is overflowing with posts and comments in support of the captain. “The volume of posts was almost exponential,” one classmate, Mark Roppolo, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Craig, who served with Captain Crozier, said he sent his friend an email when the coronavirus started spreading in Asia this winter, wishing him well. He said he received a reply saying thank you, but had not spoken to him since he was relieved of command.

The two men were picked for the Navy’s demanding nuclear power school together in 2012, and Captain Crozier clearly excelled.

“Nuclear power school is a crucible,” Mr. Craig said. “It’s not for the faint of heart. Chopper would stay late, study on weekends, until he could not only pass the tests but had a deep understanding of the concepts behind them.”

Mr. Craig said that during his time aboard the Roosevelt in 2015, the command regularly drilled to react to battle damage, fire and other catastrophes, but never practiced what they would do if infectious disease ravaged the tight quarters of the ship.

“Chopper always had the best interests of his crew forefront. I’m sure that was the case here,” Mr. Craig said. “Chopper’s character is not prone to hasty or uneducated decision making. Anything he did was well thought out.”

Dan Goldenberg, another Naval Academy classmate of Captain Crozier’s, said that “Modly is wrong no matter what.”

“He either made the wrong call in firing Crozier, or if he made the right call, he did a terrible job of explaining it — it’s just illogical,” said Mr. Goldenberg, a retired Navy captain and special assistant to four secretaries of the Navy.

On Sunday, friends say, Captain Crozier found himself sitting alone in the “distinguished visitors quarters” on Naval Base Guam, battling a coronavirus infection, with an unknown next step in a nearly 30-year military career.

The evacuation Captain Crozier sought for his crew is now in motion — one following the rousing send-off they gave him as he left the ship last week.

Hundreds of sailors who tested negative have been evacuated from the ship, which is being disinfected with a skeleton crew aboard to operate the nuclear reactors and other critical functions.

Quarantined sailors are not allowed to leave their rooms. Their meals are placed on the floor outside their hotel doors three times a day, and alcohol and outside food are not allowed in.

These sailors have not even been given keys to their rooms. If they try sneaking out, the doors will lock behind them and they will need a military police officer — one of whom is keeping watch on every floor — to let them back in. They do have access to Wi-Fi and cable television, and are allowed to smoke on their balconies, if their room has one.

Twice a day, hospital corpsmen — the Navy’s medics — visit each room and take the sailors’ temperatures, to watch for potential fevers.

It is not an ending any of Captain Crozier’s friends and academy classmates envisioned.

“Can you imagine devoting your whole life to the Navy as Crozier has, and you make the right call to help your crew, and this happens?” Mr. Goldenberg said. “I’m floored.”

Dave Philipps contributed reporting from Colorado Springs.

Dave Philipps contributed reporting from Colorado Springs.

Quibi’s tech lives up to the hype. The shows? That’s up to you.

Quibi's tech lives up to the hype. The shows? That's up to you.

If you have an unquenchable thirst for streamed content and a few bucks to spare each month, Quibi would like a moment of your time.

An actual moment, in this case. The short-form video app is launching Monday in the U.S. and Canada after months of attention-grabbing headlines involving its star-studded original shows. Don’t get it twisted, though — this isn’t just a Netflix competitor. The Quibi app is mobile-only, so you won’t be watching any of these shows on your TV.

If you think that seems like unfortunate timing given everything happening in the world right now, you could be right. A mobile-only streaming service may not be able to fully shine during a lockdown when hardly anyone one is particularly, well, mobile. The good news is Quibi does everything it sets out to do. Read more…

More about Tech, Tech, and Consumer Tech

Apple has sourced over 20 million protective masks, now building and shipping face shields

As it mobilizes its supply chain, employees, and partners to provide personal protective equipment to medical workers and others working to stop the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, Apple has sourced over 20 million face masks and is now building and shipping face shields, according to a statement from chief executive Tim Cook.

Apple is dedicated to supporting the worldwide response to COVID-19. We’ve now sourced over 20M masks through our supply chain. Our design, engineering, operations and packaging teams are also working with suppliers to design, produce and ship face shields for medical workers. pic.twitter.com/3xRqNgMThX

Tim Cook (@tim_cook) April 5, 2020

The company is working with governments around the world to distribute its supply of face masks to where it’s needed most.

Meanwhile, the first delivery of the company’s Apple face shields went out to Kaiser hospital facilities in the Santa Clara valley earlier this week, according to Cook.

As Cook noted, the masks pack flat and ship 100 to a box. They can be assembled in less than two minutes and are fully adjustable. Cook said that the company would ship 1 million by the end of the week and will expect to ship an additional 1 million face shields weekly, with a goal to expand distribution beyond the U.S. 

“For Apple this is a labor of love and gratitude and we will share more of our efforts over time,” Cook said. 

Apple is joining an effort that several 3D printing startups and maker facilities have already spent time working on.

In Canada, INKSmith, a startup that was making design and tech tools accessible for kids, has now moved to making face shields and is hiring up to 100 new employees to meet demand.

“I think in the short term, we’re going to scale up to meet the needs of the province soon. After that, we’re going to meet the demands of Canada,” INKSmith CEO Jeremy Hedges told the Canadian news outlet Global News.

3D-printing companies like Massachusetts-based Markforged and Formlabs and Brooklyn’s Voodoo Manufacturing are all making personal protective equipment like face shields in the US.