Why A USN Destroyer Fired On A Commercial Fishing Boat Off The Coast Of North Carolina


From the Navy Times:

Fisherman Jimmie Eady was packing the afternoon’s catch of red grouper and triggerfish into the hold of his 35-foot-long boat on Aug. 17 when he heard the first round hit.

It landed with a thunderclap in the Atlantic Ocean about 75 feet from Zig-Zag, Eady’s commercial fishing boat, which had been fishing roughly 48 miles off the North Carolina coast. The round kicked up a splash large enough to soak Zig-Zag’s deck and canopy. The impact jarred the boat.

Then, moments later, came another roar. This one splashed closer. And another.

The hits encircled the boat, raising a shroud of spray. After a momentary shock, Eady and his two crew members realized they were being bombarded by the deck gun of one of the Navy warships about eight miles away.

“Cease fire! Cease fire!” Eady shouted into his VHF radio as more 5-inch gun rounds pounded the water. “You’re gonna kill us!”

A round landed 20 feet off the bow, Eady recalled, right as the warships began to repeat “cease fire” on bridge-to-bridge channel 16. The gun fell silent. Fourteen inert rounds had been fired. Zig-Zag wasn’t damaged and no one was hurt — the immediate aftermath was “just some shook-up fishermen,” Eady later recounted. The 49-year-old fisherman pulled up the anchor and gunned the motor, steering away from the warships.

Eady and his crew had become the inadvertent target of the destroyer The Sullivans, which was conducting a gunnery exercise against what it thought was a towed target in the Cherry Point Operating Area off North Carolina. After an investigation into the incident, the destroyer’s commanding officer was fired Sept. 7 — which was to be the ship’s deployment date — and the ship was ordered to recertify under a new CO. The new requirement delayed the ship’s deployment, forcing the Navy to extend the deployment of the cruiser Monterey, a ballistic-missile defense ship in 6th Fleet that has already been deployed for six months.

Cmdr. Mark Olson was relieved by Vice Adm. Daniel Holloway, 2nd Fleet commander. “Olson’s failure to follow established procedures resulted in USS The Sullivans targeting a civilian fishing vessel, which was mistaken for a towed target that The Sullivans was directed to engage,” the Navy said in a Sept. 7 news release.

The full story is here.


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