A US Navy captain has been stripped of her command for “drag racing” two US Navy destroyers in waters off Okinawa, risking high-speed collision.
Captain Holly Graf of the USS Cowpens, a 10,000 ton US Navy Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, is said to have issued a command to race the USS John S. McCain, an 8,200 ton Arleigh-Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, in order to “test their mettle.”
The ensuing “drag race” saw both vessels steaming at “full throttle” through waters near Okinawa, probably at their top speeds of “over” 30 knots (55kph).
A sailor aboard claimed the vessels were placed in critical danger:
“At one point we nearly hit the McCain’s fantail when the ships came within 300 feet. I held my breath and prayed to God we wouldn’t collide because many sailors could have been killed and at least one Navy warship sunk at sea.”
Reportedly Captain Graf ordered her crew not to sound collision alarms.
Admiralty bosses issued a “punitive letter of reprimand” stripping her of command, although she was already due to “transfer” off the vessel to other duties – other allegations leveled against her included bullying her crew and improperly ordering her subordinates to perform such tasks as walking her dog.
The previous year the same joyriding captain allegedly ran over and killed a whale, forbidding her crew from photographing the dead creature.
Critics claim that racing nimble naval vessels is part of naval tradition and that her only sin was to have a crew which lost its nerve. Others contend that she was improperly “fast tracked” to her current rank by a navy keen to have its first female cruiser captain.