US Navy chief resigns after firing captain of coronavirus-stricken aircraft

Former acting Secretary of the US Navy Thomas Modly (File pic)

Washington DC [USA], April 8 (ANI): Acting Secretary of the US Navy, Thomas Modly, resigned on Tuesday after he was forced to step down for firing an aircraft carrier captain, who had alarmed the high-ranking officials about a novel coronavirus outbreak on board and pleaded for help.
Modly's resignation comes a little more than a week after Capt. Brett Crozier, the then-commanding officer of USS Theodore Roosevelt, sent a memo warning of coronavirus spreading among the sailors on the aircraft carrier. The memo leaked and Modly subsequently removed Crozier from command.
Modly flew to Guam to address the ship, insulting Crozier to thousands of sailors who had given their former captain a standing ovation as he left the ship days before, CNN reported.
The audio of that address was leaked to media outlets and the uproar over Modly's remarks -- calling Crozier "too naive or too stupid" to be in command of the aircraft carrier and saying that going outside of the chain-of-command with his memo represented a "betrayal" -- quickly made his position untenable.
In his resignation letter, Modly, however, did not mention the controversy but later apologized to the whole of the Navy for the incident in a memo.
Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in a letter that he accepted Modly's resignation on Tuesday morning.
"I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused," he wrote in a written apology, adding "I also want to apologize directly to Captain Crozier, his family, and the entire crew of the Theodore Roosevelt for any pain my remarks may have caused."
Crozier sent a five-page internal letter last week to higher-ranking officials in the chain of command, pleading for help from the Pentagon to contain a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Roosevelt by transferring 90 per cent of the crew onto Guam for quarantine. The letter led to his removal announced last Thursday by Modly.
"I believe, precisely because he is not naive and stupid, that he sent his alarming email with the intention of getting it into the public domain in an effort to draw public attention to the situation on his ship," Modly wrote Monday, backtracking from his previous assertions.
"Sadly, Acting Secretary Modly's actions and words demonstrate his failure to prioritize the force protection of our troops," Pelosi said in a written statement Tuesday. "He showed a serious lack of the sound judgment and strong leadership needed during this time. Acting Secretary Modly must be removed from his position or resign."
Some 173 sailors on board the Roosevelt tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Monday, including Crozier himself, according to media reports. Approximately 2,000 of the roughly 5,000 crew members have disembarked the ship, nearing the 2,700 tally planned for evacuation due to the virus outbreak.
Acting Undersecretary of the Army James McPherson has been tapped to succeed Modly in an acting capacity, Xinhua news agency reported after citing several American media outlets. (ANI)

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