A man descends alone at night the bridge that connects the nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt at a wharf on the island of Guam, in the Pacific, Friday April 3. Vigorous chants and rhythmic applause accompany him: ” Cap-tain Cro-zier! Cap-tain Cro-zier! ” At the bottom of the bridge, a vehicle is waiting for him. Brett Crozier turns and briefly salutes the crew he sought to save from the coronavirus, precipitating his dismissal.
The story begins four days earlier, on March 30. The commander alerts the Pentagon. After a stopover in Vietnam, its aircraft carrier, which has been anchoring since March 28 in Guam, was caught up by the Covid-19 pandemic. The origin of the contagion cannot be identified with certainty, but a hundred sailors have already been affected. The disease is likely to spread among the four thousand crew members and he does not have the means necessary to halt its progression.
Brett Crozier pleads in favor of the evacuation of the sick, and more than half of the crew so that it is placed in quarantine, this while the building must nevertheless be operational at all times. “ It is a necessary risk, he believes. This requires a political decision, but that is what we have to do. We are not at war. Sailors don’t have to die. If we do not act now, we will not be able to properly take care of our most precious asset, our men. “
The requirements of the operation of the aircraft carrier are in fact incompatible with compliance with the containment measures which are becoming widespread at the same time in the United States to fight against the coronavirus. The building, however, has a gigantic space with its 18,000 square meter runway, as with all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, but its use is strictly limited. The vessel is therefore no more suitable for fighting coronavirus than a cruise ship.
“We are not at war. Sailors don’t have to die “
The commander’s missive takes the Pentagon by surprise, which dithers. In the meantime, the letter reaches San Francisco Chronicle, which publishes it on March 31. Two days later, the acting Navy chief, Thomas Modly, announced his dismissal. “ We may not be at war in the traditional sense of the word, but neither are we completely at peace. And we ask our commanders to exercise judgment, maturity, leadership and calm under pressure “He continues, questioning” very poor judgment in times of crisis “And considering that the commander of the Theodore Roosevelt moreover, did not follow the procedures for informing his hierarchy.