Navy recognizes USS McCain sailors who helped save ship after deadly collision
By STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2019
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Fifty USS John S. McCain sailors have been recognized for bravery and damage-control efforts two years after the destroyer’s deadly collision with a commercial vessel near Singapore.
Seven McCain crew members who attended a ceremony aboard the ship Wednesday were presented with medals by U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino and 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, a Navy statement said.
“To commemorate on this ship what these men and women did is both notable and fitting, because the memory of their actions represents the toughness and pride of our Navy,” Aquilino said, according to the statement. “It also helps remind the next generation of Sailors the moral character, personal sacrifice, and selfless commitment required to not give up the ship.”
Confusion among watch-standers on the night of Aug. 21, 2017, led to a loss of steering control, and the ship crossed in front of a commercial tanker, which slammed into a berthing area on the McCain’s port side, killing 10 sailors. It was the second of two fatal collisions involving 7th Fleet ships that summer.
Cmdr. Ryan Easterday — who took charge of the McCain during a ceremony last week attended by the late Sen. John McCain’s widow, Cindy McCain, and two of his children — said untold stories of heroism as sailors scrambled to save the flooding vessel make up the “second, more positive half of a painful chapter in the ship’s history.”
“This morning you will hear about a crew, that in the midst of chaos and calamity, displayed exceptional initiative, technical competence, teamwork, grit, determination, and an unconquerable spirt,” he said, according to the statement.
Overall, the Navy said, seven sailors were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the services’ highest noncombat decoration awarded for heroism; 15 were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal; and 28 received the Navy Achievement Medal.
The ship spent 11 months in dry dock at Yokosuka undergoing repairs before it moved to the base pier in November. The Navy has not announced when it will return to sea, but former McCain skipper Cmdr. Micha Murphy said during last week’s change-of-command ceremony that it would “finally get underway this fall.”