U.S. Navy Recognizes Crew of USS McCain for Saving the Ship

Adm. John Aquilino, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet awards Chief Damage Controlman Doyle Ebarb (USN)

Published Jul 10, 2019 8:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

In a ceremony in Yokosuka on Wednesday, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. John Aquilino recognized 50 members of the crew of the destroyer USS John S. McCain for their efforts to save their vessel after McCain's collision with a merchant tanker in 2017.

“To commemorate on this ship what these men and women did is both notable and fitting, because the memory of their actions represent the toughness and pride of our Navy,” said Adm. Aquilino. “It also helps remind the next generation of Sailors the moral character, personal sacrifice, and selfless commitment required to not give up the ship.” 

On the morning of August 21, 2017, the McCain was transiting the Strait of Singapore when her bridge team became confused about the status of the ship's helm and throttle controls. The team lost situational awareness, and before they could recover, the destroyer veered to port and collided with the merchant tanker Alnic MC. The tanker's bow punctured McCain's hull below the waterline, killing ten sailors in a belowdecks berthing compartment. The surviving crew fought back against progressive flooding in multiple compartments for hours. Despite the danger from flooding, electrocution, structural damage and noxious fumes, they prevented further loss of life and ultimately saved the ship.

In recognition of their actions, seven of McCain's sailors were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, 15 received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and 28 received the Navy Achievement Medal. Additionally, USS McCain ombudsmen Lakela Granados and Kathleen Hoar received the Superior Public Service Award for providing support for the crew and their families after the casualty. 

Drydock repairs for the McCain's hull and her port side shaft were completed at Fleet Activities Yokosuka in late November, and she is currently alongside the pier at the base while restoration continues. Repairing McCain at the Navy's forward base in Japan has required cooperation from across the service's maintenance and engineering community, along with support from defense shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. The work is expected to be complete in late 2019.