Donald V. Watkins
Thomas Modly Resigns Under Pressure
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on April 10, 2020
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after calling Capt. Brett Crozier, the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, "stupid" for pleading with his superiors for permission to dock his aircraft carrier in Guam after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus aboard his ship. Within a week, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases aboard the aircraft carrier skyrocketed from 2 to 177 sailors. Today, this number stands at 416, with one of the ship's sailors in an intensive care unit fighting for his life.
Modly disgraced himself by firing Capt. Crozier a week ago after U.S. media organizations published a copy of the commander's memo pleading with his superiors for permission to dock his ship as the virus quickly spread throughout the aircraft carrier while it was at sea. Modly and other Naval officials in Washington procrastinated in their response to Crozier's plea for help. Capt. Crozier, who has tested positive for the virus, was promptly fired by Modly after the ship docked last week.
While departing from the aircraft carrier for the last time, most of the ship's 5,000 sailors gave Crozier a cheering ovation for saving their lives. Modly was livid. He flew to Guam and boarded the aircraft carrier last weekend. Once on board the ship, Modly angrily and profanely criticized Capt. Crozier. After Modly called Crozier "stupid" and used other highly critical language to describe Crozier's brave actions, his speech over the ship's public address system fueled anger on the ship, at the Pentagon, and on Capital Hill.
On Monday, Thomas Modly, under pressure from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, issued a half-ass apology for his remarks aboard the ship. He resigned immediately after issuing his apology.
President Donald Trump, who had initially backed Modly's firing of Capt. Crozier, called his remarks "rough" during Trump's coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. Trump also pledged to review the case.
Modly's resignation had an immediate and positive effect on sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Morale within the Navy would be enhanced if Trump directs Mr. Esper to reinstate Capt. Crozier to his command of the aircraft carrier.
Capt. Crozier has not commented on the controversy. He has been hailed by his sailors and the public as a genuine American hero. Crozier was willing to sacrifice his career in order to save his sailors. He exhibited courageous leadership under extremely difficult circumstances at sea.
Modly, a Naval Academy graduate and former helicopter pilot, became undersecretary of the Navy in 2017. He was promoted to the position of Acting Secretary after Mr. Esper dismissed Navy Secretary Richard Spenser for approving the war-crimes trial of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher. Trump later pardoned Gallagher after he was convicted of lesser offenses.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has initiated an internal probe into the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and Capt. Crozier's conduct in pleading for help. The investigation is expected to be completed within a few weeks. If the probe is not "rigged" by top Navy brass, Capt. Crozier will be cleared of any breaches of the Navy's standards of conduct for commanding officers.
As of Friday, there were 488,903 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and 17,995 deaths from the virus in the country. There is no further word on Capt. Crozier's medical condition.