Is USS Theodore Roosevelt’s Capt. Brett Crozier a hero or a disloyal US Navy officer?

The Navy has fired the captain of the USS Roosevelt after publication of the captain’s four-page letter, wherein he pleaded for help and complained that the Navy was not doing enough to protect his crew. Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly criticized him for not informing his superiors and “going outside the chain of command.”


Whether he is viewed in the long-term as a martyred hero or disloyal subordinate depends a lot on what the captain told the people above him and whether he was complicit in leaking the letter. The controversy also reflects a broader debate about the balance between force protection and military readiness. At a time when the United States is not at war, as the captain pointed out, should the military just focus on staying healthy?

Many are already familiar with a broad outlines of the USS Roosevelt‘s troubles. The ship conducted a port visit in Vietnam in late February, but soon after getting underway again discovered that it had cases of COVID-19 on board. It headed to Guam, a U.S. territory. The plan was to tie up at the pier, remove sick sailors, and test the crew. The ship would remain “operational” and not return home.

Captain Brett Crozier wrote a four-page letter saying this was not enough and that most of the crew needed to disembark so they could be effectively quarantined. “We are not at war and therefore cannot allow a single sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.” The San Francisco Chronicle obtained a copy of the letter and published it. The Roosevelt’s plight became a national issue. On April 2 Acting Secretary Modly relieved Captain Crozier of command.

Many see the captain as a martyr for trying to protect his crew in the face of an administration that did not take the pandemic seriously enough. The captain’s letter makes a strong and persuasive argument that the Navy’s plan would not work and that such failure would endanger his crew. His crew gave him a hero’s send-off when he left the ship after being relieved. Members of Congress and many in the press have expressed their support for the captain.

On the other hand, there are reports that the captain surprised many in the chain of command, who believed they were dealing with the ship’s problems and doing what the captain had requested. CONTINUE READING THIS INTERESTING ANALYSIS HERE