Removed from Old Ironsides

Removed from Old Ironsides

The captain of the USS Constitution was removed from command by the Navy yesterday. What do you have to do to lose your superior’s “trust and confidence” in commanding an 18th century warship that leaves the pier once a year to turn around in the harbor?

To compound the mystery, Commander Thomas Graves was due to hand over command to his replacement in July anyway.

The Navy isn’t giving details, but from my perspective it must be the sort of thing that isn’t criminal, but is a serious breach of conduct or ethics. On frontline warships a captain can be relieved for letting his ship fall out of combat readiness or even for the failings of a subordinate. For example, if the officer on duty overnight runs the ship aground while the captain is asleep, the captain still loses his job. The saying is that a captain can delegate authority, but not responsibility. He’s responsible for ensuring that his ship and crew are always operating within required parameters.

Now the Constitution isn’t going to be running aground or failing combat readiness tests, but she is an historic landmark, a national treasure, and an educational establishment. Still, if Graves had let the ship fall behind in one of those areas, I think the Navy would avoid public embarrassment and let him serve out the last two months of his tour.

Old Ironsides is perhaps my favorite attraction in Boston, a city full of historical attractions, which is why this catches my eye.

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