Doctors on USS Theodore Roosevelt warned that dozens of sailors could die the same day Capt. Crozier wrote his desperate plea

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59), centre, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) transit in formation. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anthony J. Rivera
  • Four doctors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt warned in a March 30 memo that dozens of sailors could die if the ship was not immediately evacuated, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The memo was sent the same day Capt. Brett Crozier, then the commanding officer of the aircraft carrier, sent a letter warning of a worsening situation aboard the ship and calling on the Navy to take decisive action.
  • The USS Theodore Roosevelt set sail Wednesday after being stuck in port in Guam for nearly two months as the crew battled a coronavirus outbreak that ultimately saw numerous sailors contract the virus.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Doctors on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt warned in a March memo that dozens of sailors would die of the coronavirus if the ship was not evacuated immediately, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The memo, which was reviewed by the WSJ, was sent to Navy medical officials the same day Capt. Brett Crozier wrote the letter that later resulted in the loss of his command.

The ship’s chief medical officer and three other doctors wrote to the Navy’s surgeon general and other senior medical officials on March 30, stating that the “time has come for aggressive measures to be taken.”

The Navy revealed on March 24 that coronavirus was spreading aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. What began as only a few cases quickly grew into a serious problem, and the aircraft carrier was forced into port in Guam. Carrier sailors work, eat and sleep in close quarters making adequate social distancing nearly impossible with the full crew on board – but it was also not a routine or easy task to quickly move sailors off-ship to rooms where they can quarantine.

The carrier’s doctors reportedly explained in their memo that “the only solution to save the lives of sailors is to immediately get everyone off the ship into appropriate isolation or quarantine,” stressing that “there is no other option.”

The ship’s medical professionals believed that failure to evacuate the ship would result in roughly 1% of 4,800 crew and embarked sailors – an estimated 48 people – would die dying as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. “We will not stand by while our fellow sailors continue to be exposed to this fatal virus,” they wrote.

The New York Times reported in April that doctors estimated that more than 50 sailors might die. The memo’s details were previously unreported.

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, the Navy surgeon general, reportedly responded to the letter, telling the doctors that the Navy was taking steps to address the situation.

Brett Crozier Theodore Roosevelt
Capt. Brett Crozier, commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, addresses the crew during an all-hands call on the ship’s flight deck, November 14, 2019. US Navy/MCS 3rd Class Nicholas Huynh

The one-page memo written by the ship’s medical staff was sent the same day Crozier, then the carrier’s commanding officer, sent an email with a four-page memo attached to several high-ranking Navy leaders, as well as some other Navy officials.

He wrote that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating” and urged the Navy to get most of the ship’s sailors ashore as soon as possible, adding that “sailors do not need to die.”

The Navy had begun to move sailors off the ship in late March, but not as quickly as Crozier apparently felt was needed to stop the virus’ spread.

Crozier was relieved of his command on April 2 after the letter leaked to the press. Then-acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly, who fired Crozier, would resign less than a week later after berating the officer to his former crew.

In the days and weeks that followed, the number of cases aboard the carrier continued to climb. The Navy was ultimately forced to move more than 4,000 sailors ashore as the number of cases rose to nearly 1,200.

The carrier saw one death, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who succumbed to the virus following placement in the ICU after being found unresponsive in isolation.

The Navy is conducting an investigation into the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the actions of the ship’s former captain, and other related issues.

The carrier, after sitting in port for nearly two months, finally set sail Wednesday with a few thousand sailors, leaving some behind on Guam to be picked up at a later date.