US Navy 7th Fleet commander dismissed after a series of ship collisions

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander, US Naval 7th Fleet, speaks with sailors in Busan, South Korea. US Navy

US Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the three-star commander of the US 7th Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan, is reportedly being relieved of duty, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday, citing officials who pointed to a series of ship collisions and the deaths of several Navy sailors under his command.

Although Aucoin was scheduled to retire in a few weeks, the Navy’s strict adherence to customs and traditions dictate that commanders be relieved of duty when superiors lose confidence in their leadership, The Journal reported.

The news follows the collision between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters early Monday. The collision tore a hole into the destroyer’s left rear hull. Ten sailors disappeared. Though exact numbers remain unclear, search-and-rescue divers found the remains of some sailors in sealed compartments on the vessel, according to the Associated Press.

The McCain collision followed another fatal collision in June involving the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial container ship, killing seven sailors. Both the Fitzgerald’s executive officer and senior enlisted sailor were dismissed following the incident.

Following the McCain collision, the Navy said that it would put an “operational pause” on all Navy vessels and ordered a broad investigation. Four accidents involving ships have occurred in the western Pacific since February, according to The New York Times.