USS Fitzgerald Sailors Missing & Collision: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know


uss fitzgerald

The U.S.S. Fitzgerald. (US 7th Fleet/Twitter)

Seven U.S. Navy sailors are missing at sea after the USS Fitzgerald, a Navy destroyer, collided with a merchant vessel near Yokosuka, Japan.

The Japanese Coast Guard and the ship, despite the damage and flooding it suffered in the collision, were searching for the missing sailors, whose names had not yet been released, according to NBC News.

“There are seven Sailors unaccounted for; the ship and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement on June 16.

The cause of the collision has not been released. So far, there is no indication of any terrorism connection or intentional ramming. The incident is too fluid and new.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. A Container Vessel From the Philippines Ran Into the Destroyer

The Navy destroyer is a hard thing to miss: It’s 505 feet long.

According to NBC News, the destroyer “collided with a Philippine container vessel at approximately 2:30 a.m. Saturday local time (1:30 p.m. ET Friday), about 56 nautical miles of Yokosuka.”

The container ship was called the ACX Crystal, according to the Navy.

“U.S. and Japanese support from the Navy, Maritime Self Defense Force and Coast Guard are in the area to ensure that the Sailors on USS Fitzgerald have the resources they need to stabilize their ship. As more information is learned, we will be sure to share to it with the Fitzgerald families and when appropriate the public. Thank you for your well wishes and messages of concern. All of our thoughts and prayers are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families,” said Adm. John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.

2. The Captain Was Injured & Airlifted From the Destroyer

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Bryce Benson. (US Navy)

Cmdr. Bryce Benson, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, was injured in the collision and “transferred to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka and is reportedly in stable condition,” according to the U.S. 7th Fleet.

In addition to the captain and those missing, two sailors suffered injuries. “2 Sailors in addition to Cmdr. Benson have been medevac’d from FITZ to USNH-Yokosuka for lacerations & bruises,” reported the U.S. 7th Fleet.

According to the Navy, Benson is a Wisconsin native.

“A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, CDR Bryce Benson graduated from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1999 and earned his commission through the Naval ROTC program,” the Navy says.

CDR Benson’s initial sea tours were on the pre-commissioned ship USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and USS Kauffman (FFG 59) “where he deployed to the 5th Fleet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” the Navy says. “In 2006, he was assigned as the Weapons Officer on USS FORREST SHERMAN (DDG 98) and participated in the maiden deployment to the 6th Fleet Area of Operations. In 2007, CDR Benson screened for the early command program and subsequently served as the Executive Officer then as Commanding Officer of USS GUARDIAN (MCM 5), forward deployed from Sasebo Japan, 2008-2010.”

Ashore, reported the Navy, Benson was selected for the Navy’s Washington D.C. Internship Program “where he earned a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from The George Washington University and served internships on the Navy Staff, Joint Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In 2010, CDR Benson was assigned to the Navy Personnel Command, Surface Warfare Distribution (PERS 41) as the Placement Coordinator for Amphibious and Mine Warfare Forces. In 2013, he reported to the U.S. Pacific Command where he served as the Executive Assistant to the Director for Operations (J3) and as an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Staff Officer (J36).”

In November 2015, Benson “reported as the Executive Officer of USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) forward deployed from Yokosuka, Japan as part of the Surface Navy’s Command Fleet Up program,” the Navy said.

3. Videos & Photos Show the Damage to the Massive Ship

According to the Navy, it wasn’t unusual for the ship to be sailing that close to Japan. The damage was captured on many videos and photos, including aerial views broadcast on Japanese television.

“The Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups conduct maritime training operations with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, JS Hyuga (DDH 181) and JS Ashigara (DDG178),” the 7th Fleet explained. “JMSDF and U.S. Navy forces routinely train together to improve interoperability and readiness to provide stability and security for the Indo-Asia Pacific region.”

4. There Is a Massive Search Underway for the Missing Sailors

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said the Navy is determined to find the seven missing at sea.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors,” said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”

5. The USS Dewey & Naval Aircraft Are Assisting the Japanese Coast Guard in the Search

Although Fitzgerald is under her own power, “USS Dewey (DDG 105) got underway this morning as well as several U.S. Navy aircraft, and will join Japanese Coast Guard and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopters, ships and aircraft to render whatever assistance may be required,” wrote the U.S. 7th Fleet.