US Acting Navy Secretary resigns

Thomas Modly resigns amid controversial dismissal of captain who warned about coronavirus-stricken vessel.

Ben Ariel ,

US Navy ships
US Navy ships

US Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned on Tuesday following his mishandling of an outbreak of the coronavirus on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced, according to AFP.

Modly stepped down five days after removing the Roosevelt's captain, Brett Crozier, for writing a letter, which was leaked to the media, describing the virus-struck vessel's dire situation and alleging the Pentagon was not paying adequate attention to it.

Modly sparked outrage Monday after he flew from Washington to Guam, where the warship is docked to defend his actions to the crew.

In a forceful, profanity-laced speech he accused Crozier of "betrayal", called him "too naive or too stupid," and suggested the sailors' love for him was misplaced.

Hours later Modly issued an apology, but President Donald Trump publicly questioned Crozier's treatment and said he would get directly involved.

Modly "resigned of his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward," Esper said in a statement quoted by AFP.

Esper added that Modly's replacement as acting Navy secretary will be current Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson, a retired admiral.

The removal of Crozier was seen as heavy-handed and decided too quickly, before an investigation was carried out.

Before he questioned Crozier's treatment, Trump last week denounced him during a press briefing at the White House.

“He wrote a letter. A five-page letter from a captain. And the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Trump said.

“It looked terrible what he did. To write a letter. I mean this isn’t a class on literature. This is the captain of a massive ship … he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter,” added the President.

Trump also chided Crozier for allowing the ship to stop in Vietnam as the outbreak was growing worldwide and said he agreed “100%” with the Navy’s decision to oust him.