Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
The great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt penned an opinion column in defense of the commander of the US Navy aircraft carrier who was relieved of his command on Thursday, Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
Tweed Roosevelt, who leads the Theodore Roosevelt Institute at Long Island University, wrote the column published in the New York Times, titled “Captain Crozier Is A Hero.” In it, he explains that Crozier “risked” his career and “deserved our deepest gratitude.”
The US Navy announced Crozier's dismissal on Thursday, three days after the San Francisco Chronicle published a leaked letter he addressed to Navy leaders. In the four-page letter, Crozier urged a “political solution” and “immediate and decisive action” as his crew dealt with the coronavirus outbreak. Now, 137 sailors of the ship's roughly 4,800 crew members have been diagnosed with the coronavirus as of Friday.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote in his letter. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.”
In removing Crozier during the crew's shift ashore for quarantining, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said he did not know how the letter was leaked to the media but noted the captain should not have sent a “blast out” email to 20 or 30 recipients.
“The letter was sent over non-secure, unclassified email even though that ship possesses some of the most sophisticated communications and encryption equipment in the fleet,” Modly said Thursday.
Tweed Roosevelt reasoned that Crozier's actions were justified because he “felt he had to act immediately if he was to save his sailors.”
“I suppose it is too much to hope that the Navy, if only for its own benefit, will see its way to reverse this unfortunate decision,” Roosevelt wrote. “But it is probably too late to save Captain Crozier's career.”
Roosevelt wrote that he believed his great-grandfather, who commanded troops during the Spanish-American War in 1898, would have agreed with Crozier. The late Roosevelt dealt with a yellow fever and malaria outbreak within the ranks and wanted to bring his troops home, despite the then-secretary of war's opposition. Theodore then wrote a letter to news organizations, which widely published its contents, prompting the secretary of war to bring the troops to New York.
“In this era when so many seem to place expediency over honor, it is heartening that so many others are showing great courage, some even risking their lives,” Roosevelt wrote. “Theodore Roosevelt, in his time, chose the honorable course. Captain Crozier has done the same.”
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