SAN DIEGO -- The commander of a U.S. Navy warship that ran aground in Hawaii in January faces a court-martial on charges he was drunk when the accident occurred.
Willard G. Chrisman, 42, skipper of the amphibious assault ship Thomaston, faces dismissal from the Navy and 13 years confinement at hard labor if convicted.
He is accused of being drunk on duty, negligently damaging government property, negligently hazarding a vessel by operating the ship in an unsafe condition, dereliction of duty and knowingly releasing an official Navy message containing false information.
Chrisman, who has spent more than 20 years in the service, was relieved of his command in June and assigned to shore duty in Japan after the Navy launched a formal investigation into the grounding. He has since been transferred to a desk job in San Diego, said Cmdr. Ron Morse, a Navy spokesman.
Chrisman was not punished after the Navy's initial review of the incident, which failed to mention the possibility of alcohol being involved.
Morse said the decision to court-martial Chrisman was made Friday by Vice Admn. Harry C. Schrader Jr., commander of the Navy's surface forces in the Pacific. Schrader made the decision after reviewing the findings of a full-scale investigation.
The court-martial will be held in San Diego, Morse said, but he did not know when the trial would begin.
Repairs to the Thomaston, the oldest of 65 amphibious warships in active U.S. service, cost about $280,000. The ship is due to be mothballed in September.