WASHINGTON -- The Navy took punitive disciplinary action Wednesday against two USS Iowa officers for deficiencies found aboard the ship after an explosion that killed 47 men, but only admonished the captain and operations officer.
All four officers, charged with dereliction of duty, went before an admiral's mast, a non-judicial form of inquiry, for lax procedures found during the Navy's investigation into the battleship's gun blast April 19.
The Navy announced that, as a result of the inquiry, it took 'administrative measures' against the commanding officer, Capt. Fred Moosally, and the chief operations officer. The Navy refused to name the chief operations officer but a Navy source identified him as Cmdr. Robert Finney.
The source explained the punishment was a 'non-punitive letter of admonition that does not go into their service records.'
The Navy insisted the action taken against Moosally was not a 'slap on the wrist,' noting that the Navy's investigation into the explosion had found there was no link between the blast, and the ship's training and management deficiencies.
Vice Adm. Joseph Donnell, who conducted the admiral's mast, 'was required to separate the larger tragedy from the process of determining accountability for administrative training, safety and ordnance handling deficiences,' the Navy said.
The Navy said the Iowa's unidentified weapons officer was given a 'punitive letter of admonition,' which goes into his service record and could affect his career, and suspended forfeiture of $1,000 pay per month for two months.
The forfeited pay is suspended for six months, meaning he will not lose the money if he remains on good behavior for six months.
Likewise, the unidentified master chief petty officer was given a punitive letter of admonition and ordered to forfeit $500 per month for two months, with the forfeiture suspended for six months.
A Navy source identifed the weapons officer as Cmdr. Robert Kissinger and the chief petty officer as Stephen Skelly.
The Navy said Moosally and the others were not treated with the same severity because 'the subordinates were held accountable for deficiencies in their specifically assigned duties.'
'The commanding officer was judged on the adequacy of overall command policies and oversight of overall shipwide practices,' a Navy statement said.
The admiral's mast was conducted following a Navy investigation by Rear Adm. Richard Milligan into the explosion in the Iowa's No. 2 gun turret while the ship was test firing its 16-inch guns in the Atlantic Ocean.
Milligan's investigation concluded that gunner's mate Clayton Hartwig, a gun captain in turret No. 2, 'most likely' caused the explosion by inserting a detonator between two powder bags that were rammed into the gun barrel behind the shell.
Hartwig and 46 other men were killed in the blast.
Milligan, in his report, also cited numerous lax procedures aboard the Iowa, including unauthorized experimentation with extra-strength powder charges and projectile loads. He said officers failed to qualify sailors for specific duties in the gun turret and that safety procedures were circumvented.
Milligan recommended that the Navy consider relieving Moosally, the weapons officer and the gunnery officer of their duties and that further disciplinary or judicial action be taken against them. He also recommended disciplinary or judicial action against the master chief petty officer.
But Milligan's superiors, including Donnell, decided that the men should receive non-judicial punishment -- a far less severe procedure than court-martial.
Donnell argued in his section of the investigation on the explosion that the infractions aboard the Iowa amounted to 'a failure of leadership' on the captain's part, but were a 'marked departure from otherwise outstanding performance.'
The Iowa was in port at Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday.
Moosally, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, whose 45th birthday is Thursday, assumed command of the Iowa in May 1988.