Defending America
David Hackworth
7 Oct 97


Petty Officer Nick D. Baker, Jr. was booted out of the U.S. Navy last month. A service he, his father and grandfather had served in with distinction during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

Worse yet, this 12-year veteran got the ax from the Navy when he was virtually lying on the operating table about to have a potentially cancerous growth on his thyroid cut out. A growth, according to Navy doctors, that might have been caused by the nuclear reactors on the Trident submarines he'd served on or around.

Baker served about seven years on nuclear submarines followed by three years of shore duty as a maintenance trouble shooter where he spent a lot of time around nuclear boats that were being repaired. Strangely, the Navy's policy is not to provide radiation-monitoring devices while doing this work even though the risk is potentially greater than during sea duty.

Navy logic at its best?

Navy doctors raised all kinds of hell about Baker being pushed out of the Navy four days before his scheduled surgery. They rightly felt with his fast-growing tumor it was imperative to cut it out immediately and that the Navy had a sacred obligation to take care of him.

Besides a sailor in distress, there are other issues here. Could the Trident's reactor or its multiple nuclear warheads be leaking? How many other submariners could be exposed? How many other sick sailors could there be out there? How many communities in America and around the world could be in danger of radiation poisoning?

Perhaps this is why Baker was out-processed and discharged faster than you could say "Join the Navy. It always take care of its own."

Navy officers allege that Commander M. A. Dimmick, Group Executive Officer, Commander Clinton H. Craig, Captain of the USS Ohio (Gold), and some of his officers are guilty of lying, falsifying and tampering with documents and creating phony charges. Smears which caused highly decorated Petty Officer Baker to be drummed from the service under dubious conditions virtually in the dark of night.

The Navy is now admitting that errors have been made in Baker's record breaking out-processing and Baker has been inundated with information from his USS Ohio crew members, who have provided him with a sea bag full of material concerning the hosing his Captain gave him. They know, but for the grace of God, this could have happened to them.

This is the same captain who slammed another sailor from the USS Ohio in the brig for three days, on bread and water. In the same Submarine Group (Group 9, out of Bangor, Washington), the captain of the USS Florida (Blue) was recently relieved for similar harsh treatment of his crew. The Group 9 Commander, Admiral P.F. Sullivan, said he had 'lost trust and confidence" in the USS Florida captain's leadership.

This kind of inhumanity may have been standard drill in John Paul Jone's Navy, but it's not something one would expect of today's leadership. Especially the kind of leadership needed on nuclear subs where the Captain is a law unto himself and is solely in charge of the most destructive weapons ever known to humankind. Not exactly the job for a Captain Philip Francis Queeg type who with the help of another twisted officer, could destroy Planet Earth with the push of a button.

Ironically, Baker, who goes under the knife at a Veteran's hospital this week, was commended just before he was cashiered from the Navy for saving the submarine force $80,000. Two years earlier, he'd received another commendation for saving the Navy $42 million a year.

The Air Force just grounded all of its airplanes for a day to try to stop them from falling out of the sky. Perhaps the Navy should dry-dock every nuclear submarine, check them for radiation leaks and run a battery of psychological tests on every skipper to see if there are any more Captain Queegs out there.

Petty Officer Baker should be reinstated and a number of officers from the USS Ohio, starting with its captain, should swing from the yardarm. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy should go back to looking after its own like it did when Chester Nimitz, Arleigh Burke, and James Webb skippered the fleet.

The end