Thomas Modly
Former Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. Navy photo

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned on Tuesday, one day after his controversial address to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt was leaked.

During the address over the San Diego-based ship’s public address system, Modly called fired Capt. Brett Crozier “stupid” for not realizing a letter pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak might be leaked.

The secretary’s remarks came just days after hundreds of crew members gathered on the hanger deck to cheer Crozier as he left the ship in Guam.

Crozier, who reportedly has coronavirus now, had pleaded in the letter for the Navy to arrange shore housing on Guam for uninfected members of the crew to halt the spread of the virus in the close quarters of the giant warship.

“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors,” he wrote.

The letter was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle, after which Crozier was relieved of duty and is now assigned to a headquarters post in San Diego.

“I understand you may be angry with me for the rest of your lives. I guarantee you won’t be alone,” Modly told the crew. “But being angry is not your duty. Your duty is to each other and to this ship and to the nation that built it for you to protect them. Even in an unexpected crisis, it is the mission of this ship that matters.”

Modly defended his remarks to the crew, then publicly apologized, before finally offering his resignation on Tuesday.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper issued a statement Tuesday afternoon in which he confirmed accepting that resignation.

“He resigned on 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 wrote.

Army Undersecretary Jim McPherson has been appointed Acting Navy Secretary on an interim basis.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.