WASHINGTON — The Navy removed the captain of the stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, only days after he implored his superior officers for more help as a coronavirus outbreak spread aboard the ship, Defense Department officials said.
About 100 sailors have been infected so far.
In a letter that leaked to the news media on Tuesday, Capt. Brett E. Crozier laid out the dire situation unfolding aboard the warship, with almost 5,000 crew members, and described what he said were the Navy’s failures to provide him with the proper resources to combat the virus by moving sailors off the vessel and disinfecting areas on board.
Senior Defense Department officials were angry that the letter found its way first to The San Francisco Chronicle, and then to other news outlets, where it was widely reported.
The decision to remove Captain Crozier came on Thursday, officials said.
The carrier is currently docked in Guam.
Captain Crozier had come under some internal criticism from Defense Department officials who said he should not have allowed sailors to go ashore last month in Da Nang, Vietnam.
But other Navy officials defended that decision, saying that, at the time, most of the coronavirus cases in Vietnam were in the north of the country, far from where the Roosevelt made its port call.
On Wednesday, Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, called the stop in Vietnam, where the virus may have come aboard the ship, a “risk-informed decision.”
“At the time, there were about 15 or 16 cases, they were up north in Hanoi and the ship pulled into Da Nang,” Admiral Gilday said. “Today, there are 203 cases in Vietnam and no deaths.”
Navy officials also said the virus might have come aboard not in Vietnam but as Navy personnel were flown to the carrier while it was underway.
Standing alongside Admiral Gilday, Thomas B. Modly, the acting secretary of the Navy, told reporters on Wednesday that he welcomed the captain’s decision to express his concerns but that the captain would be punished if he were responsible for leaking the letter to the news media.
“I don’t know who leaked the letter to the media,” Mr. Modly said. “That would be something that would violate the principles of good order and discipline if he were responsible for that.”