Improper for Navy sailors to kneel to dead fisherman: retired brass

Two retired military generals have said that the Navy should not have agreed to the demand of the victim's family that the sailors involved in a fatal missile fiasco crawl on their knees as they entered the dead fisherman's home to pay their respects.

The Navy should have communicated to the family that such a demand was inappropriate, said former Ministry of National Defense spokesman Luo Shou-he, a retired major general. He said that the family of the dead fisherman would have understood.

"How can soldiers kneel so easily?" he said.

Luo was commenting on the incident on Sunday in which four Navy officers were asked to crawl on their knees to pay tribute to the captain of the Kaohsiung-registered "Hsiang Li Sheng" fishing boat, Huang Wen-chung. Huang was killed after the Navy fired a supersonic anti-ship missile by mistake on July 1 and hit the fishing boat that was operating in waters off the offshore county of Penghu.

He told reporters Tuesday that the Navy should carry out a thorough investigation to identify all the lapses leading to the incident and deal with the follow-up issues with honesty and empathy for the victim's family.

Luo said his heart ached for the victim's family, but he also felt sad to see the military officers "lose their dignity."

He called for the public to give the military one more chance and urged them not to brush off the military's efforts just because of this "isolated case." Meanwhile, Wu Sz-huai, a retired lieutenant general and a former deputy Army commander, has said in a Facebook post that those who should be held responsible should be brought to justice.

But it was inappropriate for senior Navy officers to let the four officers, including the missile operator, second-class petty officer Kao Chia-chun, crawl on their knees to enter the home of Huang and kneel down at Huang's memorial for about 40 minutes, Wu said.

On Monday, Huang's family also made a request touse a Republic of China national flag to cover the coffin of Huang, because his death was caused by a military mistake.

Both Luo and Wu voiced opposition, urging the government and the Ministry of National Defense to follow the law.

According to the Ministry of the Interior's regulations, the use of the national flag to cover the coffin can only apply to incumbent or former presidents and vice presidents, as well as people who have made a great contribution to the country, have received national medals or have died while on official duty.

The locally developed Hsiung Feng III missile was accidentally launched from one of the Navy's 500-ton Chinchiang-class corvettes at Zuoying Military Harbor in Kaohsiung during a drill on July 1, hitting the fishing boat and killing the captain, according to the Navy.

The fishing boat was some 40 nautical miles away from the military harbor in southern Taiwan. A chart provided by the Navy showed that the simulated position targeted by the missile was in the Taiwan Strait, northwest of the harbor and southeast of Penghu.