Minds on Trial: USS Iowa
Florida Institute of Technology
In 1982, the USS Iowa was recommissioned by the U.S. Navy. In efforts to make the aged battleship competitive with modern technology, several dangerous experiments were conducted. In April 1989, there was a large explosion on board that killed forty-seven crew members and injured others. The Navy conducted a five-month long investigation that determined the cause of the incident was not an accident. This was followed by an FBI investigation in the form of a psychological autopsy, to be performed relative to Petty Officer Clayton Hartwig. The investigation resulted in a decision that Hartwig deliberately caused the explosion. This outcome came under intense scrutiny and ultimately was subjected to a hearing in 1989. The USS Iowa was officially retired from service in October 1990 (Ewing & McCann, 2006).
A psychological autopsy, also known as an equivocal death analysis, is an investigation into the psychological state of a particular individual of interest and occurs in deaths, whether accidental, homicidal, or suicidal, where traditional investigations have failed to determine cause of death. In the case of the USS Iowa, the equivocal death analysis was conducted by FBI agents Richard Ault and Roy Hazelwood. Both men were experienced agents (Ewing & McCann, 2006).
Ault and Hazelwood used several pieces of evidence to draw their conclusion regarding Hartwig. These included his possession of the books Getting Even: The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks and the Improvised Munitions Handbook. The latter was a military manual. They also reviewed his naval records and the fact that possessed few civilian pieces of clothing, a rundown vehicle, and had little money at the time of his death. Most, if not all, of the evidence used by Ault and Hazelwood was provided by the Navy itself. The final assessment was that Hartwig was a suicidal individual dissatisfied with...
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