EVEN Captain Bligh might have blushed. The first woman captain of a US navy guided-missile destroyer was relieved of her command for using language so foul that it amounted to “cruelty and maltreatment”, it emerged yesterday.
Captain Holly Graf, commander of 400 sailors aboard USS Cowpens, was dubbed “Horrible Holly” by those who felt the lash of her tongue. Officers complained to navy investigators that she humiliated them in front of the crew by showering them with obscenities and calling them “idiots” and “stupid”.
Graf’s behaviour, detailed in a navy report, came to light last week when it emerged she had engaged the Cowpens in a maritime “drag race” with a smaller destroyer, the USS John McCain, near Okinawa, Japan, last year. The report dismissed allegations that the racing ships had nearly collided but investigators upheld charges that Graf had abused her position for personal gain by forcing sailors to walk her dogs and by ordering a piano-playing junior officer to perform at a Christmas party at her home.
As one of the navy’s most successful sea-going women officers Graf was in line for promotion to rear admiral, but became the target of an internet campaign by former crew members and male former officers contemptuous of what they see as preferential treatment of women at the Pentagon.
Militarycorruption.com, a military website, described Graf as “an incompetent and unstable ‘politically correct’ poster girl for all the super- feminists at the Pentagon and the US Naval Academy”.
Hundreds of posts to internet sites likened Graf to Bligh, the villainous captain ousted by his crew in Mutiny on the Bounty. Graf has not made a public comment, but defended her behaviour to navy investigators. “Many times I raised my tone (and used swear words) to ensure they knew this time, it was no kidding,” she wrote.
“I also did it on other occasions to intentionally pressurise the situation.”
Graf is awaiting reassignment from her base in Japan.