Peter Mims

(US Navy photo)

Opinion: Everything about the USS Shiloh "hiding sailor" story is insane

Eric Dehm
January 16, 2018 - 4:39 pm

Have you read Geoff Ziezulewicz's amazing Navy Times story on how GSM3 Peter Mims evaded detection on board the USS Shiloh? If you haven't, you really should. It's a doozy of a tale.

Mims, if you don't recall, was thought to be lost at sea after a search of the ship failed to locate him. It turned out he was on board the entire time, hiding from the crew. At that point we didn't know why, or how.

We do now.

Much of Mims' story isn't all that different from many young Sailors I served with. Divorce, financial issues, and mental health problems surfacing under the stress of the first two aren't unique to him. They're fairly common, sadly enough.

The rest of his story, though? Well the rest of it causes an old Sailor like me to have some serious questions about how in the hell any of it happened. Questions like these:

Why was this kid still in the Navy?

According to the Navy report “Over the course of his three years on the ship, GSM3 Mims developed and refined his ability to hide and remain undetected, even directly taunting his shipmates who would look for him.” It also explains why they would be looking for him. You see, Mims wasn't just hiding during his free time in some shipboard game of hide-and-seek.

No, this little lunatic was hiding during working hours and even when he was supposed to be on watch. According to the report, just days before he went "missing" from the ship, he went "missing" from watch. That would seem to be a violation of most of the 11 general orders, and he did it a bunch of times.

To quote the late, great Charlie Murphy, Mims was a "habitual line stepper." One would think the first time a young Sailor decided to go to his secret hidey-hole while standing watch on a US Navy warship would be the last. One would apparently be wrong. It took an international incident (the Japanese Coast Guard assisted in the search off of Okinawa) for them to begin the process of separating him.

Oh, and he used to tell shipmates he could shoot fireballs out of his hands and stop the engines by "pulsating" his body.

Y'know, like people do.

And then, we find out that a day before he disappeared he met with the command to discuss ways to get out of the Navy early. Now, there's no report that they recommended "hide on the ship for a week and get mustered out 7 months later."

More likely, Mims didn't like what he was told and took things into his own hands, much like the kid at my A-School who ate raw marijuana (because he was strictly against smoking... and making brownies I guess) or the one in my division at Great Lakes (437-98 baby!) who stopped making trips to the head and just used his bed instead.

During that meeting they may have taken a look at his prior evals and told him "You should stay! It says here that not that long ago you were great!"

They might say that because Mims was previously listed as a high-performer, even though he was already having issues. Which brings us to...

Who was writing evals on the Shiloh?

In 2015, Mims, who liked to disappear while standing watch and was delinquent on his shipboard qualifications was given a 4.0 "Must Promote" evaluation citing his motivation and enthusiasm. They even called him a "rock-solid performer."

Dude. How bad were the 3.0 Sailors on that ship?

Sure, Seaman Jimmy got caught shooting at seagulls from the quarterdeck in port, but he did it enthusiastically! We can't give him the 4.0 though. We gave that one to Mims for how motivated he was to not get his quals done.

I know, it's an eval from 2 years before his most recent issue, but you know what I learned during my years as an LPO writing evals? It's rare, generally speaking, for a Sailor to go from 4.0 to Unauthorized Absence, and it's incredibly rare for it to happen without some big warning signs having been ignored or missed.

I know what you're thinking, a lot can happen in two years, but remember he was behind on quals which is a big deal in general, and even bigger in engineering, and by 2016, things had fallen apart.

In 2016, rock-solid performer Mims was found passed out drunk on a bench in Yokosuka, and then was found to owe the Navy $7K after collecting a housing allowance while failing to disclose he'd gotten divorced and was no longer eligible for it.

He was also given an estimate a couple days before he was found, after all of these issues and as the command was fairly certain he was somewhere on board the ship.

Care to guess what he was rated?

4.0. Must Promote.

USS Shiloh (CG-67)
(US Navy Photo)

Was this the worst search ever?

First he goes missing, then the search begins. Now if you've read the story you know the Shiloh's Captain had a pretty good idea Mims was somewhere on the ship, but all he had was an idea. A Sailor was missing and the CO delayed calling man overboard because of a hunch. Turned out he was right, but imagine if he hadn't been? If he had fallen, or jumped, over the rail and the CO delayed calling man overboard that could have led to a very different investigation.

Regardless of your hunch, you call man overboard in that situation if there is even the slightest chance there is a Sailor in the drink. They called one on my first ship because a life jacket fell overboard, someone saw it and thought it might have had a person attached to it when it went over. Better safe than sorry, though this whole escapade was pretty sorry.

A few days after Mims went missing, a Sailor saw him in the middle of the night, covered in rust, filling a large bag of water. Surely, this Sailor sounded the alarm, or went to the bridge to alert the OOD, or at the very least tailed Mims to see where he went, right?

Ha! No!

He went back to sleep and didn't tell anyone what he'd seen until a few hours later. The command told investigators there were credibility issues with the story because that sailor was being disciplined for something else.

And then there's the searching. You have a guy missing, one who's known to disappear into engineering spaces, so first thing you do is go check those spaces, right?

Ha! No!

Apparently that wasn't done until the Command Master Chief and the rest of the Goat Locker decided to do their own search for Mr. Mims without informing the ship's officers they were doing it because that's the kind of thing Chiefs do when they don't think something is being done right.

They searched those spaces and came upon one that, quite literally, smells like s#!t.

Sailor missing for a week. Has to go to the bathroom wherever he is. He's Known to frequent engineering spaces. Engineering space found to smell like urine and feces. Mystery solved, right?

Ha! No!

They seem to have mistaken that smell for "oil and fuel" and declined to enter the space. Now, you might think that sounds unbelievable, and you might be right. There is certainly a chance the Chiefs figured he was in there and decided to let him sit in his filth in lieu of crawling through it themselves. Still, while he might have deserved that, it's not the right course of action, as he's a health risk to himself, and to others if he contracts an illness.

So those are the big three questions that come to mind, but not the only ones. The curious, ridiculous case of Peter Mims is sure to be a topic of discussion throughout the Navy for some time to come and 4.0 Sailors might never be looked at the same way again.