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Tobin Harshaw

'Pivot to Asia' Sinking on a Coral Reef

What the wreck of the minesweeper Guardian says about U.S. naval strength.

Battered by stormy weather and misguided by a faulty sea charts, the ship runs aground on a remote Pacific Ocean reef. The sharp coral tears into its wooden hull, forcing the 79-man crew to abandon ship. With the vessel too damaged for towing off, help is summoned from a distant port.

No, it's not the plot of the next "Master and Commander" film. The ship in question is the U.S. Navy minesweeper Guardian, and its predicament would seem farcical if it didn't raise so many red flags about the state of U.S. sea power.