-- My knowledge of life in Japan is now many years
old, but I regularly communicate with my retired Army friend Jim
White. He and his family have made Japan their
home. Jim has kept us updated on the aftermath of the
earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster facing that country.
The one attribute I
recall that the Japanese government and the people have is a
reticence to ask for help when in need. Even when
such help is provided they still have difficulty addressing the
matter publicly. Thus, even with the thousands of
American military personnel now stationed in and near Japan, we
hear very little about their contributions to aiding disaster
efforts or assisting the Japanese people. Jim White
has been very good at reporting just what Americans are doing in
the ongoing effort to bring some form of relief to those
efforts have been headquartered at the Atsugi Naval Air Station,
located a short distance from Tokyo. From there,
military leadership can direct what we are calling “Operation
Tomodachi (Friend),” which has included everything from rescue
missions to food relief.
Navy and Marine
helicopters have been evacuating survivors and flying food,
medicine, clothing and water into remote villages, which due to the
loss of roads and other infra structure can be reached in no other
More than 20
American ships have moved into the waters close to Japan’s
northeastern coast. Many of these ships have supplies
and equipment so needed to assist people who have lost
everything. From the USS Ronald Reagan an unending
number of rescue and relief flights continue. As of a
week ago Americans had flown in more than 200,000 pounds of
supplies to isolated villages.
Another function of
the Navy ships participating in what some call our largest
humanitarian effort in years is to make pure drinking
water. Water is in huge demand in the earthquake
At the site of the
nuclear damage fire trucks from American bases have been brought in
to help cool down the reactors. The military are also
providing reconnaissance aircraft to keep flying over the disaster
area and monitor the nuclear radiation.
White reports that
the Yomiuri Times, an English language newspaper in Japan, has done
some lengthy reporting on how the Americans are assisting their
Japanese friends. Yesterday’s newspaper had an
account of how we have provided two large fresh water barges the
disaster crews can use to cool the reactors, which are corroded by
The Marines at
Sendai airport have been assigned rescue and relief missions, but
they are unhappy about not getting more assignments.
They feel they could do much more if they were asked.
The Navy is hoping
to clear one of the damaged ports in Hochinohe so Japanese barges
can deliver fuel. At that port, following the
earthquake, a total of 700 shipping containers and 200 cars remain
unaccounted for and nobody is sure what is under the surface of the
water. Navy divers have been brought in and an
American ship with huge cranes has arrived to pull out the
wreckage. This is just one of six ports the U.S. Navy
is planning to assist in clearing.
With more than
50,000 military personnel based in Japan, the American armed forces
are providing massive assistance. At the same time
their actions have been very low key and without much publicity,
not wanting to cause embarrassment to their Japanese hosts.
Thomas D. Segel