|Part of Response to 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami|
American personnel distribute food to Japanese civilians following the disaster
|Location||Earthquake and tsunami affected areas of Honshu, especially Tōhoku region (Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi), Japan
|Objective||Search and rescue, disaster relief, humanitarian relief|
|Date||12 March 2011 – 4 May 2011|
|Executed by||United States Forces Japan|
Operation Tomodachi (トモダチ作戦 Tomodachi Sakusen?, literally "Operation Friend(s)") was a United States Armed Forces (especially U.S. Forces Japan) assistance operation to support Japan in disaster relief following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The operation took place from 12 March to 4 May 2011; involved 24,000 U.S. servicemembers, 189 aircraft, and 24 naval ships; and cost $90 million.
- 1 Joint operations
- 2 Operation Pacific Passage
- 3 Interagency collaboration
- 4 Timeline
- 5 Effect on Japan–US relations
- 6 Criticism
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Col. Stephen Bissonnette, deputy commander of the 353rd SOG stated that "[T]he devastation caused by the earthquake is truly heartbreaking...As part of coordinated relief efforts, the group will work tirelessly with our Japanese counterparts and other relief organizations to help the people affected by the earthquake recover..." The US aid efforts are conducted under the direction of Japanese government or military authorities.
United States Marine Corps facilities in Japan escaped major damage, with no reported casualties. This intact infrastructure allowed Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler to mobilize aid quickly.[not specific enough to verify]
Marines based at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma moved command and control teams and systems to NAF Atsugi. Eight KC-130Js from VMGR-152 and eight CH-46E and four CH-53 Super Stallions transport helicopters from HMM-265, all from MCAS Futenma, were made available to transport rescue teams and equipment, as well as provide search and rescue.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit responded to Northern Japan from Malaysia and Indonesia, where the unit was conducting Theater Security Cooperation exercises. The 31st MEU delivered relief supplies to five cities, one island and one Japanese ship. More than 164,000 pounds of food and relief supplies were delivered, along with thousands of gallons of water. Elements of the 31st MEU, including Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines went ashore on Oshima Island to deliver critical supplies and assist in debris removal.
MV Westpac Express, a civil-registered fast ferry chartered by the Marine Corps, was made available to transport equipment from Okinawa to Honshu. Westpac Express made two sorties in support of Operation Tomodachi. The ship moved 450 tons of cargo, including 7-ton trucks, fuel tankers, generators and water tanks from Okinawa to Iwakuni, Japan, arriving 15 March. On 20 March, Westpac Express loaded 226 pallets of bottled water at Pohang, ROK, off-loading at Iwakuni the next day.
Two C-17A Globemaster cargo aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were made available to transport rescue teams and equipment. A Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle was deployed from Guam for damage assessments.
Yokota Air Base is the hub for air operations from which cleanup crews were dispatched to clean up Sendai airport. At a Town Hall meeting, the Commander of the 374th Air Wing USAF presented an overview of joint forces operations in support of the Japanese and emphasized teamwork between various players. He stated that "we are very blessed" to be in the nation of Japan because it has a highly sophisticated set of technologies to minimize the damage but that the personnel, logistic and financing problems were formidable.
He repeatedly asserted that the situation is "eminently controllable" in part due to highly experienced personnel available for various contingencies. US military personnel stationed at the Air Base expressed interest in making cash donations – in dollars or yen – to the American Red Cross and other organizations working in the Japanese relief effort.
Several Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the U.S. Army Japan Aviation Detachment have been made available for relief efforts. A disaster assessment team from I Corps (United States) Forward departed Camp Zama and arrived in northeastern Japan on 14 March to assist in relief and humanitarian operations as well as set up a forward logistics base for supplies. A 59-member logistics team from Sagamihara General Depot helped reopen Sendai Airport.
Operation Pacific Passage
Over 7,000 family members of U.S. service members in Japan were voluntarily evacuated in March to Seattle Tacoma Airport and Travis Air Force Base in the U.S. during Operation Pacific Passage. Concerns over the uncertainty of the radiation situation and reducing the burden of supporting families while conducting relief operations and the related troop movements led to the relocation program.
With Yokota Air Base available, US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance sent Urban Search and Rescue California Task Force 2 and Virginia Task Force 1. Two urban search and rescue teams arrived at the pending merger with a 60 member/two-dog team from the UK. On 3/16, a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III landed on Kadena's flight line. USAF personnel assisted Royal Australian Air Force and Japan Ground Self Defense Force to load supplies and fly to mainland Japan.[not specific enough to verify]
11 March 2011
USS Tortuga conducts an emergency recall of all personnel onboard and is underway at 19:00 en route Pohang, South Korea to on load MH-53E helicopters from HM-14 Detachment 1.
12 March 2011
Four Marine KC-130J Aircraft from VMGR-152 deployed from MCAS Futenma to the Japanese Mainland to support relief operations. About a hundred airmen and three MC-130P Combat Shadows, with 19 maintenance personnel, from the 353rd Special Operations Group deployed on 12 March, one day after the earthquake. Col. Stephen Bissonnette, deputy commander of the 353rd SOG stated that "[T]he devastation caused by the earthquake is truly heartbreaking...As part of coordinated relief efforts, the group will work tirelessly with our Japanese counterparts and other relief organizations to help the people affected by the earthquake recover..."
13 March 2011
Four additional Marine KC-130J aircraft from VMGR-152 deployed from MCAS Futenma along with nearly 80 maintainers, effectively relocating the squadron to the Japanese Mainland. Eight Marine CH-46E helicopters from HMM-265 deployed to NAS Atsugi to begin relief operations. A USAF KC-135 Stratotanker arrived at Misawa Air Base on Sunday with the first batch of relief workers and 50 civil engineers from Kadena Air Base.
USNS BRIDGE (T-AOE 10) arrives on scene with 2 embarked SH-60S from HSC-23.
Two US urban search and rescue teams arrived from Fairfax County, Virginia and Los Angeles County, California with a total of 140 rescuers and 14 rescue dogs. The teams merged with a 63-member search and rescue team from the UK. The combined US-UK operation deployed to the town of Sumita, Iwate to set up a base of operations. The teams performed daily search and rescue missions in the cities of Ofunato and Kamaishi for five days until departing for home.
Members of the U.S. Navy Reserve Detachment 105 were joined by six members of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Liaison (LNO) and Consequence Management Advisory Team (CMAT). These two elements formed the initial core of the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) Radiological Consequence Management Team (RCMT) whose mission was to advise Lieutenant General Burton Field Commander USFJ on matters related to the nuclear fuel cycle, potential hazards, and potential mitigation of a radiological incident. DTRA Liaison and CMAT personnel were among the first U.S. personnel to visit the TEPCO response site (J-Village) located a few kilometers from the Fukushima Diachi reactor. DTRA personnel also established relationships with TEPCO engineering and management deconflicting information for the U.S. Ambassador and United States Forces Japan Commander.
HM-14 DET 1 rapidly deploys to assist in relief efforts on board USS Tortuga. The 18th Civil Engineer Squadron also arrived at Misawa Air Base for Operation Tomodachi.
14 March 2011
The Yokota Town Hall Meeting was conducted in which personnel and their families were reassured that the problems, though formidable, were manageable given the highly qualified Japanese, US, and international personnel on the scene. There was an assurance that there would be daily monitoring of radiation levels. Many of the service men and women expressed interest in making financial contributions through the Red Cross.
Members of 623d Air Control Flight, Kadena AB, Japan, callsign "Lightsword" deployed to Honshu, Japan. The Lightsword team deployed to a JASDF radar facility, to assist in the command and control of relief efforts for the airlift effort following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
15 March 2011
Work continued to re-establish a workable landing strip at Sendai Airport. Kadena AFB personnel restored minimal power at Misawa to Air Force personnel, still pending Navy power restoration. The USS George Washington was docked for maintenance in Yokosuka, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the plant, when instruments detected the radiation at 7 am Tuesday (6 p.m. ET Monday).
16 March 2011
Rear Admiral Wren, the Commander, US Naval Forces Japan, sent out a letter advising personnel to limit outdoor activity at Fleet Activities Yokosuka and Naval Air Facility Atsugi due to newly developing, low level radiation.
17 March 2011
The Pentagon said Thursday that it was sending more specialized aircraft to evaluate nuclear contamination at and around the Fukushima site, including a WC-135 Constant Phoenix from Offutt Air Force Base to take air samples, which aircraft had formerly been used as a sniffer with regard to North Korean nuclear weapons testing.
Carrier Air Wing-5 was relocated from NAF Atsugi to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam temporarily, what the Navy calls a "force posture adjustment" for Operation Tomodachi. The air wing's SH-60 helicopters from HS-14 and HSL-51 and C-2 Greyhound from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 30 Det. 5 remained behind in support of the operation. As a precaution, the navy has also stopped moving its personnel to Japan as well.
23 March 2011
Navy officials halted air operations from USS Ronald Reagan temporarily on Wednesday so they could decontaminate the ship from the radiation the ship received. While the radiation did not pose any significant health risk, "it needed to go away," Cmdr. Ron Rutan, chief engineer for the Reagan.
25 March 2011
500,000 gallons of fresh water has been provided from the US Navy to support cooling efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
1 May 2011
US troops will begin to withdraw from the Tohoku coastline and return to their bases, and the US-Japan Joint Cooperation Center in Sendai has closed down. While it will continue to airlift personnel and supplies as needed, the work on the ground will be handed over to the Japanese Self-Defence Forces.
4 May 2011
Marines from the Consequence Management Support Force return to Okinawa from mainland Japan 4 May, representing the departure of the last major element of the III Marine Expeditionary Force deployed to mainland in support of Operation Tomodachi.
4 September 2012
United States Department of Defense releases location-based radiation dose estimates for U.S. personnel involved in Operation Tomodachi on the Environmental Health Surveillance Registries website.
US troops assisted Japanese government workers in cleaning up debris and rubble left by the tsunami.
Effect on Japan–US relations
The disaster may have brought a diplomatic opening to Japan. The support provided by the US illustrated the value of the relationship between the countries. It was commented that the level of support provided by the US will probably assuage tension over base relocation disputes between the two governments. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the "coordinated relief activities at the disaster sites are expected to deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance."
On 4 April 2011, Japan's minister of defense, Toshimi Kitazawa, accompanied by US ambassador to Japan John Roos, visited the Ronald Reagan to thank its crew for its assistance as part of Operation Tomodachi. Said Kitazawa, "I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally."
On 10 April 2011, Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, visited Camp Sendai to talk to U.S. service members. The prime minister spoke of the immediate response of the U.S. military and expressed his belief that the joint efforts between the U.S. military and the JGSDF will strengthen the bonds between the Japanese people and the United States.
A nationwide survey conducted in Japan from September to October 2011 found that an all-time high of 82 percent had friendly feelings toward the US. Japan's Foreign Ministry attributed the number to the effects of Operation Tomodachi. Similarly, the Pew Research Center showed that 85% of Japanese people had a favorable opinion of the U.S. in 2011, the highest in a decade.
Despite the message of gratitude, the operation raised some criticism. The fact that most American soldiers were sent at least 80 km away from Fukushima nuclear plant, mostly to the more distant prefectures of Iwate and Miyagi, and also the political use of the earthquake, were underlined.
- Humanitarian response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
- Fukushima I nuclear accidents
- International reaction to Fukushima I nuclear accidents
- Johnston, Eric, "Operation Tomodachi a huge success, but was it a one-off?", The Japan Times, 3 March 2012, p. 3.
- Associated Press, "Disaster aid puts new face on U.S. military", Japan Times, 28 March 2011, p. 2.
- Sanborn, James K.; Gidget Fuentes (11 March 2011). "Marine Bases Japan spared by earthquake". Navy Times. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- Burke, 1stLt Lucas (12 March 2011). "Marines conduct emergency actions in wake of earthquake, tsunami". III Marine Expeditionary Force. United States Marine Corps. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- "Japan-based Marines move to provide aid". Marine Corps Times. 12 March 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2011.
- http://news.lalate.com/category/operation-tomodachi/[not specific enough to verify]
- Dawson, Chester (14 March 2011). "U.S. Military Joins in Quake-Relief Effort". Wall Street Journal.
- Relief workers, search and rescue teams arrive at Misawa AB. Af.mil (2011-03-13). Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- Japan 2011 Earthquake: U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Response, Andrew Feickert and Emma Chanlett-Avery, Congressional Research Service, 22 March 2011
- Media, Regional. "Yokota Town Hall Meeting 3/14/2011". Vimeo.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- http://www.army.mil/-news/2011/03/14/53236-army-ready-to-help-after-earthquake-tsunami-in-japan/[not specific enough to verify]
- Joint Task Force 505 operates in Okinawa, Yokota, 24 March 2011
- "Tsunami Update 4: Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) deploying to Japan". FEMA Blog. FEMA. 11 March 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- http://www.kadena.af.mil/[not specific enough to verify]
- Airmen deploy to support relief operations. Af.mil. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- Search team: No miracle finds for British rescuers as they join grim task of finding the dead. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
- "TEAM KADENA & OPERATION TOMODACHI (FRIEND) 11 March - 13 April 2011" (PDF). 18th Wing History Office. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Kadena Airmen restore power at Misawa after devastating earthquake. Kadena.af.mil (2011-03-15). Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "Naval Air Facility Atsugi". Cnic.navy.mil. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Japan quake tsunamiThis Just In – CNN.com Blogs. News.blogs.cnn.com (2011-03-15). Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- Cosmic Log – U.S. boosts radiation-sniffing system. Cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "DVIDS – News – HS-14 and HSL-51 Join Forces in Support of Operation Tomodachi". Dvidshub.net. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "1,000 Sailors from Navy Air Wing, and Their Planes, Re-locating to Guam, From Japan". Pacificnewscenter.com. 19 March 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Carrier Air Wing 5 to Arrive on Guam". C7f.navy.mil. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Navy stops moving sailors to Japan – Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq". Army Times. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Food, Gas Shortages Amid Relief Efforts In Japan. NPR (2011-03-15). Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- T.D. Flack. "Reagan air crews pause relief operations to decontaminate". Stripes.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Makely, John (23 March 2011). "USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier gets washed to remove radioactive contamination". Photoblog.msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), PACOM Supporting Japan in Time of Crisis
- "Homeland Security Today: National Guard Boosts Forces in Japanese Relief Effort". Hstoday.us. 23 March 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20110825122711/http://ra.defense.gov/html/japan.html. Archived from the original on 25 August 2011. Retrieved 25 March 2011. Missing or empty
- Schmitt, Joe. "U.S. Navy to Provide 500,000 Gallons of Fresh Water to Fukushima Power Plant". Navy.mil. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "U.S. military ends Tomodachi quake relief operation". Newsonjapan.com. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Operation Tomodachi Ends | Japan Security Watch". Newpacificinstitute.org. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "DVIDS – News – Marines return from Operation Tomodachi". Dvidshub.net. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- "Environmental Health Surveillance Registries website". U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- "Registry to Provide Japan Response Radiation Info". American Forces Press Service. Retrieved 1 November 2012.
- Robson, Seth, and Chiyomi Sumida, "U.S., Japanese troops tackle giant task of removing tsunami debris", Stars and Stripes, 9 April 2011.
- Eldridge, Robert D., "Quake relief effort highlights a vital U.S. military function", Japan Times, 31 March 2011, p. 13.
- Johnston, Eric, "After the disaster, better ties?", Japan Times, 5 April 2011, p. 2.
- Hansen, Liane, "U.S.S. Essex Helps Delivers Aid To Japan", NPR Weekend Edition, 27 March 2011, 1 p.m.
- "Japan-U.S. relief efforts expanding". The Daily Yomiuri; Yomiuri Shimbun. Japan. 20 Mar 2011. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
- "AFP: Japan disaster offers hope for diplomatic opening". Google. 15 March 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Kyodo News, "Japanese defense chief thanks U.S. military for humanitarian efforts", 4 April 2011.
- "DVIDS – News – Japan Prime Minister visits Camp Sendai". Dvidshub.net. Retrieved 20 April 2012.
- Kyodo News,"Record 82% of Japanese feel friendly toward U.S.: poll". Japan Times. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2012., p. 3.
- "Japanese Opinion of the United States". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Operation Tomodachi.|
- Amidst Trial, Ties That Bind: Enduring Strength in the U.S.-Japan Alliance – An updated account of U.S. Armed Forces activities currently supporting Japan in disaster relief.
- The Military Foundations of U.S. Disaster Assistance in Japan, an interview with Admiral Thomas B. Fargo on U.S. military aid to Japan
- Q+A: What's the U.S. military doing in Japan?