U.S., Japan remember the Great East Japan Earthquake
By Staff Sgt. Joshua Edwards, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2021
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan --
The 374th Airlift Wing hosted a ceremony for the 10th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Operation Tomodachi support efforts at the wing headquarters building March 11.
The wing, alongside representatives from the North Kanto Defense Bureau and the surrounding municipalities’ friendship club, honored the nearly 16,000 individuals who died and more than 2,500 who went missing during the earthquake and tsunami that followed.
“The earthquake centered 15 miles below the sea to our north-east was devastating in its own right … however, on March 11  it was the sea that brought the worst devastation,” said Col. Andrew Campbell, 374th AW commander. “It was the sea that so tragically claimed the lives of over 18,000 people, and shattered the lives of so many more.”
During the memorial, Yokota and Japanese visitors observed a moment of silence, laid a wreath and planted a plum tree, which signified the continued alliance between the two countries.
“NKDB will seek to be a solid foundation of mutual cooperation and collaboration with the U.S. Forces and local organizations,” said Takahisa Matsuda, NKDB director general. “I would like to say that many Japanese people are grateful for the strong and warm support of Operation Tomodachi, which was provided by our ally, the United States.”
Operation Tomodachi started the day the earthquake hit, when Yokota was used as an alternate landing location for 11 diverted flights bound for Narita Airport. That day, the base welcomed almost 600 individuals who were temporarily displaced.
In the following weeks, Yokota became the control center for the military’s humanitarian support efforts to Japan. From Yokota, the U.S. military aided with search and rescue operations, clean-up efforts, essential needs supply and cooling the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.
“The 374th Airlift Wing, and all of Team Yokota, moved swiftly, not to fight as our Latin motto says, but to render care and support to a treasured ally in need,” said Campbell. “Today, as we pause to remember with sadness those lost to the Great Tohoku Earthquake, we can also find pride and happiness as we reflect on how we responded, together as friends and allies, in its aftermath.”