U.S. military airlifts aid to Japan quake victims

An Air Force MH-53 Pave Low search and rescue helicopter is brought on board the USS Tortuga by a U.S. Navy flight operations team, March 12, 2011, off the coast of Sasebo, Japan. Tortuga was operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations, ready to support earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in Japan as directed. U.S. Navy /Lt. K. Madison Carter

An Air Force MH-53 Pave Low search and rescue helicopter is brought on board the USS Tortuga by a U.S. Navy flight operations team, March 12, 2011, off the coast of Sasebo, Japan.
U.S. Navy /Lt. K. Madison Carter


The name of the game as far as U.S. military relief efforts go is helicopter operations.

As of Monday morning U.S. military helicopters had flown 10 flights both from Atsugi Naval Air Station (20 miles outside Tokyo) and from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

Helicopters from Atsugi have collected food donated by citizens from nearby Ebina City and transported them to Shiroishi to aid up to 2,000 earthquake survivors there.

Already the U.S. military has been delivering water, food and blankets to Minato, just east of Sendai.

Hull Technician 2nd Class Seneca Jernigan (left) and Yeoman 3rd Class Steven Tai aboard the U.S. 7th Fleet command flagship USS Blue Ridge move pallets of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief kits across the ship's flight deck.
U.S. Navy/MC Aaron M. Pineda

The Reagan was on routine deployment in the western Pacific when it and other Seventh Fleet ships were directed to Japan to assist in relief efforts.

There are eight ships in the group, but they only carry one or two helicopters at most.

Special report: Disaster in Japan

The Tortuga, which is carrying two heavy-lift helicopters, is scheduled to dock at the eastern coast of Hokkaido Tuesday and pick up 300 Japanese soldiers plus 90 vehicles. It will deliver them to Amori in Honshu.

The Reagan only has four to six choppers, none of them heavy-lifting.

The rest of the relief force, consisting of the command ship Blue Ridge and the amphibious group headed by Essex and carrying a Marine expeditionary unit, is not scheduled to arrive off Japan until Wednesday.

The destroyers USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur, and the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (which departed from Yokosuka on Saturday), will also assist in at-sea search and rescue/recovery operations off Miyagi Prefecture.

Navy P-3s have been flying reconnaissance missions from Kadena on Okinawa.

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Japanese relief workers load supplies to support earthquake and tsunami relief efforts near Sendai, March 13, 2011 in the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. Navy/MC Dylan McCord
Martin said some Marines and a high-speed transport vessel (a hydrofoil) have been sent from Okinawa to Hokkaido in Japan to pick up Japanese troops.

On Monday the USS Ronald Reagan and other ships were ordered to move further away from the coast after it detected radiation from the damaged nuclear power stations.

The fleet said that the radiation was from a plume of smoke and steam released from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant Fukushima Prefecture, where there have been two hydrogen explosions since Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Martin also notes that the U.S. military base nearest to the nuclear plants is Misawah, but that is northwest of the plants, and not downwind.


  • CBS News Staff

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