Picking up the pieces in Japan



Marines with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, join the massive clean-up of remote Oshima island in Japan, April 4.//31st MEU photo

It’s a field day – on a much bigger scale. With dozers, dump trucks and supplies in hand, hundreds of Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit descended on a small remote island near the epicenter of the March 11 earthquake that devastated northeastern Japan.

On April 1, they began Operation Field Day, with the mission of helping clear mounds of debris on the island of Oshima, population 3,000. The Marines found some 600 residents holed up in shelters as they try to make sense of what’s left of their homes, community and livelihood.

Relief efforts began March 27 as Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced) and Amphibious Squadron 11 delivered food, water and supplies and set up much-needed electrical generators.

Working with Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces, Marines also are clearing nearby Uranohama port choked with debris, from remnants of homes and warehouses to wrecked cars, children’s toys, furniture and even sets of porcelain dishes they helped salvage for locals. “We’ve found a lot of personal belonging in the rubble and it makes you wonder how it would feel if it happened to you or your family, and it can sometimes touch pretty close to home,” Lance Cpl. Colton Carlson, a squad automatic weapon gunner with Company G, said in a news release. “We’re glad to help because we know how much we would appreciate it if the roles were reversed.”

The March 11 earthquake shook the ground, and the tsunami tore into the coastal communities on Oshima island, Japan.//31st MEU photos

The tsunami damaged ferries that islanders relied on to reach the mainland and destroyed waterfront businesses. “Our one key piece of the mission is to help clean out the harbor here,” said Capt. Ben Middendorf, Company G’s commander. “The harbor is the island’s one lifeline to mainland Japan and once they are able to have ships come in and out of the port they will be self-sustainable.”


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