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A look back...Operation TOMODACHI

  • Published
  • By Ray Ortensie
  • Air Force Materiel Command History Office

Ten years ago, at 2:46 pm, an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale shook Japan off the east coast of Miyagi Prefecture and caused massive damage, sparking a tsunami along the coast. The fourth largest earthquake in the world to date, and the largest in Japan’s history since instrumentational recording began in 1900, the event caused substantial damage and loss of life through the generation of a devastating tsunami that affected the entire Pacific arena.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami impacted Japan’s nuclear power facilities, primarily the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility, and radiological contamination spread into the environment. Within hours of the natural disaster, Japan requested emergency assistance from the U.S. Department of Defense, which responded by sending a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response Team to the region.

This Look Back is a photographic essay from the archives of the Air Force Materiel Command personnel who were assigned to the Air Force Radiation Assessment Team. This elite team of worldwide-deployable health physicists, industrial hygienists, and laboratory technicians deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan, in support of the recovery operations. The 36-member team arrived 10 days after the disaster and remained in Japan until May 27, with the mission to determine the level of contamination from the damaged nuclear plant.