Thursday, June 9, 2011
Marines who helped tsunami victims on a small island off the Japanese coast return to Camp Pendleton
About 200 Marines who provided relief to tsunami-stricken Japan have returned to Camp Pendleton with stories to tell.
They were part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit which provided food, fuel and medical supplies to five Japanese cities after the tsunami.
Capt. Benjamin Middendorf, commander of Golf Company, said his men ended up working on a small island called Oshima. He said they’d just arrived from Cambodia in Malasia aboard the USS Essex when the disaster struck. They were immediately recalled back to the ship and the next morning they steamed around the north end of Japan to avoid the reactor plume from the damaged Fukushimi Daiichi power plant.
Working with the Japanese Maritime Defense Force, the Marines were deployed to a small island called Oshima off the north coast of Japan, which had lost all connection with the mainland after the tsunami.
“The island actually got split in half with the wall of water that came in,” Middendorf said. “The islanders actually had a legend that some day a huge tsunami would come and split the island in half and that’s what happened. “
Middendorf said the USS Essex unloaded heavy equipment on landing craft to help remove debris from the island’s port, which was shut down.
“I was able to take my company ashore and then start working from sun up to sundown, moving as much debris as possible.“
They also distributed food, water and toys for the children sent from the Marine base in Okinawa.
The Company stayed in a Boy Scout camp, which Middendorf said was luxury for them.
The Marines will have a few months at home before redeploying. Middendorf said he is scheduled to return to Afghanistan for the second time next year.