Letter From US Naval Base in Japan

This is an email from someone in the DoD (Dept of Defense) school system on  the US naval base in Yokosuka, a 579-acre naval base occupying a small peninsula jutting into Tokyo Bay.
H/t my dear friend Sol.

Dear All,
It is Monday evening, March 14, 2011. I have been asked by several people to update what is going on here. I can only say what I know and have seen so far. I went to a 2-hour military town hall meeting this evening. There were 2 admirals and the base commander who spoke. Here are bits and pieces of what we know.
Our school is in a housing area in Zushi City, an adjacent community to Yokosuka. The electric power company in Japan is rationing power because of the problems with the Fukashina reactors. Apparently Japan has lost 25-30% power generating ability. As a result we are on rolling black outs in our school. This issue has not affected the main base, 5 miles away as they have there own generators. So school will be in session from 8:00 – 2:30pm but there will only be power from 11:00-2:00. Today was the first day that started. That means our life blood, computers, are on for a very short time. Tough to do many kinds of business without our beloved technology.
There have been a succession of aftershocks, some felt, many too low level to know about, but they are keeping count.
I continue to have electricity, phone, and internet service at my apartment. We somehow do not seem to be part of the rolling black outs, yet.
There is 24 hour coverage by some Japanese TV stations about the disaster. This includes lots of explanation (pictures,  charts, graphics) about exactly what they know to be happening in the reactors.
They are rationing gasoline both on base and off base.
There has been a run on food and bottled water both in the commissary and at off base grocery stores, which appear to be closing 2-3 hours earlier than usual. The trains are running only part of the day on very reduced schedules.
Cell phone and land line phones are working intermittently.
There will be a period of 100 hundred days of mourning in Japan for those who were lost in the tsunami.
Communication has been an ENORMOUS issue with base authorities, lack of English translation for residents out in town, between and among various units and tenant organizations on the base. To tell you the truth the most information is coming off of Facebook, believe it or not! But not everyone is on Facebook. I didn’t know until I came to work this morning that being on Facebook would be a job requirement. It’s not, but that’s how it is shaping up because all other forms of communication are flawed in some way, or appear to be.
The military is working 20 hour days to provide the support necessary to help with the rescue effort. All our ships are out of port except for the GW (George Washington) which is in the dock for maintenance. That’s why the Ronald Reagan is providing support. There are helicopters and C-130’s parked at Atsugi (our parking lot base for the fighter aircraft on the GW when in port), waiting to provide relief. Japan is mobilizing 100,000 of their SDF (Self Defense Force) personnel plus their reserves, to help with rescue, relief, look for bodies, identify conditions in various areas. The devastation is so great in many places that only walking teams or helicopters from the air can help in any way. No master plan has materialized yet for how to deal with everything. They are overwhelmed. However Japan has had a long time (hundreds of years)  historical experience with tsunamis and the after effects it brings to the culture. They are aware of what is needed physically as well as psychologically. The hard part is how to accomplish what must be done.
An interesting piece, which you may not see on the news. Along the eastern coast of Japan, about 100 miles out, there is an enormous pile of floating debris, cars, houses, everything. It is 1 MILE wide and 60 MILES long! This is like a new island, which it’s not. It’s just refuse that the ocean dragged out to sea. Seems incredible to be that BIG!
The nuclear issue is of great concern to everyone. The Japanese tend to err on the side of caution and the 20 km radius that has been established is thought to be sufficient. We are located from 188-200 miles away from the Fukushima/Sendai area. We have some people who have pressed the panic button and are looking for airline tickets on line back to the U.S. The prices are astronomical. There aren’t many flights at present and I guess it’s a bit of price gouging. 
If you want to help and everyone wants to help, the best way to do that at present is donate to the American Red Cross. They have the resources and methodology to deliver the best aid quickly until such time as more local efforts to help can be brought into the situation.
Things are proceeding as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Do not worry. For the time being this is the new “normal.” It may last awhile. We just hope that there is no other major quake in this country for the foreseeable future.
Thank you to everyone for your responses and notes of concern.

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Thanks for the reassuring post. My brother and his Okinowan family are living in and stationed in Okinawa. He assures that Okinawas was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami. I am however concerned about nuclear fall out. Is Okinawa farther than 1000 Killometers from Fukishima and do you know will there be any fall out there?

Mike Franklin
Mike Franklin

A really good and timely report. Thank you.
On a side note… I have chosen to donate to another resource. I am all too familiar with the American Red Cross and have no respect for this organization… though its people in the field are quite dedicated.


Thanks for the informative and, to that extent, reassuring post. I also would be reluctant to donate anything to any Red Cross unit. Have you seen what the International Director [Swiss-based] or Head gets as salary? I can’t recall perfectly, but I believe it’s US$ 800,000.00 plus, and expenses paid, of course. The head of the Salvation Army, a comparably-sized organisation, earns less than US$ 50,000.00 per year, and no fancy expenses paid, just very basic costs. The head of the US Red Cross, as of June 28, 2007, is William Everson, the former head of the Internal Revenue Service.… Read more »

Candance Moore
Candance Moore

Yeah we avoid the Red Cross as well. I’d much rather work with World Concern, Salvation Army, or local church groups.