Sunday, April 17, 2011

From the flight deck of the USS Essex



Lieutenant Yoshinori Yamaguchi* pointed his Yokosuka D4Y3 (Type 33) Suisei at USS Essex (CV/CVA/CVS-9) on November 25, 1944. He slammed onto the edge of the flight deck causing an inferno that killed him and 15 sailors, half of whom were African American.

The Kamakazi attack, however, did not sink the aircraft carrier. After quick repairs, the USS Essex went on to participate in the Battle of Okinawa and conduct raids against the Japanese home islands.

Today’s USS Essex (LHD-2) is an amphibious assault vessel, the fifth ship named after Essex, Massachusetts, and one of the first US Navy ships to come to Japan’s aid after the devastating earthquake and tusnami.

According to the US Navy, the Essex was deployed off the northeastern coast of Honshu and was involved in relief activities in the Sea of Japan off Akita Prefecture. Helicopters from the ship helped deliver relief supplies to quake and tsunami survivors along the northeast coast of Tohoku.

As part of the US military’s humanitarian aid mission, Operation Tomodachi, the Essex has been instrumental in restoration work on Oshima Island, located off Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture. The Essex helped restore power to the isolated island and deliver heavy machinery and other items to restore the destroyed port facilities.

A Yomiuri Shimbun reporter and photographer (essential to every Marine landing party) spent the day with Marines from the Essex in early April. The journalist accompanied them as they began a week-long mission to offer assistance where needed on the island.

He quoted SDF Master Sgt. Masanori Ide, who is stationed aboard the USS Essex as a senior officer of a Japan-U.S. bilateral coordination center, who said, "They didn't do it because of an order, but out of a desire to do something for friends."

Capt. David Fluker, USS Essex commanding officer, said the relationship between Japan and the United States had grown even stronger in the weeks since the quake. 

I surely hope so.


*This may not be the young pilot, as there is some debate as to whom he was, as is discussed in this BOOK REVIEW.

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