In the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan, the U.S. armed forces mobilized immediately to assist the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to provide relief for victims. The mission, Operation Tomodachi (tomodachi means “friend” in Japanese), not only saved lives during devastating times, but helped cement good relations between the U.S. and Japan, where tensions have flared due to base relocation issues in Okinawa.
Vice President Joe Biden called Operation Tomodachi the “largest humanitarian relief effort in U.S. history”, when he stopped at the Yokota military base to thank the thousands of personnel who participated. In her talk at the U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference in October, Hillary Clinton recalled seeing firefighters sent from Japan to aid Americans during the 9/11 attacks, and said she was proud that America could return the favor.
This mission’s leader Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet who most recently was active in leading the Combined Maritime Forces in Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and various maritime security operations, believes Operation Tomodachi demonstrated “forward presence in the region to support humanitarian crises and deter aggression.”
Walsh appears at Japan Society on November 15 in Operation Tomodachi: Support, Compassion, Commitment. He discusses his experience leading the large joint relief operation, and shares what he personally witnessed during the monumental collaboration. Japan Society Chairman Wilbur Ross moderates.