U.S. marks anniversary of operation to provide relief in wake of March 2011 disaster

Kyodo, JIJI

The U.S. military held a ceremony Wednesday commemorating the fifth anniversary of its “Operation Tomodachi” relief effort launched in response to the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan, triggering the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“The most important hero, in my mind, is the Japanese people … they withstood that (tragedy) and started to rebuild with a grace and dignity that we could only hope to have,” Lt. Gen. Burton Field, the then-commander of U.S. Forces Japan, told the ceremony.

“People in Japan fondly remember the U.S. support as a symbol of the bond — kizuna — which exists in the alliance between Japan and the U.S.,” said Maj. Gen. Takayuki Onozuka, director general of the Defense Plans and Policy Department of Japan’s Joint Staff, who also attended the ceremony.

The ceremony was held at the U.S. Department of Defense in the suburb of Washington prior to the March 11 anniversary of the disaster.

At the ceremony, the Japan Ground SDF Central Band and the U.S. Marine Band jointly played music including “Hana wa Saku” (Flowers Will Bloom), a song written for the purpose of supporting disaster reconstruction.