USS Ronald Reagan, CVN-76
One of my Vietnam-era shipmates sent me an email he had received from an officer friend aboard the carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which is off the Northeast coast of Japan near Sendai:
Just thought I'd send an update from life today on Reagan. Some of you have seen of this and some haven't. It’s been quite a week. Many challenging times, avoiding radioactive plumes and contamination in the environment both air and water. Sailors here are happy to help in such a trifold disaster but it’s also been pretty scary at times for us too. I think all the rad we've seen is safe low levels but we do hear of high levels now and again.
Since we are a nuclear carrier we have all the requisite devices to measure radiation in the environment and keep the ship safe, however, not sure the chain of command ever considered having to use these devices in a situation quite like this. Literally, our chain of command was the resident experts on things nuclear until task forces started to get set up and organized.
We had a rough time trying to figure out where to go at first but have nestled into an area north of Sendai that saw much damage and is also a safe distance from the reactors at Fukishima.
We found a bunch of people at first, ~ 10-20 landing zones, then the past few days were quieter and today we found Japanese that needed rescued again.
The helos and airplanes go out and look at the country looking for people with cameras and stuff. Japanese are really smart at disaster preparedness. The displaced people that need help write SOS on the ground in big fields or drop lots of stones on the ground in an helo pad shape or spell out S O S . Then the helos know there are people nearby that need help so they land and look and bring back supplies. Lots and lots of Japanese have been helped in this way. I'm guessing they are without power but yet they inherently know to do this.
When the helos land on the ground the Japanese come out and stand in a perfect line and help the helo guys unload all the goodies out of the helo in an assembly line as fast as possible. They have been ever so respectful, patient and humble. They are such an amazing people. Even in this horrible time, they maintain such respectability
My friend who is a helo pilot told me tonight that as they were taking off after unloading supplies, a man got down on his knees and prayed to the helo guys (like a buddhist praying motion). Other Japanese have all waved, clapped, and given many types of thanks to our helo squadrons.
I saw pictures tonight from the helo's and airplanes. The pictures are amazing. I've never been to Japan but it’s so beautiful, the mountain sides are breathtaking and the ocean on the northeast coast is SO BLUE! There is a lot of destruction in the pictures. Towns just wiped out and houses remaining where the water stopped. I also heard the Japanese had a lot of water walls to help protect them from tsunamis and this helped in many locations but not all of course. I haven't had much time to watch the news and all we get is CNN so these pictures today were unique to me.
Today at sea I saw A LOT of trees in the ocean. It looked like a lumber yard, logs and trees everywhere. Many trees have the root systems attached. I swear, I'd bet money that chunks of land lifted up from the seaside with the trees attached because some of the trees stick straight up and down out of the water as if they are solid in ground (but the water depth is 1000-2000' in those spots. The ocean is littered with connex boxes, I've seen soooo much debris out here, I wish we could have blown some of it up so that at least they weren't hazards to navigation.
There is media from the NYTimes here today so maybe there will be more news about us coming.
The guys on the flight deck have been working so hard, it’s really cold outside, they have to wear over boots over their boots to protect from contamination and they return back into the skin of the ship through the foc'sle which is now a decontamination station. I've heard that line lasts an hour to get through. If your clothes or boots are too high then they take them from you and issue you new stuff. Fibers and clothes hold radiation more so then hard surfaces and so I think some things like halyards and lines may have to be thrown away. Our 'lookouts' have been inside the pilothouse almost this entire time now and believe the island structure has some contamination on it. My forecasters stopped launching weather balloons but the smoke pit is still open on the fantail.
My team has been working so hard and sleeping so little and giving everything they've got. The forecasts for the helos are paramount and CAG is definitely concerned for his guys. The captain has told me repeatedly to keep him abreast of the winds and call him anytime when we will be 'downwind' from the reactors. There are people making 'plumes' models of the air and sea, some are good, some are great, and some are not. It’s all very complicated. And the jets, well, they haven't really been flying so who knows what will happen with
When this is all over I intend to travel back here and find a place in the country that is clean and safe to be and enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer.
Yesterday everyone donated supplies from their personal stashes. I'm hoping we do that again.
All for now, sorry if this email is kind of choppy just wanted to pass along the latest.
Peace,xxxxxxx xxxxxxxLCDRUSS RONALD REAGAN