Space & Innovation

Japan: Pride, Honor and Respect in the Face of Chaos

Ian Thomas Ash speaks with ENS Margaret Morton, who was stationed aboard the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Mustin when the Japanese earthquake struck.

Ian Thomas Ash, originally from New York, is a freelance documentary filmmaker who has lived in Japan for 10 years. When the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, Ian felt its effects in the nation's capital, Tokyo. The impact of the quake, tsunami and the ongoing threat of radioactive fallout from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant 150 miles away is taking its toll.

In a recent guest article for Discovery News, Ian documented the impact the ongoing crisis was having on the populace of the nation's capital. He also wrote about what he saw during a trip to the city of Ishinomaki, one of the many cities hit hard by the tsunami. Earlier this month, Ian documented the journey made by a group of volunteers led by three brothers who travel to tsunami-devastated Ishinomaki City.

In this special guest article, Ian speaks with ENS Margaret Morton, who was stationed aboard the Navy destroyer USS Mustin when the earthquake struck.

You can see more of Ian's documentary work by visiting Ian's YouTube Channel. He also regularly updates his personal blog, Documenting Ian.

WIDE ANGLE: Japan in Crisis

The effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami have gone well beyond the initial devastation that was so much in the headlines when the disaster first hit. The horror of thousands of dead and entire towns being swept away in the north was quickly compounded with the fear of radiation reaching the capital from the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

It is so easy to get caught up in the fear that is instilled in us by the images of the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. And it is sometimes just as easy to overlook some of the positive stories that have come out of such tragedy.

Within hours of the earthquake and tsunami, the many men and women in the US armed forces that are stationed in Japan began a rescue and recovery effort. The name: Operation Tomodachi, ‘tomodachi' meaning ‘friend' in Japanese.

ENS Margaret Morton was stationed aboard the Navy destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89) in Yokota, Japan when the earthquake struck on March 11. Her e-mails home to her friends and family during the following days offered a striking first-hand account of the rescue and recovery effort. Recipients of her e-mails began to forward them, and after being sent around the world they were spotted by a Japanese newspaper which translated and published them.

This is Margaret's story in her own words, accompanied by images captured by the crew of the USS Mustin.

More by Ian:

March 22, 2011: Despite Radiation Fears, ‘I'm Not Leaving Tokyo'

March 28, 2011: After the Tsunami, ‘To Be Alive Is Enough'

April 1, 2011: Japan Tsunami Clean-up: So Much to Be Done

Video credit: Ian Thomas Ash