The first wave of aid from the United States began arriving in Japan on Saturday to assist in rescue and recovery operations following Friday's devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake, multiple aftershocks and subsequent tsunamis.
In Shiroishi, a town near the area hardest hit by the quake, two SH-60 helicopters from U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi delivered 1,500 pounds of rice and bread donated by people in Ebina, southeast of Tokyo, the U.S. 7th Fleet, said in a statement Saturday. The fleet is headquartered in Yokosuka, just outside Tokyo.
Two destroyers, the USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur, were off Japan's Boso Peninsula, which shelters Tokyo Bay, and were preparing to move into position "to assist Japanese authorities with providing at-sea search and rescue and recovery operations," the 7th Fleet said.
An additional destroyer, the USS Mustin, will depart Yokosuka on Sunday. Eight other U.S. ships are en route to Japan from various locations, set to arrive Sunday or later in the week, according to the 7th Fleet. One, the USS Tortuga, departed Japan Saturday night to pick up two helicopters in South Korea before returning in about two days.
Three ships from the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group also are among the eight ships, the military said. "USS Ronald Reagan is prepared to serve as an afloat platform for refueling Japan Self Defense Force and other helicopters involved in rescue and recovery efforts ashore," it said.
Meanwhile, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based on the island of Okinawa, south of Japan, said it was "prepositioning forces and supplies in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations."
The force was sending staffers, a cargo aircraft and transport helicopters to the mainland, it said in a written statement. Additional aircraft and supplies will be sent in the next few days.
The military assistance operation is known as Operation Tomodachi, or "friendship," the statement said. The name was chosen by the Japanese.
More aid -- in the form of equipment, staffers and search-and-rescue teams -- is expected to arrive Sunday.
Even Major League Baseball is stepping up to help. Commissioner Bud Selig promised assistance. Citing "our shared love of baseball for more than a century," Selig said in a statement that Japan is "a particularly special place to us" and that MLB will provide aid in the coming days and weeks.
The American Red Cross has been communicating with their Japanese Red Cross Society counterparts and numerous global partners. While the organization says it has not yet received any requests for blood from Japan, they are helping in other ways -- namely helping people with loved ones in Japan connect via their "Safe and Well" website.