Japanese Defense Minister thanks San Diego-based naval group for - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Japanese Defense Minister thanks San Diego-based naval group for earthquake relief efforts

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Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, center, shakes hands with Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, during a ceremony in the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) Monday, April 4, 2011. Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, center, shakes hands with Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, Commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, during a ceremony in the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) Monday, April 4, 2011.
Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa is greeted upon his arrival on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76). Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa is greeted upon his arrival on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76).
U.S. Navy personnel wears Operation Tomodachi badge on his shoulder. U.S. Navy personnel wears Operation Tomodachi badge on his shoulder.

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa thanked sailors and Marines aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan for their help after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Navy reported Monday.

The Reagan and other ships based in San Diego, the cruiser USS Chancellorsville and destroyer USS Preble, were on their way to deployment when ordered to the waters off Japan to aid in recovery efforts.

Other U.S. ships and military units also joined Operation Tomodachi, which means "friendship" in Japanese.

"To all U.S. military members, on behalf of the people of Japan, I sincerely express my deep appreciation for the tremendous support provided by the U.S. military, the U.S. government and the American people at a time of unprecedented crisis in Japan," Kitazawa said in remarks made on the carrier's hangar deck.

U.S. aircraft have flown 450 missions for recovery, transport and distribution of supplies, according to the Navy.

Sailors on several ships have donated a lot of their personal items, as well.

"The entire Japanese people are deeply moved and encouraged by scenes of U.S. military members working hard in support of relief efforts," Kitazawa said. "Those in Japan and the United States are true tomodachi - they share basic values such as democracy and respect for human rights."

The defense minister also thanked the crew of the Preble via radio.

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