As the death toll in the Bangladesh cyclone soars to 15,000, an email to us from the informative Bangladesh blog The 3rd World View reminds us that the United States has played a key rescue role over the years.
Let me tell you a story of a disaster that you have probably never heard of and the overwhelming American response that you should know about.
In late spring of 1991 a US Navy Amphibious Task Force (ATF) returning from the Persian Gulf war was diverted, on order of President George H.W. Bush, to the Bay of Bengal.
A Bangladeshi citizen, rumor has it, on seeing the ATF approach from the sea, called them “Angels from the Sea.” Thus began Operation Sea Angel, one of the largest military relief operations ever undertaken.
Less than two weeks ago, on the evening of April 29 1991, Cyclone Marian, a storm with top sustained winds of 160 mph (Category 5), made landfall as a strong Category 4 storm (155 mph) along the coastline of Bangladesh. The resulting 20 foot high tidal wave killed over 138,000 people and left over 5 million people homeless. Marian was one of the deadliest tropical cyclones on record.
The new democratically elected government in Bangladesh, overwhelmed by the massive scale of the devastation, requested urgent assistance from foreign countries. While relief goods had been stockpiled before the cyclone, most of Bangladesh’s lift capability and almost all of the infrastructure had been wiped out by the force of nature’s onslaught.
The United States responded on May 10 1991 by launching Operation Sea Angel, a relief operation that involved over 7000 US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. The man leading the effort, Lt. General Henry Stackpole, declared, “We went to Kuwait in the name of liberty, and we’ve come to Bangladesh in the name of humanity.”
Operation Sea Angel was massive in scale and massively successful….
Read it in full.
The 3rd World View then asks:
Two US Navy ships are on the way to Bangladesh to assist in the relief operation of the cyclone Sidr Victims. Will many lives be saved by the angels again?
Read it in full.
See our earlier post on the Bangladesh cyclone HERE.