Camp Fuji Fire History

On 19 October 1979, Typhoon Tip, the strongest typhoon to hit mainland Japan in 13 years, brougt 115 mph winds and a torrential downpour with it. More than 1,250 Marines of Battalion Landing Team 2/4 from Camp Schwab, Okinawa, and assigned here for training, were housed in quonset huts in upper Camp Fuji. To protect the Marines, and prevent the doors from flying away in the strong winds, the officers and Staff NCO's nailed the doors shut.

The fuel farm, which consisted of two rubber storage bladders secured by a retaining wall, was located up the hill above the quonset huts. The rains from Typhoon Tip eroded the wall and allowed the bladder to break free. Hoses were torn away from the bladder, releasing 5000 gallons of gasoline. Skimming the surface of the water, the gasoline ran across upper Camp Fuji into the quonset huts. Then, around 1430, one of the quonset hut heaters ignited the fuel.

Fire fighting vehicles from the airfield crash crew arrived on the scene within 10 minutes. Additional support arrived from Takigahara Garrison as well as the following City of Gotemba firefighting units: Platoons #2 and #6 from Inno Village, Platoon #3 from Tamaho Village, and the Gotemba-Oyama Fire Station. By 1545, the fire was under reasonable control, but could not be extinguished completely.

Casualties were evacuated to local hospitals in Gotemba, Naval Airfield Atsugi, Naval Operations Base Yokuska, Yokota Air Base, and Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Vehicles and ambulances from Fuji Schools and Takigahara Garrison supported this movement. Headquarters, 3rd Detachment of the USSS White Plains, a combat stores ship, stationed at Naval Airfield Atsugi, provided airlift support for helicopter evacuation operations.

Despite the tremendous response of the local community and the military installations, 51 Marines and 3 Japanese nationals were injured, while fourteen quonset huts were destroyed and several other buildings were damaged. Of the 54 people injured, 13 Marines died.

Marines who died:
Cpl Colim Miller
LCpl Willie Davis, Jr.
LCpl Ernest E. Gutierrez
LCpl Philip E. Dupont
LCpl L. C. Malveaux
LCpl Robert V. Smith, Jr.
LCpl Orlando E. Sandoval
LCpl Stephen R. Turner
PFC Thomas J. Breunig
PFC Tyrone C. Elem
PFC Robert L. Brees
PFC Roger A. Larson
Pvt Gregory L. Hassel





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1st Marine Division