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USS George Washington arrives at Yokosuka Naval Base

(See photos at end of story)

Thousands of people crowded onto Yokosuka Naval Base’s Pier 12 on Thursday to welcome the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to its new home in Japan. The historic significance of the event was repeatedly emphasized by Navy and Japanese military officials, as the George Washington is the only nuclear-powered ship ever to be forward deployed to Japan.

Pier-side, families reunited happily, as the carrier has been gone for seven months due to a May fire that laid up the ship in San Diego. More than 240 new families moved to Yokosuka over the spring and summer. The ship itself carries a complement of about 3,000 sailors and also embarks another 1,500 personnel from Carrier Air Wing 5 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Japanese protesters on small boats also greeted the ship as it sailed into the harbor with chants of “Go home, George Washington!” and opposition groups said they would hold organized demonstrations all day to voice concerns over nuclear safety.

But George Washington sailors won’t be getting too comfortable in their new home. The ship is expected to be portside in Busan for South Korea's International Fleet Review marking the navy's 60th anniversary, according to South Korean officials.

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Teri Weaver / S&S
The USS George Washington pulls into Yokosuka Naval Base Thursday morning. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier operate out of Japan. The arrival Thursday was met with cheering families, official accolades, and criticism from local groups.

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Allison Batdorff / S&S
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jacqueline Joseph captured history Thursday as the USS George Washington, the Navy's first nuclear-propelled aircraft carrier deployed to Japan, reached Yokosuka for the first time.

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Allison Batdorff/Stars and Stripes

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Allison Batdorff / S&S
Over 420 USS George Washington sailors lined up on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Thursday as the ship sailed into Yokosuka for the first time.

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Allison Batdorff / S&S
Sailors and aircraft line the USS George Washington's flight deck as it arrives at Yokosuka.

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Allison Batdorff / S&S
Airman Chavia Jones and her shipmates get a first glimpse of Japan.

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Allison Batdorff / S&S

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Teri Weaver / S&S
"We found him," shouts Sayuri Anderson, middle, of her husband, Chief Petty Officer Troy Anderson, as the USS George Washington docked at Yokosuka Naval Base on Thursday. Anderson, a boatswains mate, has not seen his family for three months, his wife said. On left, Monica, 10, and Casey, 13, wait on the pier as the aircraft carrier made its first docking at the base.

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