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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – The last U.S. military ships aiding the tsunami-stricken area of Japan were preparing to leave the northern Honshu coast Friday, 7th Fleet officials said.

The USS Tortuga and USNS Safeguard were expected to depart Friday, one day after the USS Essex and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit completed their mission, according to fleet spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis.

“By the end of the day today, we will no longer have any ships on station,” Davis said in an e-mail response. “All of the U.S. [Navy] efforts have moved ashore.”

The Essex crew and the Marines cleared about five tons of debris from Oshima island, which is located about 80 miles northeast of Sendai. Navy officials from Commander Task Force 76 met with Oshima leaders Thursday to review survey data of submerged debris in Oshima’s harbor.

The Navy offered further assistance, but Oshima officials said they would complete the harbor clearance themselves, Davis said.

The Navy and Marine Corps had 22 ships and more than 15,000 personnel involved in earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

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