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.
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.
Within 24 hours of a request for support from the government of Bangladesh, Operation Sea Angel was launched, and advance teams from the III Marine Expeditionary Force arrive in country for initial liaison. Operation Sea Angel began on 10 May and involved over 7,000 US soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. A fifteen-ship amphibious task force composed of Amphibious Group 3 and the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was diverted to the Bay of Bengal to assist. Over the next month, 6,700 Navy and Marine Corps personnel working with U.S. Army, Air Force, and multinational forces, provided food, water, and medical care to nearly two million people. The relief efforts of U.S. troops are credited with having saved as many as 200,000 lives.
All of those lessons learned from Operation Sea Angel could have and should have been brought to bear on Katrina. Instead George W Bush fiddled while New Orleans sank and while people pleaded for their government to rescue them. The richest country in the world, under competent and less arrogant leadership, was able to come to the aid of one of the poorest countries in the world in a time of need. Yet, faced with a challenge within its own homeland, the United States government, under incompetent and arrogant leadership, failed to come to the aid of its own citizens. That is simply inexcusable.