USS Memphis Sailor
Saves Buddy's Life on Mt. Fuji
|By Journalist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert, Commander, Submarine
Force Pacific public affairs
July 29, 2005
MOUNT FUJI, Japan -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Johnson,
a native of Lavergne, Tenn., and member onboard USS Memphis (SSN
691) saved a shipmate’s life following a hiking accident on Mount
Fuji on July 24.
Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Kyle Johnson
shown busy at work onboard USS Memphis. (Official US Navy photo)
The former lifeguard was hiking on Mount Fuji when his liberty buddy
fell approximately 15 feet.
When Johnson saw him fall, he provided immediate first-aid.
“My first thought was he had a spinal injury and needed to be
stabilized,” said Johnson.
While stabilizing the victim, Johnson notice things were not going
“His pulse was fading and he was not breathing,” he said. “I gave
him two emergency breaths.”
During this time, a hiker who was passing by called for a rescue
The petty officer began having convulsions. Johnson kept his head
and neck stabilized during the convulsions then performed more CPR.
After the second convulsion, the victim had no pulse. Johnson kept
“When I felt he didn’t have a pulse, I performed three cycles of
chest compressions,” he said.
Soon after the incident, it began to rain. Johnson did not want his
shipmate to develop hypothermia.
“I put all the clothes we had on him to keep him warm,” said
Johnson. “I even took off almost all my clothes, including my socks
and shoes to cover his whole body. I had to keep him warm, so I laid
on top of him to keep his body temperature up,” he said.
Hours went by and still there was no rescue. Coming up the trail
were a Japanese family who spotted the two men. The family
immediately offered their hot packs, some clothes and blankets.
Johnson quickly put the hot packs on the victim’s chest.
“I wanted to keep his blood circulating,” said Johnson.
The family again called for the search and rescue team. The team
told them the rescue efforts were halted because it was foggy and
they could not find the victim.
“When I heard that, I told them we needed the rescue to be
reinstated,” Johnson said.
The rescue was reinstated, but the dispatcher said it might take
hours or days due to the fog. Staying focused, Johnson asked the
woman to call information to get the number to the Navy base who in
turn directed them to Camp Fuji, a U.S. Marine Corps base not far
from the foot of the mountain.
“When I called Camp Fuji, I talked to a duty corpsman and told him
of the conditions,” said Johnson. “He sent some Marines and a few
corpsman to save us.”
While the party waited to be rescued, the corpsman called every 10
minutes. The fog soon cleared and the rescue team was nearby, down
the mountain near a checkpoint.
“When I saw them I was a little relieved but I was too worried about
my crewmember. I gave him some oxygen tablets to fight compression
sickness,” said Johnson.
The rescue team put the injured submariner on a stretcher, loaded
him on the rescue truck and headed off to the medical facility.
“This Sailor would not have made it if it were not for the efforts
of Johnson,” said USS Memphis’ Chief of the Boat Al Atkinson.
“The life-saving techniques used by Johnson came from his personal
experience. Incidents like this is why we hold CPR and other life
saving training on the boat,” said Atkinson.
Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Darrin Way, Commander Submarine
Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Force Corpsman, said Johnson’s efforts
“When blood stops flowing in the body leaving your vital organs
without fresh oxygen, it is only a matter of time before a person
expires,” he said.
“This Sailor did everything right and save a shipmate’s life,” said
Johnson said he was not worried about being a hero but was worried
about saving a life. He also said the thing he disliked most about
going on liberty showed him why it was important.
“When I first learned of the buddy system, I thought it was a drag
but then after this experience I think it is very important,” said
Atkinson also credited the buddy system for preventing this incident
from becoming a tragedy. It requires two or more Sailors to go on
liberty in a foreign port together.
“Since leaving for deployment, we have adopted the standard Navy
buddy system guidelines,” said Atkinson. “As you can see, the system