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Operation Christmas Drop

Dec. 14, 1990. Santa Claus (Capt. Mike d'Albertis, 605th Military Airlift Support Squadron) and Staff Sgt. Tony Thompson, loadmaster with the 21st Tactical Airlift Squadron, watch as a Christmas Drop container is parachuted toward its destination. The annual airdrop is a humanitarian effort providing aid to needy islanders throughout Micronesia during the Christmas season. (U.S Air Force Photograph by Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson/Released)
Dec. 14, 1990. Santa Claus (Capt. Mike d'Albertis, 605th Military Airlift Support Squadron) and Staff Sgt. Tony Thompson, loadmaster with the 21st Tactical Airlift Squadron, watch as a Christmas Drop container is parachuted toward its destination. The annual airdrop is a humanitarian effort providing aid to needy islanders throughout Micronesia during the Christmas season. (U.S Air Force Photograph by Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson/Released)

Dec. 14, 1990. Santa Claus (Capt. Mike d’Albertis, 605th Military Airlift Support Squadron) and Staff Sgt. Tony Thompson, loadmaster with the 21st Tactical Airlift Squadron, watch as a Christmas Drop container is parachuted toward its destination. The annual airdrop is a humanitarian effort providing aid to needy islanders throughout Micronesia during the Christmas season. (U.S Air Force Photograph by Tech. Sgt. James Ferguson/Released)

In 1952, a group of aircrew assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam were flying a mission in a WB-29 (essentially a converted B-29 Superfortress) south of Guam when they spotted villagers on the Micronesian island of Kapingamarangi waving excitedly to them. After quickly consulting with each other, the crew of the the WB-29 gathered together small knickknacks, trinkets and Air Force-issued gear that wouldn’t be missed if “donated”, crammed it all into a container with an attached parachute, then airdropped it onto the island where the villagers could recover it. From then on, an amazing and incredibly heartwarming Christmas tradition was born.

These days, Operation Christmas Drop, as it’s officially known, is an Air Force training mission that sees thousands and thousands of pounds of cargo airdropped to islanders in the region who are often without running water, sometimes electricity and other utilities that we often take for granted in our urban worlds. These containers generally include non-perishable food, toys, school supplies, construction gear and materials, clothes and shoes, fishing gear, medical supplies, etc. These days, aircraft and crew from the 734th Air Mobility Squadron at Andersen AFB and the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base in Japan participate in Operation Christmas Drop. The majority of good dropped to the islanders are donated or bought with the proceeds from various fundraisers and fundraising activities held throughout the year. All containers are dropped just off the beaches of the islands, lest anybody on the ground accidentally get hit. Operation Christmas Drop is currently the longest-running mission the US Department of Defense has ever carried out, and remains the oldest humanitarian airlift in the world.

Operation Christmas Drop 2008: Tech. Sgt. Heath Bahyi and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Sundberg push out a boxed pallet of donated goods from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Christmas Drop Dec. 19 over the remote Island of Yap. Airmen today continue the tradition of delivering supplies to remote islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Yap, Palau, Chuuk and Pohnpei. In all, more than 180 boxes were built for the humanitarian mission, making 2008 one of the largest drops in Operation Christmas Drop's 57-year history. Sergeant Bahyi and Chief Sundberg are loadmasters from the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photograph/Released)

Operation Christmas Drop 2008: Tech. Sgt. Heath Bahyi and Chief Master Sgt. Michael Sundberg push out a boxed pallet of donated goods from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Christmas Drop Dec. 19 over the remote Island of Yap. Airmen today continue the tradition of delivering supplies to remote islands of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, Yap, Palau, Chuuk and Pohnpei. In all, more than 180 boxes were built for the humanitarian mission, making 2008 one of the largest drops in Operation Christmas Drop’s 57-year history. Sergeant Bahyi and Chief Sundberg are loadmasters from the 36th Airlift Squadron from Yokota Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photograph/Released)

Operation Christmas Drop

Air Force Maj. John Chrampanis discusses flight plans with Air Force Capt. Michael Kelly during an Operation Christmas Drop mission over the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 11, 2013. Chrampanis is commander of the 36th Airlift Squadron’s C-130 Hercules aircraft on Yokota Air Base, Japan, and Kelly, a pilot, is assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Marianique Santos/Released)

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About Ian D'Costa (256 Articles)
Ian is the editor-in-chief of the Tactical Air Network. His work has been republished and quoted in a number of publications, including The Toronto Star, Airsoc, Business Insider and The Aviationist. You can reach him at idcosta@tacairnet.com.

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