Tag Archives: Humanitarian Mission

11–12 July 1999

Amundsen Scott South Pole Station

11–12 July 1999: Jerri Lin Nielsen, M.D., a physician at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, self-biopsied a suspicious breast lump. Results were inconclusive, so the National Science Foundation decided to send additional test equipment and medications to the remote station by military transport.

Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., United States Air Force.
Brigadier General John I. Pray, Jr., United States Air Force.

Because of the extreme cold, adverse weather conditions and months of darkness, it was considered too dangerous for an aircraft to attempt landing at the South Pole. A United States Air Force Lockheed C-141B Starlifter of the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Washington, was sent to stage out of Christchurch, New Zealand, in order to air drop the supplies at the South Pole. The mission was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John I. Pray, Jr., U.S. Air Force.

Departing Christchurch at 2154 UTC, 11 July, with six pallets of medical supplies and equipment as well as fresh food and mail for the remote outpost, the C-141 was joined for the flight by a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, Hawaii National Guard, for inflight refueling. A refueling took place over McMurdo Station and then the Starlifter headed on toward the Pole.

A Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker prepares to refuel a Lockheed C-141B Starlifter. (Richard Seaman)

Amundsen-Scott station personnel set fire to 27 smudge pots arranged in a semi-circle to mark the drop zone, and turned off all outside lighting. When the transport arrived overhead, blowing snow obscured the drop zone and it took the aircrew, flying with night vision goggles, 25 minutes to locate the markers.

The first of six pallets of medical supplies airdropped by the U.S. Air force at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, 11 July 1999. (National Science Foundation)
The first of six pallets of medical supplies airdropped by the U.S. Air Force at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, 11 July 1999. (National Science Foundation)

At 2230 the C-141 flew over at an altitude of 700 feet (213.4 meters) and dropped two cargo pallets on the first pass and the remaining four on a second. It immediately departed to rendezvous with the KC-135 tanker and both returned to New Zealand.

After a 6,375 mile (10,260 kilometer) round trip, the C-141 touched down at Christchurch at 1225 UTC, 12 July.

Dr. Nielsen’s lump was cancerous. Using the medical supplies that had been air-dropped, she treated herself for the next three months. She was evacuated by air when a Lockheed LC-130H Hercules from the 109th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, picked her up 16 October 1999.

Dr. Nielsen’s cancer eventually metastasized to her liver, bones and brain. Jerri Lin FitzGerald, M.D., died 23 June 2009 at her home in Southwick, Massachusetts.

Her husband, Thomas FitzGerald, said, “She fought bravely, she was able to make the best of what life and circumstance gave her, and she had the most resilience I have ever seen in anyone. She fought hard and she fought valiantly.”

Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen, 1 March 1952–23 June 2009. (National Science Foundation)
Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen, 1 March 1952–23 June 2009. (National Science Foundation)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 April 1945

Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster Princess Patricia of No. 514 Squadron at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, UK, being loaded with food for Operation Manna, 29 April 1945, (Pilot Officer Penfold, Royal Air Force official photographer)
Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster “Princess Patricia” of No. 514 Squadron at RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, England, being loaded with food for Operation Manna, 29 April 1945. (Pilot Officer Penfold, Royal Air Force Official Photographer/Imperial War Museum)
A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster heavy bomber drops food packages over The Netherlands.
A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster heavy bomber drops food packages over The Netherlands.

29 April 1945: With the defeat of Nazi Germany imminent, millions of Dutch citizens were still under the control of the occupying German army. Food was very scarce. The Allies tried to negotiate a cease fire so that American and British airplanes could fly into The Netherlands and drop food to the people.

The truce had not yet been agreed to by Germany, but on 29 April, Operations Manna and Chowhound began.

The first night, to test the feasibility of the project, two Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster four-engine long range heavy bombers of No. 101 Squadron—Bad Penny, crewed by Canadians, and a second ship flown by an Australian crew—were loaded with food at RAF Ludford Magna and flew into The Netherlands at barely 50 feet (15 meters) above the ground.

To drop the food they simply opened the bomb bay doors and the bags and packages fell to the starving people below.

A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster drops bundles of food in The Netherlands during Operation Manna, 1945. (International Bomber Command Center)

With Flight Sergeant Robert Fairful Upcott, D.F.M., Royal Canadian Air Force, [service number R187858] leading with Bad Penny, the two Lancasters ¹ dropped their food on the Racetrack Duindigt at Wassernaar, near The Hague, then returned along the same corridor they had flown on the way in. At 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, another 200 Lancasters followed.

Flight crew of Avro Lancaster, “Bad Penny.” Standing, left to right: Wireless Operator Stan Jones; Flight Engineer John Corner; Aircraft Commander, Flight Sergeant Robert F. Upcott,D.F.M.; and Navigator Bill Walton. Kneeling, Aerial Gunner Bill Demo; Mid-Upper Gunner Ossie Blower; and Bomb Aimer Bill Gray. (Canadian Historical Aircraft Association)

Over the next ten days, approximately 11,000 tons (9,979 Metric tons) of food were dropped by Royal Air Force Lancasters and U.S. Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster drops food packages from its bomb bay while flying at very low level over The Netherlands during Operation Manna.
A Royal Air Force Avro Lancaster drops food packages from its bomb bay while flying at very low level over The Netherlands during Operation Manna.

¹ The second Lancaster was commanded by Flight Officer P.G.L. Collett, Royal Australian Air Force (A424149).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 January 1932

At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
At the lower left corner of this image, the shadow of a Curtiss B-2 Condor can be seen as it prepares to drop supplies at the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona, 17 January 1932. (Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps. (U.S. Air Force)

17 January 1932: The 11th Bombardment Squadron, U.S. Army Air Corps, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Charles H. Howard and based at March Field, Riverside, California, flew six Curtiss B-2 Condor bombers to drop food and supplies to the Navajo reservation near Winslow, Arizona. A severe winter storm had isolated the community and caused the deaths of thousands of livestock.

More than 30,000 pounds (13,600 kilograms) of food was dropped to support the 20,000 people of the Navajo and Hopi nations effected by the winter storms.

Lieutenant Howard and the 11th Bombardment Squadron won the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year. This was the first time that the Mackay was awarded to a group.

Charles Harold Howard was born at Ashland, Oregon, 29 December 1892. He was the first of two children of Charles B. Howard, a telegraph operator, and Mary Ann Kincaid Howard.

Howard enlisted as a private in the Signal Corps, United States Army, 23 November 1917. He served with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, and the Aviation Section, Signal Corps. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant, Air Service, 7 November 1918.

In 1920, Lieutenant Howard was an instructor at the Air Service Flying School at Love Field, Dallas, Texas. In a reorganization of the Air Service, his commission was vacated 15 September 1920 and he was appointed a second lieutenant, Air Service, with date of rank retroactive to 1 July 1920. Howard was promoted to first lieutenant, 30 August 1924.

Captain Howard was killed in an aircraft accident near Bryan Mill, Texas, 25 October 1936. His remains were buried at the Mountain View Cemetery, Ashland, Oregon. Howard Air Force Base, Panama, was named in his honor.

The following is excerpted from the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register web site:

The Air Corps Newsletter of November 1, 1936 reports his passing and summarizes his flying career:

“An airplane accident on the night of October 25th, near Bryan’s Mill, Texas, cost the lives of Captain Charles H. Howard and Corporal Edward N. Gibson, Air Corps, both of whom were stationed at Langley Field, VA.

“Captain Howard, who enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, during the World War, was an efficient and capable officer, an expert pilot, and was particularly well versed in the field of radio communications.

“. . . after serving for a brief period with Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion, Fort Lewis, Washington, he was transferred to Kelly Field, Texas, where he served with the 84th Aero Squadron. . .

“During the next four years, Captain Howard’s duties related mainly to radio communications. . . 

“In January 1926, Captain Howard was transferred to the Panama Canal Department, where he served for three years, being on duty with the 7th Observation Squadron at France Field for two years, and with the 25th Bombardment Squadron in the remaining year.

“From Panama, Captain Howard was transferred to Rockwell Field, Calif., when he was assigned to the 11th Bombardment Squadron. He also served as Communications Officer of the 7th Bombardment Group. Later, when the Squadron was transferred to March Field, Calif., he was placed in command thereof.”

It was during this time that he and his crew won the Mackay Trophy.

“During the summer of 1934, Captain Howard piloted one of the B-10 Bombardment planes in the Army Alaskan Flight, from Washington, D.C., to Fairbanks, Alaska, and return. This aerial expedition of ten B-10 airplanes was commanded by Brigadier General Henry H. Arnold. The flight was completed according to a prearranged schedule in exactly one month. In addition to his duties as pilot, Captain Howard served as Assistant Communications Officer of the expedition. . .

“Captain Howard had to his credit over 4,000 hours flying time. He was the author of various articles dealing most interestingly and convincingly with subjects in which he particularly specialized – Bombardment Aviation and Radio Communications.”

Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register http://www.dmairfield.com/index.php

First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, USAAC and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of CalTech, with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)
First Lieutenant Charles H. Howard, U.S. Army Air Corps and Dr. Robert A. Millikan of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), with a Curtiss B-2 Condor bomber at March Field, 27 October 1932. (© Bettman/CORBIS)

The Curtiss B-2 Condor was a large (by contemporary standards) twin-engine biplane bomber, operated by a crew of five. It was 47 feet, 4.5 inches (14.440 meters) long with a 90 foot (27.432 meter) wingspan and overall height of 16 feet, 6 inches (5.029 meters).

The B-2 was powered by two liquid-cooled, normally-aspirated 1,570.381-cubic-inch-displacement (25.734 liter) Curtiss Conqueror V-1570-7 DOHC 60° V-12 engines producing 633 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m., each, driving three-bladed propellers.

The airplane had an empty weight of 9,300 pounds (4,218.4 kilograms) and loaded weight of 16,591 pounds (7,525.6 kilograms).

The bomber had a maximum speed of 132 miles per hour (212 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and a range of 805 miles (1,296 kilometers).

Although the Condor’s service ceiling was 16,140 feet (4,920 meters), Lieutenant Howard flew one to 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) while conducting an experiment in cosmic ray research for Dr. Robert Andrews Millikan of Caltech, Pasadena, California. (“Service ceiling” is the altitude above which an aircraft can no longer maintain at least a 100 feet per minute/0.5 meters per second rate of climb.)

Defensive armament consisted of six .30-caliber Lewis machine guns, with gunners’ positions at the nose and behind each engine. The B-2 could carry 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms) of bombs.

Including the XB-2 prototype, 13 B-2s were built, and a single B-2A. They were removed from service by 1934 as more modern designs became available.

A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)
A Curtiss B-2 Condor, serial number 28-399, in flight near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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30 September 1949

A Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport on approach to Flughafen Berlin-Templhof, circa 1948. (LIFE Magazine)

The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total the United States Air Force, United States Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force delivered 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 280,290 flights to Berlin.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster approaches the end of the pierced-steel mat runway at Berlin, circa 1949. (U.S. Air Force)

At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

101 airmen lost their lives.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster on final approach to Flughafen Berlin-Tempelhof.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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