Operation Christmas Drop is a well-known event in the Pacific. In many of our destinations, like Palau or Truk Lagoon, everyone awaits it with excitement each year. You may never have heard of it, but we are sure the name will give you a hint of what it is.
What is Operation Christmas Drop?
Operation Christmas Drop is a humanitarian airlift operation. The US Department of Defense has been running it since 1952. This makes it their longest-running and oldest operation. In fact, it remains the longest-running operation in the world!
The US Air Force uses two main bases for Operation Christmas Drop. The bases are Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and Yokota Air Base in Japan. From these bases, every December, flights cover a territory as wide as the continental US. They try to reach the most remote islands in the Pacific which are mainly in the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and The Republic of Palau.
On each outing, the air force air-drops boxes, each nearly 200 kg, that contain supplies. The contents of these boxes can vary, but tend to be first-necessity and critical items that these remote populations need. Also they will generally include things like fishing supplies, medicines, educational materials, toys, construction materials, food, and clothing.
The history behind Operation Christmas Drop
The drop began during Christmas season, 1951. A B-29 Superfortress aircrew saw islanders waving at them from the island of Kapingamarangi, Federated States of Micronesia. In the spirit of Christmas, the aircrew quickly gathered some items. After attaching them to a parachute, they air-dropped the chute to the islanders below.
This event gave birth to the formal operation in 1952, as well as its name. To date, they use this operation as a training exercise. In short, the US Air Force gets the chance to practice humanitarian air-drops every year. Also, it gives experience to the air crews. These skills are crucial and may be needed later (as in deployment or in case of natural disasters.)
While Christmas Drop remains a military operation, most of the supplies are sponsored by volunteers. Over time, Operation Christmas Drop has become a tradition in the Pacific. Even the most remote islands await it with impatience.
How does it work?
Throughout the year, the organisation collect funds and donations. In the months leading up the drop dates, volunteers create donation drop-off boxes and raise money from local businesses and citizens.
A week before the drop, military volunteers, civilians, contractors, and families assist in picking up and sorting the donations. Once the goods are sorted, rigger volunteers build dozens of boxes to hold the supplies. Then, the boxes are loaded in the planes and the air crew depart to their designated destinations. Once they reach the island, they get in touch with the villages by radio to coordinate the drop.
|Countries||Federated States of Micronesia, Palau|
|Population impact||20,000 islanders|
|Maximum amount of boxes||140 is the record|
|Maximum weight of the supplies||50,000 pounds (22,679 kg) is the record|
|Armed Forces||US Army and, since 2015, Japanese, Australian, and Filipino armies|
|Also||A Netflix movie|
Operation Christmas Drop is always looking for donations and volunteers. You can help the organisation by clicking here.