Operation Christmas Drop
What do Chuck Norris, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Cash and Santa Claus have in common? They’ve all faithfully served our nation as members of the United States Air Force! Perhaps Santa’s not a full-time member, but he has been flying under the radar for 69 years as the flight lead of Operation Christmas Drop.
When Santa lends his talents to the Air Force he trades out his sleigh and reindeer for a small fleet of C-130 aircraft. The operation started out small, and really by chance. In 1952, a B-29 Superfortress crew flying in the Pacific saw islanders waving to their low-flying aircraft. They gathered what supplies and treats they had, bundled it up, and air dropped the package to the islanders.
The operation has grown substantially, with deliveries made to over 50 islands and 20,000 people throughout Micronesia every year. Islands that benefit the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau; some of the most remote islands in the world. The operation also provides valuable training to the crews involved, and in some years even provides an opportunity to fly with our allies in Japan and Australia. As the longest-running humanitarian airlift mission in the world, it also serves as a holiday tradition supported by the local community in Guam and around US military bases in Japan.
In 2021, Netflix released a holiday movie based on the airlift operation, titled simply “Operation Christmas Drop.” While it comes close to being a sappy holiday movie, there is enough Air Force presence involved in the movie to make it approachable for all audiences. For added fun, a large part of the movie was filmed on Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, where many of our Airmen from Ellsworth deploy in defense of our nation. Netflix even included pictures of the real-life Operation Christmas Drop in the film’s closing credits. It’s a fun, feel-good movie the whole family can enjoy, while also highlighting the good deeds our Airmen do around the world.