Blue Boy

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name: Blue Boy (Yugoslavian Earthquake)
Location: Yugoslavia
Date: July 27–August 8, 1963
Emergency: A severe earthquake struck Skopje, Yugoslavia, killing more than 2,000 people and leaving more than 100,000 injured or homeless.
Organizations: 1607th and 1611th Air Transport Wings, 317th Troop Carrier Wing, and 52d Troop Carrier Squadron
Airlifted: 455 tons of hospital components, trucks, trailers, jeeps, tents, blankets, and medical supplies; and 410 passengers.
Aircraft Used: C–130 (26), C–124 (4), and C–135 (3)

On July 26, a severe earthquake struck Skopje in southern Yugoslavia, killing more than 2,000 people, leaving 100,000 homeless, and destroying or badly damaging 80 percent of the city’s buildings. At least 3,000 people were injured. The Yugoslavian government requested U.S. aid through the State Department and agreed to permit emergency military flights into the country.

Within one day, MATS and USAFE organized an airlift, designated “Blue Boy”, to fly U.S. Army resources to the Yugoslavian earthquake victims. Relief flights continued from July 27 to August 8. Military Air Transport Service aircraft—three C–135s of the 1611th Air Transport Wing and one C–124 of the 1607th Air Transport Wing—airlifted at least 84 tons of tents, blankets, and medical supplies to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from Andrews AFB, Maryland, and Chateauroux Air Station, France.

Also, 26 C–130s of the 317th Troop Carrier Wing and three C–124s of the 52d Troop Carrier Squadron, serving the 322d Air Division, transported 371 tons of cargo from Ramstein AB and Rhein-Main AB in West Germany to Belgrade. The cargo included a 120- bed Army mobile field hospital, 24 trucks, 21 trailers, four jeeps, medical supplies, and blankets; and 410 passengers, including medical personnel and drivers. Passing roads lined with cheering Yugoslavs, the Army personnel drove the airlifted vehicles loaded with hospital components and other supplies from Belgrade to Skopje.

Between August 14 and 17, MATS airplanes returned the mobile hospital, vehicles, and Army personnel from Belgrade to Ramstein. Project Blue Boy demonstrated the ability of airlift to fulfill U.S. foreign policy objectives while helping disaster victims. Unlike other Air Force humanitarian airlift operations, Blue Boy assisted a communist country, one that also accepted emergency relief from the Soviet Union.

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