Brisk Cargo

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name:
Brisk Cargo (Chadian Famine Relief)
August 29–September 21, 1966
Emergency: A severe drought reduced the millet harvest in Chad, producing a famine that threatened mass starvation.
Organizations: 464th and 516th Troop Carrier Wings
Airlifted: More than 500 tons of grain sorghum.
Aircraft Used: C–130 (two)

Extreme drought in the north central African nation of Chad during the spring drastically reduced the summer millet harvest. By July, food shortages threatened mass starvation. The government of Chad asked Brewster H. Morris, the U.S. ambassador at Fort-Lamy, for food deliveries. In August, over 550 tons of U.S. grain sorghum, a substitute for millet, was delivered by ship to the port of Lagos, Nigeria, on its way to Chad. Railroad cars carried the grain to Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, but there the line ended. Roads to Chad were washed out by heavy summer rains after the drought.

On August 26, the JCS asked the Strike Command to provide an airlift from Maiduguri to Chad for AID. Strike Command established a joint task force at Fort-Lamy. By August 29, they had secured two TAC C–130 airplanes for Operation Brisk Cargo. One cargo plane came from the 516th Troop Carrier Wing at Dyess AFB, Texas, and the other from the 464th Troop Carrier Wing at Pope AFB, North Carolina. Maj. Gomer Lewis and 1st Lt. John K. Duncan served as aircraft commanders.

Between September 3 and 17, the two C–130s carried more than 10,000 sacks of the sorghum from Maiduguri to the following sites in Chad: Fort-Lamy, Abeche, Am Timan, Faya-Largeau, Ati, and Mongo. The 516th and 464th Troop Carrier Wing aircraft carried more than 4,000 sacks to Fort-Lamy; from there, 1,595 sacks were delivered to Abeche, Am Timan, and Ati. The planes logged more than 108 hours of flying time during the two weeks, dropping much of the grain using the low altitude parachute extraction system. Flying into drop zones at about 120 knots at an altitude as low as 15 feet, the C–130 crews used parachutes attached to the loads to help pull palletized grain sacks out of the cargo compartments.

There was a shortage of pallets because the Chadians collected them for wood. But this problem was solved when experiments showed that the grain sacks could be dropped without pallets if placed in larger sacks to absorb the impact of their fall. Lack of radio communications in Chad posed a temporary problem for the joint task force, which was anxious to warn people to clear the area of the drops. Chadian drums, a form of traditional communications, provided a solution. The grain sorghum supplied by the U.S. provided an excellent substitute for the shortage of millet, a staple of the Chadian diet.

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