Elder Blow

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name:
Elder Blow
East Pakistan
September 19, 1965
Emergency: Conflict between India and Pakistan endangered U.S. civilians living in Dacca, East Pakistan.
Organizations: 315th Air Division, 464th Troop Carrier Wing, and 6315th Operations Group
Airlifted: 485 U.S. civilians.
Aircraft Used: C–130 (seven)

A territorial dispute between India and Pakistan erupted into military conflict in September 1965. The fighting endangered the lives of U.S. civilians living in Pakistan. The State Department asked the JCS to arrange a military airlift of U.S. nationals from Dacca, capital of East Pakistan, to safe haven bases in the Far East. The Pacific Air Forces’ 315th Air Division planned the evacuation, which was called Elder Blow.

The commander of the 6315th Operations Group, Col. John R. Neal, served as the task force commander, using aircrews and planes on rotation in the theater from the 464th Troop Carrier Wing. On September 19, seven C–130s loaded 485 U.S. civilians, including government employees and dependents of consulting groups, at Tezgan Airfield at Dacca. They flew to Bangkok for rest and crew changes before continuing on to a safe haven base at Manila in the Philippines. Despite poor communications between Colonel Neal and the U.S. consul at Dacca and delays in obtaining diplomatic and overflight clearances, Operation Elder Blow succeeded in evacuating U.S. civilians from danger in East Pakistan.

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Actually, the evacuation was by C-130s from the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron, a 464th Troop Carrier Wing squadron that had just deployed to Mactan Island in the Philippines. The 464th wing wasn’t involved since the squadron had been transferred to 315th Air Division. I was a member of the 779th at the time. It is a common misconception that wings were involved in operations in which personnel and aircraft on TDY were involved. This was also true of Vietnam, where crews and airplanes from off-shore wings were TDY to 315th Air Division, later 834th Air Division, detachments.