Guatemalan Polio Epidemic

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name:
Guatemalan Polio Epidemic
Republic of Guatemala
June 21, 1959
Emergency: A polio epidemic threatened Guatemala.
Organizations: 29th Air Transport Squadron
Airlifted: 25,000 units of Salk vaccine.
Aircraft Used: C–118 (one)

Alarmed by an outbreak of polio in June 1959, the Guatemalan government asked the United States for supplies of a vaccine serum developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. The State Department asked MATS to airlift the vaccine to Guatemala.

On June 21, a C–118 Liftmaster from the 29th Air Transport Squadron of the 1611th Air Transport Wing (Medium), based at McGuire AFB, New Jersey, carried 25,000 units of serum from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Guatemala (city) in a flight of 2,000 miles. Thanks to the airlift, physicians in Guatemala inoculated tens of thousands of people against the paralyzing disease and arrested a dangerous epidemic that might have devastated not only Guatemala but other parts of Central America.

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