Kenyan Flood and Famine

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name: Kenyan Flood and Famine
Location: Kenya
Date: November 12–17 and December 19, 1961
Emergency: After a long drought-produced famine, heavy rains caused extensive flooding.
Organizations: 322d Air Division and 39th and 40th Troop Carrier Squadrons
Airlifted: 31.5 tons of maize.
Aircraft Used: C–130 (two)

After a long drought caused a famine in east Africa, the United States began shipping grain to Mombasa, Kenya. During October and November, very heavy rains caused extensive flooding in the British colony, prompting Governor Sir Patrick Renison to ask the U.S. consulate in Nairobi for an airlift of food to flood victims at Garissa and Ambaseli. The State Department contacted the Pentagon, which asked the United States Air Forces in Europe’s 322d Air Division to fulfill the mission.

The 39th and 40th Troop Carrier Squadrons, based at Evreux-Fauville AB in France, employed C–130 Hercules aircraft—some of which were already in east Africa to track Project Mercury spacecraft—for the task. Between November 12 and 17, a 39th Troop Carrier Squadron C–130, flown by Capt. Ernest Howell and crew, airdropped 24 tons of maize to Garissa and Ambaseli. Flying low and following ground markers of cloth and smoke, the aircraft discharged 480 sacks of grain, each weighing 100 pounds, to a drop zone only 400 by 600 yards in size. Wood pallets prevented all but eight sacks from rupturing on impact. On December 19, Maj. Frank Sabol and crew flew a 40th Troop Carrier Squadron C–130 to Garissa, where it dropped 7.5 additional tons of maize to flood victims.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk thanked the 322d Air Division for its role in the disaster relief effort.

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