Nice Way/Elder Blow

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name: Nice Way/Elder Blow
Location: Pakistan
Date: September 15–21, 1965
Emergency: India and Pakistan went to war over a border dispute in Kashmir. The fighting threatened U.S. citizens in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Peshawar in West Pakistan and Dacca in East Pakistan.
Organizations: 315th and 322d Air Divisions; 6315th Operations Group; and 29th, 41st, and 76th Air Transport Squadrons
Airlifted: 1,485 U.S. civilian evacuees.
Aircraft Used: C–130 (14)

Unable to agree on their border in Kashmir, India and Pakistan went to war in September. The fighting threatened U.S. citizens in Pakistan, including many women and children. The State Department asked the JCS to arrange an emergency air evacuation. The Pentagon called the operation Nice Way in West Pakistan and Elder Blow in East Pakistan.

The 322d Air Division took charge of Nice Way with Col. Burgess Gradwell serving as the mission commander. The division employed seven C–130s diverted from a NATO training exercise in Turkey: two came from the 29th Air Transport Squadron at McGuire AFB, New Jersey; three from the 41st and 76th Air Transport Squadrons at Charleston AFB, South Carolina; and two from Naval Air Transport Squadron 3 at McGuire AFB, serving MATS.

On September 16, Indian troops suspended their artillery shelling of Lahore, West Pakistan, for two and one-half hours while the seven C–130s attempted to evacuate 599 Americans from there to Tehran. Landing at 15-minute intervals, the cargo planes sometimes took a half hour to load. The last plane, delayed by engine trouble, took off from Lahore after the shelling resumed. One C–130 carried 113 passengers, including many small children seated on parents’ laps. The following day, September 17, a C–130 airlifted 29 more U.S. nationals from Rawalpindi, West Pakistan, to Tehran.

In the final phase of Operation Nice Way, on September 21, five C–130 cargo planes airlifted 372 Americans from Kabul, Afghanistan—where they had fled by road from Peshawar, West Pakistan—via Tehran to Turkey, landing at Istanbul’s airport at Yesilkoy. About 160 of these evacuees were school children.

The 315th Air Division from PACAF was responsible for Operation Elder Blow, the air evacuation of U.S. nationals from East Pakistan during September. On September 19, seven C–130s from the 6315th Operations Group airlifted 485 U.S. civilians from Dacca, East Pakistan, to Bangkok, Thailand, and Manila in the Philippines, with Col. John R. Neal serving as the mission commander.

From September 15 to 21, 14 Air Force C–130 cargo planes evacuated 1,485 U.S. civilians from the fighting in Pakistan. The Air Force returned some evacuees to Pakistan in December after fighting ceased.

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