Operation Butterball

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name:
Operation Butterball
March 11–21, 1956
Emergency: Heavy rain and melting snow flooded parts of northwestern Turkey, forcing hundreds of people from their homes.
Organizations: 322d Air Division; 60th and 465th Troop Carrier Wings; and 11th, 780th, and 782d Troop Carrier Squadrons
Airlifted: More than 205 tons of food, tents, blankets, and clothing.
Aircraft Used: C–119 (six+)

During early March, heavy rain and melted snow flooded parts of northwestern Turkey, forcing hundreds of refugees from their homes. The Turkish government requested U.S. assistance to feed, shelter, and clothe flood victims. The Defense Department assigned the airlift mission to USAFE and its 322d Air Division.

On March 11, the division launched a relief operation called Operation Butterball to deliver relief supplies to Turkey. Its 465th Troop Carrier Wing—based at Evreux-Fauville AB, France—employed C–119 Flying Boxcars from the 780th and 782d Troop Carrier Squadrons, while the 60th Troop Carrier Wing—based at Dreux AB, France—flew an 11th Troop Carrier Squadron C–119. Lt. Albert J. Soen and his crew landed in Istanbul, Turkey, on March 13; the other planes landed in Istanbul or Ankara. The aircraft would have landed at Athens, Greece, for an overnight stop on the way from western Europe to Turkey, but political unrest in that city prevented such stops during the initial phase of the operation.

When Operation Butterball ended on March 21, at least six C–119s had delivered more than 205 tons of food—mostly butter, cheese, and other dairy products—tents, blankets, and clothing to Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent, an organization similar to the Red Cross, distributed the relief supplies to flood victims.

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