In early February, a freighter heading for the United States carrying 535 Chinese refugees suffered engine failure. As food and water aboard the ship ran low, the crew broadcast distress signals. A Coast Guard ship responded, towing the ship to nearby Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Between February 13 and March 9, the Twenty-second Air Force airlifted 18 tons of food and other relief supplies from Hawaii to Kwajalein to sustain the refugees. A C–5 and a C–141 participated in the operation, which was called Operation Provide Refuge. The two aircraft also transported 118 passengers. Subsequently, four AMC C–141s and three commercial contract aircraft carried the refugees to Hawaii, where immigration officials would determine whether they would be admitted to the United States.