In early March, the heaviest earthquake to hit northern Japan in 50 years struck eastern Hokkaido and northern Honshu. Tidal waves and landslides compounded the destruction, which left 2,800 people homeless in eastern Hokkaido. The Japanese Red Cross collected hundreds of pounds of clothing, blankets, medical supplies, and food and asked the Combat Cargo Command for transportation from the Tokyo area to Hokkaido.
Using a C–54 transport airplane, the 374th Troop Carrier Wing at Tachikawa AB near Tokyo airlifted the relief supplies to Camp Chitose, an Army installation in southern Hokkaido. From there, surface vehicles delivered the cargo to Red Cross workers at Kiritappu in the disaster area.
Designated Operation Warm Clothes, the Hokkaido airlift was the first of many U.S. humanitarian airlifts that assisted the Japanese after World War II and it reinforced friendly relations between the United States and Japan. The Korean War, raging just across the Sea of Japan, increased the number of U.S. military aircraft available in Japan for such missions.