After security forces loyal to President Nicolae Ceausescu opened fire on anticommunist demonstrators in Timisoara, Bucharest, and other Romanian cities in December, a revolution swept across the country. Romanian army units joined the rebellion, allowing it to succeed. On December 25, the new government executed Ceausescu for genocide.
Fierce fighting in the streets of Romanian cities produced hundreds of casualties. In response to a request for medical supplies from the new Romanian government, the United States organized an airlift of 12 pallets to Bucharest.
On December 29, two 435th Tactical Airlift Wing C–130s, flown by crews of the 37th Tactical Airlift Squadron, took off from Rhein-Main AB in West Germany for Bucharest. Bad winter weather, including low clouds and icy runways, forced the pair of Hercules aircraft to divert temporarily to Aviano AB in Italy. They finally landed in the Romanian capital on December 31 and unloaded more than 31 tons of medical supplies. Two State Department employees and two medical personnel also left the aircraft in Bucharest to supervise distribution of the cargo.
The airlift achieved two purposes. First, it delivered critically needed medical supplies to wounded Romanians, and, second, it laid a foundation for friendly relations between the United States and the new Romanian government.