Safe Haven I and II

by Daniel L. Haulman

Operation Name:
Safe Haven I and II (Hungarian Refugee Airlift)
Central Europe
December 11, 1956–June 30, 1957
Emergency: After Soviet armed forces quelled an anticommunist uprising in Hungary, tens of thousands of refugees fled to Austria and, eventually, to other countries willing to accept them.
Organizations: 1608th and 1611th Air Transport Wings
Airlifted: 10,184 refugees.
Aircraft Used: C–118, R6D, and C–121 (numbers unknown)

On December 6, President Eisenhower offered asylum in the United States to 15,000 refugees who escaped to Austria during the Soviet military suppression of the Hungarian uprising (see Hungarian Refugee Supplies, November–December 1956). They traveled by train and bus from Vienna to Munich, where the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration processed them for flights to the United States. The committee helped refugee families to stay together during the transport process.

The Pentagon directed MATS to prepare an airlift. Between December 11, 1956, and June 30, 1957, the Atlantic Division of MATS conducted two operations, Safe Haven I and II.

Lasting from December 11 to January 3, Safe Haven I involved C–118 and R6D aircraft from the 1611th Air Transport Wing at McGuire AFB, New Jersey; C–121 Super Constellation aircraft from the 1608th Air Transport Wing at Charleston AFB, South Carolina; and commercial contract aircraft. President Eisenhower’s own airplane, Columbine III, participated in the airlift.

On December 22, Vice President Richard Nixon, accompanied by the commander of USAFE, Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner, observed Safe Haven I operations at Munich Riem Airport. On the busiest day of the operation, December 24, Atlantic Division planes moved 984 refugees from Munich to McGuire AFB. Throughout the airlift, special missions carried women in late stages of pregnancy, infants, and the ill and infirm. During Safe Haven I, 107 flights transported 6,393 passengers to the United States.

In Safe Haven II, which lasted from January 6 through June 30, the 1611th Air Transport Wing airlifted an additional 3,791 refugees from Neubiberg AB near Munich to McGuire AFB on 66 transatlantic flights.

During Safe Haven I and II, MATS planes airlifted 10,184 Hungarian refugees on 173 flights from West Germany to New Jersey. Commercial contract airliners flew 4,170 refugees on 58 flights. After landing at McGuire AFB, the Hungarians moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where they were processed for settlement in the United States. Safe Haven was the most significant European humanitarian airlift operation since the Berlin Airlift, transporting more refugees than ever before. In nearly seven months of almost continuous operations, and despite bouts with fog and storms, the 1608th and 1611th Air Transport Wings experienced no major accidents and transported all passengers safely.

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My father was on the flight on Dec 13, 1956. I have a copy of the passenger manifest with him on it

I believe my biological grandmother was a passenger on one of the flights. Her name is/was Zsuzsanna Papp who then lived in New Jersey. She married a man named Gabor Boza who passed in 1999. I would love to find any information on her as I can’t find any records in the US.

My dad was György kapolna front Galambok we Know he flew from Vienna tó The Uk but I would like to find out which airport he flew to, has anyone any ideas how I would find out ?

I am a survivor of the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Operation Safe Have I brought me and my family to the US after my parents located me in an Austrian refugee camp!
We were on a plane probably from Munich but diverted because of engines aflame to Shannon airport before continuing to the Camp Kilmer refugee camp. Where can I locate information on the date of this event and the kind of plane we were on?

Mr. Szabo, my father and his family also flew in on Operation Safe Haven. His name was Barna Imre. His family arrived 2/14/57 on a DC-4 Aircraft operated by Flying Tiger Lines Inc. There were 79 refugees total on the plane. I have the list and I can look for you. If you have any questions you can contact me at

Jimmy Barna