What Is the Longest-Running U.S. Air Force Mission?

Anyone who doesn't believe in Santa Claus has never lived in Micronesia. Inhabitants there know all about the airborne benefactor who comes soaring across the sky every December to drop bundle after bundle of goodies.

The U.S. Air Force has been airdropping supplies to Micronesia since 1952.
The U.S. Air Force has been airdropping supplies to Micronesia since 1952.

However, these gifts are actually being dropped by a C-130 Super Hercules military transport aircraft as part of a U.S. Air Force mission that has been delivering critical supplies to remote islands in the Pacific Ocean since 1952. Operation Christmas Drop, as the program is known, is the world's longest-running airdrop training mission.

It also serves to strengthen community ties among the residents of Micronesian islands that are spread across nearly one million squares miles, by bringing elders together to divide the goods.

In recent years, Operation Christmas Drop has become a joint effort by the United States, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. Together, they provide everything from rice and medical supplies to clothing and toys for children.

More about Micronesia

  • Although the 607 islands of Micronesia cover only 271 square miles (702 square km) of land, they are spread across an area of 1 million square miles (2.6 million square km).

  • Micronesia has close ties to the United States: Its official language is English, its currency is the U.S. dollar, and it is protected by the U.S. military.

  • The Kaselehlie Press is the only newspaper in Micronesia; it comes out once every two weeks, but also has an online presence.

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