For thousands of people across dozens of remote islands in the Pacific, Santa drives a US military C-130J Super Hercules

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew GilmoreLt. Col. Barry A. King, 374th Operations Group deputy commander, left, and 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot, right, make adjustments aboard Santa 21 on its way to airdrop supplies to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia during Operation Christmas Drop 2018, Dec. 10, 2018.
  • The US military has been delivering much-needed supplies to islands in the Pacific every year around the Christmas holidays for almost seven decades.
  • Operation Christmas Drop (OCD) is the Department of Defence’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.
  • Supplies are delivered to 56 islands across the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau.
  • The most recent drop occurred just last week.

For people living on remote islands across the Pacific, Christmas is the sound of C-130s roaring overhead as boxes of food, clothing, toys, and more parachuted from the holds drop down from the sky.

Here’s what it looked like this year.


Operation Christmas Drop, which began during the holiday season in 1952 as a spur-of-the-moment decision by a B-29 Superfortress crew, is the Department of Defence’s longest-running humanitarian airlift operation.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew GilmoreThe patch of Operation Christmas Drop 2018 rests on the flight suit of a pilot from the 374th Airlift Wing as he and his crew delivers Coastal Humanitarian Air Drops to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base


Now in its 67th year, the OCD mission is supported by the US Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, as well as members of the Japan Air Self-Defence Force and Royal Australian Air Force. It serves over 50 remote islands in the Pacific.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew GilmoreU.S. Air Force 1st. Lt. Emery Gumapas, a pilot assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, looks out the flight deck window of a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Operation Christmas Drop 2018 en route to the island of Nama, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Dec. 10, 2018.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command


The first drop all those years ago began with a B-29 crew dropping supplies to waving locals on Kapingamarangi island. The program now helps tens of thousands of people living on 56 islands across an area of 1.8 million square nautical miles annually.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonThree villages await Operation Christmas Drop on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 10, 2018. A C-130J Super Hercules from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, delivered more than 1000 pounds of agricultural equipment, food, clothing, educational and medical supplies to the inhabitants of Fais during Operation Christmas Drop 2018.

Source: Indo-Pacific Command


US military C-130J Super Hercules aircrews conduct low-cost, low-altitude drops, with parachuted packages touching down on land or at sea, the latter sometimes being necessary to avoid unintended damage to the environment or property.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonA C-130J Super Hercules with the 36th Airlift Squadron drops three Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian aid supplies during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: Andersen Air Force Base


For OCD 2018, military and civilian organisers collected 62,000 pounds of food, clothing, and other supplies for around 30,000 islanders.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonTwo Low-Cost Low-Altitude bundles filled with humanitarian supplies float to the ground during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: US Navy


“My father experienced this drop when he was a little kid back in ’77, I believe, and in that drop, he got his first pair of shoes,” airman Brandon Phillip recently said. “I get to give back to my dad’s island while serving my country. It just makes it all special.”

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonIslanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: Department of Defence


Many military personnel and civilian volunteers work for months putting together packages for the annual OCD drops across the Pacific.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonIslanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies from the air-drop site to their village center during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: US Navy


The OCD supply drop came a little over a month after the Marianas were hammered by the 180 mph winds of Super Typhoon Yutu, the worst storm to hit any part of the US since 1935.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonIslanders carry a box of humanitarian supplies through their village during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: The Washington Post


The islanders use every part of the delivery, including the parachutes and parachute cords. They reportedly use the parachutes to make boat sails.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonIsland children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: Stars and Stripes


“This is what Christmas is for,” Bruce Best, who has been part of the OCD mission for four decades, told Stars and Stripes. “When they hear the rumble of the plane engines, that’s Christmas.”

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Donald HudsonIsland children wait and watch while their village chiefs sort and divide humanitarian supplies for equal distribution during Operation Christmas Drop, Dec. 10, 2018, on Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia.

Source: Stars and Stripes

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.