What is so important about this plane and its cargo? Their cargo of 113,000lbs is destined for Lod Airport just outside Tel Aviv Israel. 55 aircraft maintainers and communications personnel sit above the wing in the passenger compartment facing backwards. This is the lead aircraft of the the airlift bridge that is ferrying needed supplies to the combat forces of Israel. In command is Col. Strobaugh from 21st AF, McGuire AFB. His mission once he lands at Lod will be to set up secure communications to reach back to Scott AFB, Dover AFB, McGuire AFB, and that tiny outpost slipping further behind them Lajes and once that task is done the truly hard task will begin. Col. Strobaugh will then be coordinating with USAFE, DoD, Israeli Defense Forces, and even Israeli citizens to offload what supplies are already in the pipeline and where those critical supplies need to be sent in Israel's two front war.
Sound like something ripped from today's headlines as the DoD agrees to sell Israel $210 million in JP-8 jet fuel along with a large number of smart weapons doesn't it? It actually occurred almost 33 years ago when Israel was literally fighting for her life in the Yom Kippur War. After deciding Israel could handle anything followed by vacillation as Nixon tried to get the Soviets to help him stop the war, the Nixon Administration gave the go ahead to resupply Israel. From all over the United States and Europe material would flow. In the United States the equipment and munitions were routed through Dover and McGuire before passing through Lajes. The European supply runs would have to route through Lajes before flying to Lod to avoid political repercussions from various European countries. Whole jet fighter tail sections would be in the cargo to repair IAF fighters damaged by all the Soviet supplied SAM missiles. Pallets of 105mm and 155mm artillery ammo would flow to keep the artillery batteries supplied. So too would smart weapons like AGM-65 Maverick missiles be airlifted to Israel so that the IAF would use them to kill Arab tanks. Even four tanks would be ferried by C-5 before hostilities ceased. Another 25 tanks would be airlifted in by the time Operation Nickel Grass was shut down 32 days after it had started with Col. Strobaugh's C-5 landing at Lod.
I will end this post with a quote from Prime Minister Golda Meir said three weeks after the Yom Kippur War ended.
"For generations to come, all will be told of the miracle of the immense planes from the United States bringing in the material that meant life to our people."
Sources, what good story would be complete without sources?
Aerospace Power Journal -Spring 1989. Operation Nickel Grass Airlift in Support of National Policy. Capt. Chris J. Krisinger, USAF.
The Airlift That Saved Israel. Reader's Digest - July, 1974. Charles J.V. Murphy. pg 86-90.