Love from above, gratitude from below

  • Published
  • By Story by Staff Sgt. Spencer Tobler
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The Pacific Ocean is incomprehensibly vast. With islands speckling it as the largest ocean on Earth, it holds within its waters the Republic of Palau, home to 18 thousand people and 340 islands. This oceanic tapestry remarkably cradles the island nation of Angaur–a remote paradise inhabiting only a few hundred people. In the embrace of this small community, Operation Christmas Drop finds a people most in-need of humanitarian aid.

Each December, the rumble of C-130 engines gather the people of Angaur to the island’s only airstrip to receive cascading gifts from the sky, including clothes, food, fishing gear, toys, and other essential items that become a lifeline for the island’s community.

In the spirit of shared responsibility, Angaur’s small and tight-knit community orchestrates the equitable distribution of each supply bundle through a unique raffle system.

Johnathan Raphael, a local landscaper, explains the essence of life on the island oasis: “With life around here you have to move, if you don't move, you don't eat.” Yet every year, like clockwork, the bundles are delivered, helping the islanders accomplish the shared tasks needed to prosper in such a remote segment of the world.

“We understand how much work it takes to [make Christmas Drop happen],” said Tiffany Kasiano, Angaur Elementary School principal. “They have to fundraise, solicit donations and organize people to prepare the boxes. I know it’s a lot of work.”

Angaur is known for its historical significance, as it was the site of fierce battles during World War II, specifically the Battle of Angaur which occurred from September 17 to October 22, 1944 between the U.S. and Japan.

Today, Angaur is representative of a much different world. Although many WWII relics pepper the island, the U.S. and Japan now work together as allies alongside multinational partners to spread joy throughout remote islands in the Pacific, with 2023 featuring the 72nd iteration of Operation Christmas Drop.

“I remember when I was six years old, I got to experience it then and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to see my daughter witness it and now my grandson experienced it for the first time yesterday,” said Kasiano.

The stories shared by the community of Angaur were echoed by islanders across the Pacific, seen waving from their sandy beaches from the cockpits and ramps of U.S., Japan, Canada, and Republic of Korea C-130s.

“Thank you so much,” Kaisano continued. “It really makes the students and the people on this island happy, it’s an event that we all look forward to every year.”