The winter of 1948-1949 was the worst in the Western United States since
1889. In Northern Nevada, millions of sheep and cattle were stranded in deep
snowdrifts without feed, sometimes accompanied by herders and their horses and
mules. Ranch houses were snowed in, as well. The U.S. Air Force deployed its
pilots and cargo planes, C82 "Flying Boxcars" for a project called "Operation
Haylift" to drop 525 tons of alfalfa in the first seven days, feeding a million
sheep and 100,000 head of cattle in Northern Nevada and Utah. Similar missions
were flown in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Dakota.
Photos and Stories
- Operation Haylift, news photos
- Death on the Range, article in Time Magazine, February 7, 1949
- Operation Haylift, the Movie (a 1950 docudrama filmed near Ely)
- Operation Haylift, Chapter 12 in Beltran: Basque Sheepman of the American West.
A flying boxcar with four tons of baled hay on board flew over Tom Thurnal’s place and tried to drop eight bales of hay in his corral. On the plane’s first pass, some bales the plane dropped took off the porch of the house. On the next pass the heavy bales falling out of the sky smashed the wash house with his wife’s new washer in it. Tom got on a saddle horse, rode to McGill, called 'Operation Hay Lift' and said "Please! Do not drop any more hay on my place. My wife will divorce me."— Clel Georgetta, Golden Fleece in Nevada, p. 338