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University of Nevada, Reno

Operation Haylift

Photo: Airplanes being loaded on snowy runway

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.

Image of Movie Poster: Aces High! Operation Haylift

Photos and Stories

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