Combat Control supports 1960 USAFE Humanitarian "Operation Road Grader" in Kashmir by

Alcinde S. (Bull) Benini, CMSgt, USAF (CCT) Retired              
William A. Fitzgerald, TSgt, USAF (CCT) Retired

10 thru18 December 1960 at the request of the Pakistani Air Force, USAFE airlifted 600 tons of cement and 64 tons of heavy construction equipment from Peshawar Air Base and airdropped them over Chilas , Kashmir to assist a road-building project in Northern Pakistan. Six C-130s of the 322nd Air Division based at Evreux, France flew a total of 55 sorties during the project, known as Operation Road Grader.  Four USAF Combat Controllers of the 5th Aerial Port Squadron were tasked to support the mission.

Capt. Buck Evans, MSgt. Alcinde Benini, TSgt. Charlie Drew and SSgt. William A. Fitzgerald jumped at Chilas, Kashmir. Buck Evans and Charlie Drew were from the 5th Aerial Port Squadron Combat Control Team at Evreux, France while Alcinde Benini and William Fitzgerald were from the Detachment of the 5th at Wiesbaden, Germany. 

Above; Arrival to the Deans Motel in Peshawar with (pictured) Pakistini escort, Buck Evans, Bill Fitzgerald, Bull Benini, and Charlie Drew
Below; Mission Brief, Parachute in and control air drops in support of the mission.  We were never told of any particular name for the mission, only that we were supporting the Pakistanis in their effort against India over the disputed rights to Kashmir.  And, that the mission was tasked by the State Department. We were also briefed that the Pakistanis were going to build a runway, not a road. We really don't know what they built after we left, and the mission was classified for quite a few years. 

Buck Evans pretty much jumped Hollywood, Benini had a Griswald Container with a shot gun , Charlie Drew had a Griswald Bag with a fishing pole and I had a GP bag full of shotgun shells (you can't believe how heavy that sucker was).  The Air Attaché arranged to have booze dropped to us upon request (every other day if memory serves me right).

The drop zone was a “rock pile” next to the Indus River. There weren't any maps or photos of it. We were a few hundred feet from landing before we got to see what it looked like. It was a field of rocks! We were very lucky that nobody broke any bones. No medics, no nothing, just a lot of rocks.  
The locals couldn't believe that we had jumped from an airplane. That was beyond their ability to comprehend. It was amazing how isolated they were then.

Most of our equipment was dropped via an A-22 container. We had a portable VHF set and PIBAL equipment. Since the 130's were briefed to fly up the valleys below radar they could not get a decent CARP so we had to provide the winds aloft for them to figure their CARP. That was mostly my function.

We stayed in an old stone building nearby. It had a fireplace and a dirt floor but otherwise was OK (better than sleeping outside). Our diet consisted of c-rations and Partridge (the shotgun and shells came in handy). 

On the 21st of December we started out for our pick-up point which was Gilgit, approximately sixty miles from our location.  We rode some, walked some, crossed over wooden suspension bridges and over several landslides.
Question to William A Fitzgerald: Did you travel by Camel Caravan?  Response from William A. Fitzgerald: No,  they weren't our mode of travel from Chilas to Gigit. It would have made for a good ending though if it were true. A local pointed the caravan out to me ( it was below the road we were on ) while enroute to Gilgit and I thought it was too good of a picture to pass up. We traveled by jeep when possible and foot when not. They wouldn't let us ride in the jeeps going across the bridges as they didn't know how much weight they would bear and they only let one jeep cross at a time. Often you could look straight down from the side of the jeep and see the Indus River or a small valley around a thousand feet below. It was breathtaking to say the least.

Above; Bridge to Giget; Buck Evans, Bull Benini, Pakistani, Charlie Drew, and Bill Fitzgerald walk across this bridge

The Pakistanis had an old Bristol Freighter at Gilgit to take us back to Peshawar, Pakistan.   We departed Peshawar on the 23rd of December and landed in France on the 24th. Benini and I had to get back to Wiesbaden but on the 24th of December nothing was flying. So, after a call to the Division Commander, they laid a 130 on to fly us and one Christmas Tree to Rhein Main. Benini and I made it home to Wiesbaden around midnight of the 24th. Our families had given up hope of our being there for Christmas so they were really surprised.

Above are the pictures of the operation in Kashmir in 1960. The color pictures were ones that I took and scanned into my computer. The black and white ones were taken by an Air Force photographer who was assigned for historical purposes (I guess that means that there is a file somewhere in either the AF archives or the State Dept. archives) The black and white ones were classified for several years (no one significant knew I took color pictures or had some) and were sent to me eight years later with the classification on the back of the photos marked out by a black marker. They told us the classification was due to the fact that we were helping an ally (Pakistan) against a friend (India) in a disputed territory.

The photographer was flown into Chilas by a Pakistani light plane about five days into the mission. The pilot landed on a dirt road (the only available spot at the time ) discharged the photographer and then took off telling us he wouldn't be back to pick him up since he didn't consider the road an adequate or safe runway after using it. So, they had to airdrop a sleeping bag and some clothes for the photographer as he was stuck with us. He enjoyed it as he had never experienced anything like mat before.

We were not all that far from the Chinese border which was the main reason the 130's flew a route that kept them in the valleys and under radar contact. Every evening around five or so we would see a plane come from the direction of China, fly over about five thousand feet above us then turn around and head back towards China. I guess he was taking pictures and checking our progress............... Fitz

Special Thanks to Red Ghormley for the above information!

You may also read about this operation in the book; The Military History of Chief "Bull" Benini, the First Combat Controller.  Email Gene Adcock of the CCSHF for a copy of the book, all proceededs used to fund CCSHF Projects..... Keep Our Heritage Alive!