Tuesday, August 30, 2022

August 18-30, 1969: Ga. ANG Supports Mississippi Recovery Following Hurricane Camille

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia National Guard


Left: The Buena Vista Hotel in Biloxi, Miss was heavily damaged by Hurricane Camille. Right: A Georgia Air National Guard C-124 lifts off from Dobbins
AFB with relief supplies bound for Mississippi. Georgia National Guard Archives.

On August 17, 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall near Waveland Mississippi west of Biloxi as a devasting category five storm. The following day, Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia’s Adjutant General ordered Georgia’s Citizen-Airmen in motion as part of the largest domestic airlift in the history of Georgia Air National Guard up to that time.[1]

Four massive C-124 Globemasters of the Ga, ANG’s 116th Military Airlift Group were staged at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Ga. while Guardsmen scrambled to secure and deliver relief supplies. Central to the relief effort were rations secured from the Atlanta Army Depot.

Georgia Air National Guard personnel load emergency relief supplies aboard four C-124 Globemasters of the 116th Military Airlift Group bound for
Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. following the impact of Hurricane Camille. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The first relief flights departed Dobbins at 4:30 pm August 18 under the command of Col. Cleveland Perkins, director of operations for the 116th Military Airlift Wing. Perkins son, 2nd Lt. James Perkins was also aboard the flight as were 11 members of the media. the first four Ga. ANG aircraft arrived at Keesler AFB by 9:00 that evening with a total payload of 132,000 pounds of food. The C-124s were crewed by volunteers of the Ga. ANG who were required to land under visual flight rules at night without the aid of instruments or landing lights which had been knocked out by the hurricane. Emergency back up generators were able to restore the runway lights in time for the last two Ga. ANG aircraft to depart Keesler enroute back to Dobbins for a second round of relief supplies.[2]

Col. Cleveland Perkins
Beginning at 7:00 the next morning, nine additional flights were underway. Five C-124s departed from Dobbins while two more aircraft of the Savannah-based 165th Military Airlift Group completed two missions each. During the first two days of relief operations, the Georgia Air National Guard transported more than 400,000 pounds of food and delivered 20 passengers into Biloxi and Gulfport. Writing on August 25, Atlanta Constitution reporter Celestine Sibley observed that those delivering the relief supplies were “ordinary civilians called in from other jobs and they worked hard and long hours to get the groceries through.”[3]

Operations continued throughout the week for a total of 17 Ga. ANG aircraft missions using seven different aircraft delivering food and water. By the second week of operations, the Ga. ANG had lifted more than 700,000 pounds of relief supplies. Ultimately, the Air National Guard would fly more than 110 missions, delivering nearly one million pounds of food, water and clothing to the stricken coastal area.


A Georgia Air National Guard C-124 delievers a pallet of emergency meals at Keesler Air Force Base August 18, 1969. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Ga. ANG Experiences at Keesler

While the crew of Col. Perkins’ aircraft were the first Georgia Air National Guardsmen to deliver supplies, they were not the first in Biloxi as Airmen from Georgia were attending a 40-week air control and radar course at Keesler AFB when Camille hit. Lieutenant Bobby Warnock was one of the Georgia Airmen at Keesler. Originally ordered to weather out the storm, Warnock and his family were forced by rising water to retreat to the second floor of their townhome while tremendous winds battered the side of the house.[4] Airman George Coke and his family also weathered the storm in their one-story home one block from the beach in Gulfport upon the advice of residents who had ridden out previous storms. While the Coke house was not heavily damaged numerous adjacent homes were leveled. The Coke family returned home to Macon, Ga. two days after Camille’s impact.[5]

BILOXI, Miss., August 18, 1969 - A Lighter, Amphibious Resupply Cargo 5-ton (LARC-V) of the 135th Transportation Company (Amphibious),
Mississippi Army National Guard, amid the rubble following Hurricane Camille. Georgia National Guard photo by Lt. Col. Douglas Embry.
Airman 1st Class Sidney G. Bryan of the Macon-based 202nd Ground Electronic Engineering Installation Agency Squadron was also attending the ACW course at Keesler. Remaining at the base after Camille’s impact, Bryan distinguished himself in the recovery effort. After initially volunteering to assist in debris clearance in towns along the Gulf Coast, Bryan worked with the Salvation Army in the distribution of clothing and supplies by day while continuing to participate in debris clearance by night helping to remove fallen trees from homes and roadways. For his selfless service, Bryan was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal during a ceremony at his unit’s armory. Lieutenant Colonel George E. Smith, commander of the 202nd, praised Bryan for his devotion to duty, diligence and exemplary ability.

“It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to have this distinguished Airman under my command,” said Smith during the ceremony.[6] 

The 202nd GEEIA continues in service today as the 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron.


[1] Phil Gailey. “Georgia Aid Goes to Gulf.” The Atlanta Constitution. August 19, 1969, 1.

[2] “Ga. ANG’s Largest Emergency Airlift Supports Mississippi Hurricane Victims.” The Georgia Guardsman. July-December 1969, 2-3.

[3] Celestine Sibley. “Relief for Mississippi.” The Atlanta Constitution. August 25, 1969, 5.

[4] “ANG Lt. in Storm. The Georgia Guardsman. July December 1969, 3.

[5] “Macon Couples Get Back Home.” The Macon News. August 21, 1969, 2.

[6] “Macon Airman Awarded AF Commendation.” The Georgia Guardsman. July-December 1969, 6.

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