Former U.S. President  - Lyndon  B. Johnson

August 2, 1968

U.S. Urged to Undertake Immediate Biafran Airlift with or without Nigeria's Permission

In a "Letter to the Editor" of New York Times, Edward S. Morse, an American, urges the United States to undertake a massive military relief airlift to Biafra.

{Reports published in the New York Times of dwindling food supplies getting through the federal blockade to the starving millions in Biafra coupled with the ugly threat of the Nigerian federal forces to shoot down planes flying medicine and food for civilian relief calls for an immediate airlift by United States military aircraft of supplies to Biafra. A dispatch from Umuahia in the Times of July 22 quoted relief agencies as stating that Biafra had received less food from abroad in the last three weeks than it did in the same period in April and May.

The total of 123 tons in the three weeks of July, the dispatch continued, contrasts with a minimum of 200 a day estimated as needed to slow down the starvation. It was estimated that several times more than 200 tons a day was needed. The Vatican report states that antiaircraft fire from Nigerian troops had made relief flights extremely hazardous. A Geneva dispatch has announced that the International Committee of the Red Cross had chartered a plane to carry several tons of relief supplies for Biafrans with another aircraft scheduled to leave the next day or so.

With such facts before us, there is a clear call for direct action by our government on humanitarian grounds. If a safe conduit cannot be negotiated for such mercy flights, we would have ample justification for ordering a fight from the Seventh U.S. Fleet in the Mediterranean. Without question, we have the capacity. Witness the Berlin airlift. Do we have the will? This is a matter of hours and days, not weeks and months. The American people will find it hard to live with their consciences if we stand idly by, protesting technicalities, in the face of the threat of the greatest mass starvation witnessed in our generation. }

Edward S. Morse
New York, July 25,1968
(New York Times)

August 2, 1968

U S President Johnson under Pressure for Biafran Relief

United States' Senator Eugene J. McCarthy called on President Johnson today to ask the United Nations for a mandatory relief airlift of mercy to Biafra. Mr. McCarthy said it was intolerable that the Administration had so far “contented itself with what must be seen as vain and futile gestures while human life is at stake” in the secessionist former Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Associated Press U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy and Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey 

By “vain and futile gestures,” the Minnesota Democrat, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency, was apparently alluding to pleas by President Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the Nigerian Government permit the passage of relief supplies into Biafra. Soon after McCarthy's office issued his statement, Vice President Humphrey called for an international effort to get food to starving Biafrans.

Mr. Humphrey, campaigning in the Midwest for the Democratic nomination, issued a statement saying that it was normally intolerable to have innocent children and adults starving because of a political dispute and that the United States should support any United Nations effort to move in supplies. He declared that the United States should reiterate its willingness to support the Red Cross with more food funds and equipment. “We should also lend our support to any efforts of the United Nations to get food and medicine to those in need," he said. Meanwhile, Senator George S. McGovern of South Dakota sent a letter to President Johnson, co-signed by 16 other Democratic Senators and two Republicans, urging him to support a United Nations or private airlift of supplies, but to avoid any United States "involvement in any armed conflict."

The Other signers were Senators Frank Church of Idaho, Fred R. Harris of Wayne Morse of Oregon and Harrison A. Williams Jr. of New Jersey. Also Senators Stephen M. Young of Ohio, Philip A. Hart of Michigan, William Proxmire of Wisconsin, Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut, and Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. The Republican signers were Charles H. Percy of Illinois and Hiram L. Fong of Hawaii. Although the United States has proclaimed neutrality in the civil war that began a year ago, it supports the principle of Nigerian unity.

Today Mr. McCarthy charged that "political considerations have kept us from doing what is just and right." This was apparently an allusion to the reluctance of the Administration to oppose Britain, which supports the Nigerian Government. (New York Times)

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