David Koren Presentation

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David Koren's Presentation: THE BIAFRAN AIRLIFT

Note: You can see the entire presentation on YouTube with sound and living color. Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-V0a-Pcg1U. Enjoy!

Thanks to Mike Goodkind's wife Marion for videotaping the presentation and Jason Sayler for professionally producing the finished copy.

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  • Peace Corps Teacher 1964-1966

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  • Ohuhu Community Grammar School, Umuahia

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  • My Students

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  • Continental Hotel

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  • Nigeria PCVs on Sao Tome

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  • Starting engines

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  • Biafran Airlift Begins in 1968

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  • Where was Sao Tome?

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  • Biafra

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  • Warehouse on Sao Tome

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  • Sao Tome

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  • Junior Aircraft Mechanic

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  • Biafran Children on Sao Tome

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  • Captain Tom Delahunt, DC-7 Pilot
  • Alert for enemy action
  • Delahunt BCW takeoff
  • “Yankee Yankee, Golf Victor Hotel”

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  • Abort Landing

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  • “De bombs are not for us”

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  • Uli landing
  • Delahunt in the bunker
  • Frantic unloading

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  • “Put the fish in your pocket!”
  • “Eat it later.”

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  • Night Sky at Uli

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  • Unloading NAJ

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  • Aitken’s Run

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  • Joint Church Aid C-97

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  • Flight Schedule
  • March 25, 1969

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  • I wrote Far Away in the Sky to help me understand, after nearly 50 years of reflection, what it means.
  • What does it mean?
  • Was it worth it?
  • What happened to all those starving children?

Was it all worth it?


“The Biafran Airlift was a huge failure.”

- Roger Riddell, Does Foreign Aid Really Work?


  • Was Biafra a huge failure?
“Had it not been for the West’s charity, the Nigerian civil war surely would have ended much sooner. Against the lives that the airlifted aid saved must be weighed all those lives – tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands – that were lost to the extra year and a half of destruction.” 

-Philip Gourevitch, “Alms Dealers” – The New Yorker

The humanitarians who delivered the aid should be held accountable for the extra lives lost.


That would be me

Mass murderer of children.


A Quick Death


  • Proponents of the notion say that a quick death would have been more merciful.
  • Humanitarian aid causes humanitarian disasters.
  • The central assumption that the war would have ended sooner without aid is merely a low probability presumption, not based on any evidence, not strong enough to construct a policy or a philosophy.
  • No one ever asked Biafran survivors what they thought.
  • Aside from a weak premise, that definition of humanitarian aid is one dimensional: it looks only from the donor side of what should be a complex interaction.
  • In Far Away in the Sky I observed: “Giving and receiving become one composite event,” bound up by dignity and respect.
“The people of Biafra were not helpless primitives languishing in the jungle who depended on our mercy to exist. They were intelligent, resourceful, industrious, caring, humorous, and deeply thoughtful, as their language suggests. They still are.”

-Far Away in the Sky



By 1970 Biafra dropped out of the news. The hungry Biafran army collapsed and the war was over. The news was over, but the story wasn’t. What happened to the Biafran people? They grew up. They continued their education. They emigrated in search of opportunity, to USA and elsewhere. They became doctors, scientists, educators, and enterprising business people. Their children are now going to college. The relief kept them alive; their determination and intelligence carried them through the war and beyond.




Dr. Ejikeme Obasi & Family Image:Ejikeme Obasi w Family.jpg Starving Biafran Children Image:Starving Children.jpg

  • James Ugochu Ihedigbo was born to Rose and Apollos Ihedigbo, immigrants from Nigeria. Ihedigbo has three other brothers, Emeka, Nate, David and a sister, Onyii.

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  • Because we flew at night and left Biafra before dawn, we never met the children we fed.
  • Until now, almost fifty years later.
  • Writing the book led me to meet some of the survivors and learn what became of the starving Biafran children.

Award July 27, 2012 Foreign Brother Image:Foreign Brother.jpg

  • On behalf of the flight crews, living and dead, and all those who served on the Biafran Airlift, I accept the award and the obligation to share the gratitude of the survivors with all who served and all who cared.

  • “My father, why don’t you speak to me? Don’t you know me?”
  • Etim Udo Akpan

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  • Everything we experienced 50 years ago is history. It is a sobering thought. A staggering thought is that when as many more years have elapsed, 100 years will have passed.
  • What we taught and what we learned, what we gave and what we got, will slip back into the overall darkness of history, unless we write the story and give it meaning.

  • A favorite uncle died recently.
  • His children had to discard the old “junk” that meant something only to him.
  • I asked if I could have the old propeller.

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  • Then I wrote a poem about it.
The Propeller
The propeller has a history,
Obviously, from the dings and digs
Along its old oaken symmetry;
But it has no story.
A relic from a farm auction,
No one knows what plane it flew,
What thrills those dings drew.
Without a story to hold it fast,
Its history slips away into the dimming past.


  • You have a story to tell. What you write will be incorporated into Google’s corpus of human knowledge and the Library of Congress.
  • What’s not written will be lost.
  • Write it.
  • Humanity will face grim challenges in the future. Your story will inspire people to help each other, to endure, and ultimately to thrive.

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