Operation Agua

“S.O.S” read the chalk mark at the intersection. My Spanish is not good, but I understood that “agua” meant they were asking for water.

Last night’s television reports featuring a Puerto Rican government official told me only 40% of its people had access to drinking water. That is close enough to 50% to tell me that more than half of 3.5 million people (more than 1.25 million) are going without something so vital to our survival we can last only a few days without it.  Maria hit land about 5-6 days ago.

Yes, relief efforts are underway but hampered terribly by the massive destruction. From the statistic reported above, yes some people are receiving the assistance – but the vast majority is not.  I had to learn this – not from U.S. media – but from the “Toronto Star” of all places.  We have a President who loves to use his Twitter feed and White House press briefings five days a week.  They should be feeding us this information.  Instead, the President prefers to fight with the NFL and belittle a “mad man” with missiles.

Someone on my Twitter feed asked why we were not parachuting supplies into hard to reach places. Brilliant idea! I tweeted back and cc:’d President Trump, the White House, Congress, Marco Rubio (who at least has visited the island), our airborne military, water producing companies and the cruise lines that rake in billions from our travel to the Caribbean, along with major news organizations and specific journalists.  It sounds silly, but from the comfort of my own safe, secure home in Georgia, it is my pathetic effort to sound the alarm and offer another woman’s brilliant suggestion.

We did it during WWII. We saved Holland as a result.

According to “History.com,” two air operation drops of food called “Chowhound” and “Manna” were made over Holland in the “dying days of World War II.” More than 125,000 German troops still occupied the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, it is written.

Normal food deliveries had been blocked by the Germans and dykes destroyed in a deliberate effort to destroy Dutch farmlands. The History site says that to avoid starvation, the Dutch ate fried tulips and cut off their hair and boiled it in water to drink the protein from its keratin.  “By 1945, the British military estimated that more than 500,000 residents of occupied Holland were on the brink of death,” the History web site continues.

A relief pledge by President Roosevelt to the Dutch Royal family in March of 1945 was carried out three weeks later in April after his death. This was Operation Manna, which was manned by Australian and Canadians.  On May 1, two days after Hitler’s suicide, Operation Chowhound, our own relief effort, was launched by B-17s, according to History.

A book called “Operation Chowhound” by Stephen Dando-Collins said it was “the most risky” U.S. bomber mission of World War II. Launched before the Germans agreed not to fire upon the planes, crews were flying into unknown war-time conditions, he writes.  At 300-400 feet levels, the bombers were “sitting ducks” if fired upon, he adds.

Still, four days into the mission, the Germans signed a pledge and kept it. For 10 days Allied bombers dropped payloads of bags and boxes filled with chocolate bars, margarine, coffee, milk, powder, salt, cheese and flour.  The Dutch spelled out their gratitude of thanks among the Tulip fields.

There is no vegetation left in Puerto Rico for citizens to tell us what it would mean to them if we were to parachute in payloads of bottled drinking water. But they have chalk.

I am sure they would write “gracias” in the streets.

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