National Geographic : 1953 Jul
T Stranded Pilgrims Queue Up for America's Airlift With the opening of the hadj only a few days off, nearly 4,000 desperate Moslems found them selves in Lebanon last August with air tickets but no reservations. Commercial lines, flooded with applications, could take only a few (page 20). To help in the emergency, American Ambas sador Harold B. Minor asked the United States Air Force to fly 14 C-54's from Libya and Ger many. Quickly a shuttle service was set up; in 75 flights 3,763 pilgrims were transported 900 miles from Beirut to Jidda in time to begin their hadj. In gratitude, the Mufti of Lebanon ordered prayers for Americans in all mosques, and King Abdul Aziz al Saud presented Arab robes to 86 airmen. Upper right: Pilgrims receive flight instructions. Lower: Best known of those airlifted was Ayatollah Kashani, an Iranian religious leader never noted for his cordiality to Westerners. Be cause of his prominence, Kashani rode in an uphol stered seat. At the end of the flight he kissed the pilot. The Air Force accepted no money for the pil grim passages. Fares collected by commercial air lines, for flights they were unable to complete, went to Moslem charity.