Dr. Willard H. (Bill) Wattenburg

Food for Refugees   

Here we go again. We failed to rescue thousands after the November 2013 typhoon in the Philippines with immediate air drops of food packages, just as we let thousands die needlessly in Haiti in 2010.

Take a look at the short YouTube video of the TRIAD system perfected by the U.S. Air Force to feed hundreds of thousands of refugees in Afghanistan in 2001-2001 with air drops of food packages without parachutes. It speaks for itself. Then you will better understand the frustration of the pleas for assistance to Haiti and the Philippines as documented below.


The full history of the TRIAD system and successful air drops of food packages without parachutes to refugees is given in the various reports herein with published reports and references.

Update: 1 Dec 2013

TRIAD food drops for Philippine refugees were not done. Many died needlessly.

Read the desperate appeals to the State Dept and the Pentagon to air drop food packages to thousands of Philippine refugees in remote areas in mid November 2013 before they died waiting for the slow, standard relief agency ground delivery of food and supplies.

Summary of Appeals for Philippine Refugees:


From Dr. Bill Wattenburg




We are leaving thousands in the Philippines to die while the State Department and the Pentagon refuse to do what the Pentagon did for hundreds of thousands of other refugees. It is called the Air Force “TRIAD” system that dropped millions of food packages without parachutes to Afghan refugees for months in 2001-2002. The high altitude air drops simply scattered food packages all over the ground near the appreciative refugees. This way, all got some food. Experiments have shown that almost any food packages or canned goods in bulk boxes can also be dropped the same way with most of the items intact and edible after they hit the ground. (See the History of TRIAD experiments and the time line enclosed below.) Click on the link below to the official Air Force video that shows the TRIAD operation in Afghanistan.


This is posted on YouTube.com under the title


After seeing the TRIAD video, ask yourself what you would want if your children were starving and dying in your arms while you watched US cargo planes flying overhead delivering supplies to warehouses far away -- food that could have been dropped on the ground near you while you wait for weeks for the "relief" trucks to arrive.

Air Force crews perfected the TRIAD system to the height of efficiency, as can been seen in the official video. They were proud of the TRIAD operation then. But the standard "relief agency" comfortable bureaucrats don’t like it. It overshadows their slow ground delivery procedures. And after 2002, the Pentagon generals complained that they did not want their "war fighter crews used for relief operations."

Standard relief agency ground delivery systems are essential for long term support of refugees. But ground delivery typically can not reach thousands before they die. That is why TRIAD should be a required complement to the standard relief agency ground delivery procedures.

Operational crews in the air force today know they could have been feeding the Philippine refugees with food packages from the air the day after the typhoon. Just ask some of the frustrated base pilots and commanders.

All the resources needed are in the Pacific area. We have millions of military "Meals Ready to Eat" boxes, daily ration MRE's, in our base warehouses. We dropped tens of thousands of these over Bosnia in the first test of TRIAD (see the press reports).

Insensitive "relief agency" bureaucrats and Pentagon staff members have been lying to congress members and their own Secretary of Defense and the White House with excuses for why we can not drop food packages the TRIAD way. Maybe they are most worried that the press will realize that they did nothing for Haiti in 2010 and let thousands die needlessly there while our “TRIAD” crews and cargo planes were ready to go a few hours away in Florida. Congressional leaders and I pleaded with them to help Haiti.

Here are answers to the idiot critics of TRIAD:

1.  The standard “Relief Agency” idiots still say:  "Oh, it will be dangerous to drop food packages without parachutes because the packages will come down  at high velocity and hit people."   This is stupid.  Experiments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1991 proved that air resistance limits the drop velocity no matter how high the altitude.    Packages hit the ground at the same speed no matter whether they are dropped from  500 feet or  50,000 ft.  That is why the Air Force started using this system.  Bulky food packages never hurt anyone. 

2. The Air Force perfected the system they call  TRIAD to  feed refugees in Afghanistan by dropping food packages from high altitude without parachutes --  just kick them out the door in big boxes that fly open in the air.    We later did it for the flood refugees in Pakistan a few years ago.  It is fully described in their own video posted on YouTube at 


Click on this and see it on your computer.  It screams for use in the Philippines right now! 

We have millions of  the military meals ready to eat (MRE) small boxes in military warehouses, including bases in the Pacific.  The Pentagon dropped tens of thousands of the MRE’s in 1993 to the starving in a city in Bosnia surrounded by the Serbs.   

Quaker Oats company donated   hundreds  of thousands of  Granola Bars for the first drops in Bosnia

3. The nave critics say that air drops of food packages will cause panic on the ground.  It is just the opposite.   The food packages are scattered on the ground over large areas  so that all refugees can pick up some food without having to break through the mobs that collect around food trucks that arrive too late. The idiot critics of TRIAD ignore the brutality that occurs when the strong men grab most of the food from the weak and the abandoned women and children after security forces leave a distribution area.

4. Things like dense heavy water bottles can be dangerous when dropped from high altitude.  However, we  also developed at the Livermore Lab  a simple and safe way to air drop  large numbers of small plastic water bottles that would be dangerous if just dropped over the heads of people on the ground.   We dropped the water bottles  into pools of water that are everywhere in flood zones.  The plastic bottles float with the heads of the bottles showing so that people can find them easily.   The liter water bottles, like food packages, can also be scattered over open fields by dropping them from helicopters at 50 to 100 ft altitude. Very few of the small plastic water bottles break on impact. This avoids the danger of helicopters landing near mobs of desperate refugees. 


By Bill Wattenburg

November 21, 2013

The official Pentagon "operation TRIAD" video below shows how the U.S. military dropped food packages to hundreds of thousands of  refugees in  Afghanistan in 2001-2002. Thousands of Philippine typhoon victims  are dying in remote  areas waiting for standard ground delivery relief agency supplies that will not be there for weeks to come.  Click on this  short  youtube.com video to see what can be done today:


Here is the time line of how  TRIAD came about:


Shortly after the first Gulf War in 1991, I observed how the Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq were being slaughtered when they attempted to retrieve food that had been dropped to them on large pallets with parachutes. I suggested then that food items should be dropped without parachutes so as to scatter the food over large areas so that enemy soldiers could not target the parachuted pallets. I tried to tell the local military officers that the food items would survive the fall because air resistance limits the drop velocity , no matter how high the altitude of the plane. They refused to try the idea or even do a simple experiment at an airbase where they could observe the results.


The first air drops of food  packages without parachutes   were conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  Ordinary plastic wrapped food packages and canned goods of all sorts were dropped over a  field from a private plane at 2000 ft altitude.   Almost all plastic wrapped packages and 90% of  cans were not broken on impact.  Boxes of breakfast cereal,  cans of Spam and  corned beef,  plastic wrapped  dried fruit,  small plastic jars of peanut butter,  packages of  cooked meat,  Granola bars  -- most all survived the impact.    Even those that  were  damaged were still  edible.


 Dr. Jane  Hull  in the National Security Council asks the  Pentagon  to try the idea in Bosnia where a  large city is surrounded and the people are being starved  by the Serbs.  Tens of thousands of ordinary military meals ready to eat boxes (MRE's) are dropped without parachutes from high altitude by U.S. military cargo planes.   Most of the boxes  were not broken on impact.  As Wattenburg had  proven at the Livermore Lab,  air resistance limited the drop velocity.   The food packages were scattered all over the city.  Everyone picked up some food.  No one was hurt.   The Quaker Oats company donated hundreds of thousands of Granola Bars for the first drops in Bosnia.  The kids loved them.    The operation was considered highly successful.  (Pentagon public relations quickly announced that they had always been thinking about doing this!)    See published reports at  Science Magazine, 2 April 1993, page 27,  and San Francisco Chronicle, 23 March 1993, front page.


The U.S.  military perfects the air  drop procedure as Operation TRIAD to feed over a hundred thousand refugees in Afghanistan during the winter of  2001-2002.   The Pentagon prepares an official manual and video of the TRIAD operation.  


The TRIAD video and other materials are withdrawn by the Pentagon after some top generals reportedly complain that  the U.S. military is a   "war fighter establishment, not a  relief agency."  However, someone posted the TRIAD video on YouTube.com where it can not be taken down.     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCxwprZekpM


More experiments at Livermore  Lab demonstrated how  plastic water bottles  and large cartons of canned goods can be  dropped out of helicopters at  500 ft with most items intact after impact.  Water bottles can be dropped into any body of water such as  reservoirs and ponds.   The water bottles float with their tops visible for people to pick up.    The water bottles can be dropped on solid ground  from  a helicopter hovering at  50  ft with little damage to the bottles.   A helicopter can scatter food items and water bottles over any open area so that  all refugees can pick up some of them.  This avoids the mob scenes when helicopters land near refugees and deposit supplies in one place.  Larger cartons of canned meat such as Spam and corned beef  break open on  impact  leaving  most cans intact and scattered over a large area.     But even damaged cans provide food that is immediately edible for starving refugees.

The conclusion from these experiments is that much of the bulk food cartons in relief agency warehouses can be air dropped without parachutes from low flying helicopters to provide immediate food to refugees until standard ground delivery trucks arrive. The relief agencies should stock long-shelf-life, small, high energy density items such as granola and energy bars, Spam and canned meats, peanut butter or equivalents in plastic pouches, etc, in bulk cartons that can be kicked out of helicopters or low flying aircraft over cleared areas near refugees.

2010.  The Haiti earthquake.   Top congressional leaders and I asked  the Pentagon and the White House to supply food  drops for starving refugees.  The response was: “The UN Relief Agency  is in charge and they do not think that TRIAD air drops are  necessary.” An  estimated ten thousand died of malnutrition and bad water before the  UN Relief trucks delivered supplies, weeks later, to desperate mobs that shoved the weak and sick aside.

       Update: 5 Nov 2010

Note:   The Hurricane hitting Haiti now will again leave hundreds of thousands without food or medical care in the tent cities that will be destroyed.   The standard  UN Relief trucks will not be able to deliver supplies in the mud for several weeks.     Again, the children and the weak  will die first  unless the U.S.  military  air drops food packages without parachutes to them, as we should have done last January.    Take a look at the YouTube video link below showing  what we did for millions in Afghanistan in 2001 and again,  this summer, in Pakistan.  You will see  tens of thousands of small  food packages being loaded into large cardboard boxes and dropped without parachutes from hiogh altitude.  The boxes burst open as they drop  and safely scatter the food packages all over any  area.     This  way,  all the people get some food,  not just the strong who hoard the food delivered too late by truck  --  while the children and  the  weak cry and die nearby.

These videos will make you sick if you have a heart and you watched the thousands of children in Haiti  dying in the streets last January. 


By Dr. Bill Wattenburg


20 Oct 2010

You can save thousands of children from dying a horrible death.    I can  tell you how  --  but I have to gore a sacred cow.    The UN Relief Agency allows thousands to die needlessly in every major disaster.  The proof is only a click away on the internet  (see links below).   Last January,  they allowed at least 40 thousand  children and the sick to die in the streets of Haiti.  Our warehouses were full with millions of small food packages that could have been air- dropped without parachutes all around those who were  starving  —every day.    Prominent  scientists and I pleaded over KGO Radio with the UN  and Washington officials to  use this  air-drop procedure that was  developed to feed and save  hundreds of thousands of trapped refugees in  Bosnia  (1993) and Afghanistan (2001-2002).    Why not our neighbors a stones throw away in Haiti? 

The air drop idea came to me  in 1991 when we were trying to feed the Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq after the Gulf War.  The refugees were being machine gunned when they rushed to the large pallets of food that we dropped by parachute.   Military  commanders would not believe that the impact velocity of  food packages hitting the ground is limited by air resistance --  no matter how high the planes are flying.   Later, at the  U.C. Livermore National Laboratory,  I dropped  food packages from 5000  feet over a field.   I  proved that you can  air drop most any small package of edible  food   wrapped in plastic that can be found in a supermarket  (my favorites were dried fruit and Granola bars).  These simple experiments were published in the major scientific journals and newspapers around the world. 

"Dropping food packages to refugees without  using parachutes,"Science, April 1993, page 27.   San Francisco Chronicle, 23 March 1993, front page.

In 1993, the Pentagon finally agreed to air drop standard military Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) packages over a  major city in Bosnia that was surrounded by the Serbs  (Quaker Oats contributed  100,000  Granola bars for the kids).    Who do you expect will win an Easter egg hunt?   The starving  kids got  as  much food as the generals.   And our planes flew safely above enemy fire at 10,000  feet.  The Pentagon quickly announced that this would be  the new “standard operating procedure” for delivering food to isolated refugees.  Indeed,  in 2001  our military developed “ethnically appropriate”  food bags for starving refugees  in Afghanistan.   Millions of these “food from heaven” lunch bags   were air-drop from high altitude without parachutes over the heads of  hungry families all winter.   The military perfected this operation and proudly named it  “TRIAD.”    Watch the  impressive YouTube  video of the TRIAD operation over Afghanistan at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCxwprZekpM  and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlOanfQvrOE.  

This video will make you sick when you see what we did not do for the desperate and dying in Haiti. 

You can read the full history of this operation below

So,  tell me why our government  did  not use TRIAD in Haiti.   Dozens of military cargo planes were only an hour away.    You watched the kids with sad eyes and bloated bellies starving on the evening news.  It  was two weeks before bulk food arrived on  UN Relief  trucks.  Then the strong men hoarded all the 100 lb bags handed out while the weak cried and died nearby. 

I learned that the political advisors to the White House and Pentagon insisted that the UN Relief Agency had to be in charge in Haiti.  That way, the  administration could  not be criticized for less than perfect rescue efforts -- the way it happened to George Bush after the  Katina hurricane destroyed New Orleans.    I personally believe it was more basic than that.   The  people in Haiti were not politically important to the U.S.  They  are poor and black.  I wondered how the president could look at himself in the mirror when he learned what the Pentagon did not do for Haiti that they did for Afghanistan.  Make sure he sees these:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCxwprZekpM  and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlOanfQvrOE

I have fought the “relief agency” establishment  since 1991.  Their well-paid executives will not air drop food packages to the starving.  The  TRIAD air drop procedure upsets their applecart.  Emergency food can be air dropped a day after a disaster anywhere.   Then the  TV crews have a hard time finding desperate victims.  And,  the  “relief agency”  workers are not the only heroes in town when their trucks finally arrive. 

Tell Washington:  no more of our  tax dollars to the  UN and  relief agencies until they air drop food  in the first few days of every disaster.  At least twenty percent of food they stock with our money should be air drop packages.   Oh, by the way,  did you notice  that the recent flood victims in Pakistan were getting food packages  air-dropped without parachutes  -- food supplied by U.S. military assistance.   Too bad for the Haitian people that they were not helping us fight a war somewhere.  


Bill Wattenburg

History of the  Operation

Dropping Food Packages to Refugees Without Parachutes (1991-93)

Science, 2 April 1993, page 27.   San Francisco Chronicle, 23 March 1993, front page.  

During the first months of the attack on Afghanistan in the fall of 2001,  there were daily news reports about how the U.S. was dropping millions of  food packages to the Afghan refugees who could not be safely reached by relief agencies on the ground.  Bill Wattenburg was the one who first did the experiments (1991) that proved that our military could and should drop food packages to refugees from high altitude without parachutes when the refugees are in hostile areas.    This is now standard operating procedure for the U.S. military.     

In 1991,  Bill Wattenburg was the first person to demonstrate that small food packages can be safely dropped by cargo planes at high altitude without parachutes, as is now being done to fed the refugees  in Afghanistan.  This  eliminates  the great expense of parachutes and the danger to our flight crews when they  must fly at low altitude to drop large food pallets by parachute over hostile areas.   But relief officials and the U.S.  military would not try his idea for several years -- until a fortunate sequence of events took place.  

Bill Wattenburg was asked by the U.S. Government in April 1991 to be the U.S.  scientific  advisor to the Kuwaiti Government and help them put out the 500 oil well fires in Kuwait.  In the course of this effort,  he received daily reports on the continuing conflict in northern Iraq and  saw films of the Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq being machine gunned by Iraqi soldiers when the refugees flocked to the large food pallets that U.S forces were dropping by parachute in remote areas.   

Wattenburg insisted that small food packages could be dropped from high altitude without the packages breaking up when they hit the ground.  (See San Francisco Chronicle article above.)   He proved that air resistance would limit  the dropping velocity to the same limiting velocity no matter how high the  altitude of the airplane.  Dropping individual packages from  high altitude would also scatter the food over larger areas so that refugees would not be easy targets for hostile soldiers who could target parachutes as they dropped.  Records show that he did his first experiments at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in May 1991 by dropping supermarket  food packages from a small plane flying at 5000 ft. altitude (Granola Bars,  cereal boxes,  and plastic wrapped items of all sorts). 

Relief officials would not try his idea in northern Iraq.    But he pestered the Pentagon for the next two years.   In 1993,  our military began dropping food by parachute on large  pallets to refugees in  the war in Bosnia.   Again, our cargo planes had to fly dangerously low over hostile territory.  Hostile  forces were targeting the refugees on the ground when they flocked to the food pallets, or the hostile forces would simply take the food.   Bill Wattenburg told Dr. Jane Hull in the White House National Security Office about his experiments and how well they worked.   She immediately called the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Office in the Pentagon (see Science article above).

The Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered the Air Force to try Wattenburg’s idea as soon as possible over Bosnia by dropping thousands of regular military “Meals Ready to Eat”  (MRE’s) packages from high altitude without parachutes by just kicking them out the back of a cargo plane flying at  5,000 feet.    Quaker Oats Company quickly contributed 100,000 sealed granola bars to go along with the MRE’s.   The procedure was an instant success for all.    As Bill predicted,  most of the packages dropped without parachutes were unbroken and the food was scattered over a wide area so that all refugees had an equal chance of picking up the food.   The kids in particular were most successful (as one would expect in any Easter Egg hunt).   

The Pentagon soon announced that this would be the new military standard operating procedure for dropping food to refugees over hostile areas.  (Of course, a Pentagon spokesperson soon  suggested to the press that the military  had been thinking about this idea  for many years.)   

Thousands  of starving refugees can be thankful that Bill Wattenburg took the time to test  one of his seemingly silly ideas one afternoon from a light plane at 5000 ft. over a farmer’s field near Livermore.  

See Also: