The Alaska Air National Guard originally started Operation Santa Claus in 1956 as a result of a request from St. Mary’s Mission for toys for their children. In those days, Guardsmen would accept new or used toys from members of the Anchorage community. In turn, they would then hand them over to Santa Claus for delivery aboard an Air Guard C-123J Provider Aircraft to St. Mary’s. Upon arrival, usually a few weeks before Christmas, Santa and the aircrew were greeted with cheers and warm smiling faces of anticipation. Santa then had the opportunity to listen to each child’s Christmas wish. He passed out gifts, enjoyed a small snack and watched the Air Guard’s all-star basketball team get clobbered by St. Mary’s team.
The St. Mary’s Mission continued through 1981, bringing nearly twenty-five years of Operation Santa Claus to its doors each Holiday Season. The need seemed to decrease as did the school’s student body until it closed its doors in 1988. Over the years, as time and social conditions in rural Alaska changed, other villages, schools, and groups have invited Operation Santa Claus to their community and the mission expanded to include these new requests. It is now a joint mission between the Air and Army National Guard that spreads the good cheer of Santa to literally tens of thousands of Alaska’s children.
The primary transportation for Operation Santa Claus is now the sturdy C-130H Hercules of the Alaska Air Guard’s 176th Wing. In addition, the Alaska Army Guard helps out with the delivery of hundreds of gifts for youth and elders in remote villages through the use of the Blackhawk Helicopter. All of the major Operation Santa Claus visits include time for music, singing, story-telling and the kind acts of gift giving. Currently, Operation Santa Claus brings each child a new gift and a book, and Santa tries to provide a goodie-bag filled with fresh fruit, water, toothbrush, toothpaste, and school supplies for each of the children.
Operation Santa Claus relies on the generosity of the community. Please explore our site through the links on your left if you are interested in being an Operation Santa Claus sponsor or volunteer, wish to donate a contribution, or wish to learn more about the program or how to request that your village host an Operation Santa Claus visit.