Editors at Hampton Roads' evening edition newspaper, the Ledger-Star, received a tip on October 10, 1973, that a Boeing 707 with unusual markings landed at Oceana Naval Air Station. Witnesses soon determined that the aircraft belonged to Israel, though U.S. Navy sailors quickly put paper and paint over the tail to hide the markings. Ledger-Star photojournalists and reporters made their way to the base early in the morning and took the picture above. The Virginian-Pilot (parent company of the now-defunct Ledger-Star) recently donated pictures of this unusual event to the Naval Museum.
The reporters and civilians witnessed sailors loading several pallets of AIM-9 Sidewinder (see the museum's Sidewinder here) and AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles on board. A U.S. Air Force C-141 then flew in and parked itself near the 707. Crews unloaded several more pallets of 250- and 500-lb bombs. Navy spokesmen at the region's installations said only, "No comment." After the plane was loaded up, reporters and witnesses watched the 707 take off and head east.
A short time later, the operation became less of a secret when the Nixon Administration publicly announced that it would be providing military materiel support to Israel's war effort against the Egyptian and Syrian offensives in what is called the Yom Kippur War. With the Soviet Union providing massive amounts of military aid to Egypt and Syria, the Nixon administration acted on behalf of Israel.
Upon the President's order, the U.S. Air Force initiated Operation Nickel Grass and summoned every available cargo and airlift plane it had in its inventory. The planes landed at several military airfields across the country, including Oceana, received any surplus weapon stocks on hand, and shipped them off to Israel.