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A Different Post-War Occupation

May 16, 2004

Dear Families and Friends,

I suppose the occupation of Iraq is on everybody's mind but we made a short detour today to visit a monument to a different post-war occupation experience. At the end of World War II, Germany and its Berlin capital were each divided into four parts, administered by the American, British, French, and Russian victors. The original plan was to create a unified Germany "someday" but the allies had clearly different views. Eventually, in early 1948, the Western occupiers started down the path of an independent West Germany with an exclave of two million people in the western half of Berlin, surrounded by Russian-occupied territory.

The Russians chose to react on June 24, 1948 by a complete blockade of West Berlin; no roads, rails, barge canals, or even electricity. The West answered by flying in supplies but the millions of Berliners needed assistance on a scale never attempted before. American and British planes flew from a half-dozen bases to three airports in Berlin, one an improvised arrangement for British seaplanes. Before it ended, the Americans and British flew in almost two-an-a-half million pounds (one million kilograms)of goods, almost two-thirds of it coal for heating and electrical generation. The Berlin Airlift succeeded and, after a year, the Russians backed down.

Marianne now teaches at the Air Force Base that was the largest operation and today is Frankfort's massive airport. Her school, Halvorsen-Tunner, was named after the airlift commander and the pilot who added a famous bit of humanity to the operation. While it was General Tunner's organizational skills that kept Berliners from starving and it was Lieutenant Halvorsen who started throwing out candy from his plane as it approached Berlin's airports. In a capital who's children and adults had endured years of droning aircraft bringing nothing but destruction, the transformation to "Rosinenbombers" (literally"raisen-bombers") had to be a remarkable turnaround.

The base has a small monument to the airlift, with examples of the original C47s (DC3 in civilian life) and C54s (DC4). They sit, almost forgotten, wedged between the end of the runway and the A5 autobahn. Like millions of others, we have driven past dozens of times but never stopped. Today, we added a few minute detour on our way to the base commissary for weekly shopping. It was a welcome reminder of a past application of American and British air power.

Glance through the pictures below and share our detour - and our pride.

John and Marianne



The first planes in the Berlin Airlift were about 100 C47s.
The C47s were quickly supplemented and then replaced by the larger four-engine C54s. Still, these aircraft could carry only a small fraction of the load of a large modern cargo transport.
Between the example C47 and C54 is the western end of the Berlin Airlift "Bridge" Monument. Some day we need to0 visit the other end of the arch - at Berlin's Tempelhof Airport.
Earlier, we had visited the German History Museum in Bonn and walked through this section of an airlift C47. The space seemed tiny.
The C47 cockpit was similar to this one from it's civilian counterpart, the Douglas DC3.
Organizing the loading, flying, unloading, and return of hundreds of planes a day was the genius of General Tunner.
At the Berlin end, the city residents watched the parade that was keeping two million residents alive and united with non-Soviet western Europe.
Marianne had arranged for an autographed copy of Gail Halvorsen's book describing his experience in the Airlift. It was his chance interaction with some kids around Berlin's Tempelhof air base that led him to drop sweets from his plane and ultimately changed the personal image thousands of Berliners had of American and British "bombers".



More history of the Berlin Airlift:http://www.usafe.af.mil/berlin/facts.htm

Reserve a flight in an Rosinenbomber: http://www.air-service-berlin.de/

More Candy Bomber History: http://www.konnections.com/airlift/candy.htm


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