How “candy bombers” defended the freedom of West Berlin and laid the foundation for transatlantic friendship.
By Tanya Zech
When the war ended, the allied forces of the USA, the United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union divided Germany and its capital Berlin into four administrative zones. When the Western powers pushed through a currency reform and introduced the deutschmark in 1948 against its will, the Soviet Union sealed off the western sector of Berlin on 24 June 1948. The Cold War had begun.
The supply of food and energy, which was tight in any case, threatened to collapse altogether. The people of Berlin would starve. Lucius D. Clay, the military governor of the American occupation zone, took action and initiated the Berlin airlift. On 26 June 1948, the first supply flights set off from Frankfurt am Main and Wiesbaden to Berlin.
It quickly became clear that as many planes as possible would need to land in Berlin in order to supply over two million people in the western part of the city. The Allies used their three air corridors at maximum capacity. The “raisin bombers” landed at one-minute intervals, were unloaded at lightning speed and then took off again. This meant that around 5,000 tons of aid could reach the blockaded sector each day.
US Lieutenant Gail Seymour Halvorsen would drop packages of sweets to cheer up the children in the war-torn city. Other pilots picked up on his idea and followed suit. By the end of the blockade, around 23 tons of sweets had reportedly rained down on Berlin.
The Western allies kept the airlift going for an entire year. It is thought to be one of the biggest humanitarian operations ever organized. The Soviet Union ended the blockade on 12 May 1949, though American and British pilots continued to fly aid shipments in until the autumn.
The Berlin Airlift gave rise to close ties between Germany and the USA, the United Kingdom and France. Wartime enemies became saviors, partners and friends. This special relationship continues to shape the transatlantic partnership between Germany and the USA to this day.
The airlift will be re-enacted in June 2019 – with care parcels, sweet drops and air displays. The plan is for around 40 “candy bombers” to fly over Berlin once again.
Read the full article on Deutschland.de.