Quotes about the Berlin airlift:

``I did not ask permission,'' Gen. Lucius Clay, the U.S. commander in Berlin who started the airlift without clearance from Washington.

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``It was romantic in a lot of ways. This was before the jet age. The idea of supplying a big city by air was completely unheard of. The idea that this could be done by airplane was amazing.'' _ John Mueller, expert on war and presidents at the University of Rochester.

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``People don't realize that a lot of what we were carrying during the Berlin airlift was coal. In fact, two-thirds of all the tonnage was coal. They weren't bringing in luxury supplies to the people of Berlin. They were bringing in coal, potatoes and basic food to survive.'' _ Lt. Gen. William Begert, current vice commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

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``You didn't just fly coal to Berlin and keep a city from freezing and the lights from going out. You inspired at least one German boy to want to be just like you when he grew up.'' _Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Wolfgang Samuel, who was a 13-year-old Berliner during the airlift and moved to America with his mother and her GI husband.

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``It seems to me it's the first clear Soviet defeat in the Cold War. It's the one thing that the Soviets started and failed to finish.'' _ Diplomatic historian John Gaddis of Yale University.