Ceremonies Commemorate Anniversary Of Berlin Airlift
BERLIN (AP) _ A 1944 cargo plane hauled ambassadors instead of food supplies Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, the massive Allied effort that broke a Soviet blockade of West Berlin.
″The Berlin Airlift changed this city, and it changed the world,″ said U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt, who spoke at West Berlin’s Templehof Airport after arriving from Frankfurt Thursday afternoon on the DC-3 plane, a civilian version of the military C-47 transports used during the airlift.
In June 1948, the Soviet Union sealed off Allied road, rail and canal access to western sectors of Berlin, an enclave 110 miles inside what was then Soviet-held territory and is now Communist East Germany.
During the airlift’s 15 months, U.S. and British cargo planes ferried more than 1.8 million tons of food, coal and other vital supplies to 2 million hungry people in the Allied-controlled sectors of Berlin.
The planes that delivered the supplies came to be known as ″Raisin Bombers″ because they frequently dropped raisins and candy to the children of Berlin.
″Everything was in short supply - food, clothing, everything. There was nothing left over from day to day,″ recalled Helga Galler, 60, of West Berlin, one of 400 people waiting at Templehof for the plane to land.
″So when we saw these planes coming - these ‘Raisin Bombers’ - we knew we didn’t have to worry any longer,″ she said.
Accompanying Burt were British Ambassador Sir Christopher Mallaby, French Ambassador Serge Boidevaix, West German Defense Minister Rupert Scholz, and retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, an original airlift pilot.
Earlier Thursday, the ambassadors attended the opening of an airlift exhibit in Bonn and ceremonies at the U.S. Rhine Main Air Base near Frankfurt. Many of the Berlin Airlift flights orignated at Rhine Main.
The airlift began on June 26, 1948, and by the time it ended on Sept. 30, 1949, more than 277,000 planeloads of food and supplies were brought into the former German capital.
Bitter disputes between the Kremlin and the three other victorious World War II Allies led to the Soviets move to cut Berlin off from the West.
Soviet leader Josef Stalin staunchly opposed creation of a unified German state in the three Western occupation zones. When the Allies backed a currecy reform to speed up economic recovery of war-torn Germany, Moscow imposed the blockade.
Four days after the money reform on June 20, the Soviets blocked all roads, waterways and railway lines.
In response, U.S. Army Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the military governor of the American zone of conquered Germany, ordered all cargo planes available to deliver provisions.
The Soviets ended the blockade May 12, 1949, but the Western allies continued the flights until land, waterway and rail traffic had resumed. The airlift cost $200 million.