On June 24th 1948 the Soviet Union closed off all roads and supply roads to West Berlin to get power over the half of the city occupied by France, Britain and the United States. Only 2 days later the United States and Britain launched the Airlift in order to rescue the western sector and to supply the 2.5 million West Berliners with food, coal and other vital provisions. The airlift supplied Berlin for more than a year with over two million tonnes of supplies carried on more than 270,000 flights. On average, there was more than one plane every 3 minutes arriving at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport. The US Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen started to drop out tiny bundles of sweets with handkerchief parachutes on aid delivery flights for the children who had to struggle with all the pain, starvation and devastation in the aftermath of WWII and especially while the Soviet Union blocked the western sector of Berlin. This idea made him famous and made people call him “the candy bomber”. Finally, the Soviet Union had to give up the blockade and the United States, Britain and all the pilots from other countries who flew aid flights to Berlin saved the city from falling into Soviet hands.
As the German Defence Minister said today on the occasion of the 60th anniversary ceremony, “the Airlift turned foes into friends, and occupiers became helpers”. There were many prominent guests at the ceremony today, including several Airlift veterans, the US ambassador to Germany, William Timken, and the commander of the US Air Forces in Europe, General Roger A. Brady.