A few years ago, my good buddy Dick Pope gave me a book to read. Now Dick awaits me at our Supreme Commander’s camp grounds where he and others who served keep the fires going and the “Joe” hot (coffee civilians). The book was read, information absorbed, and now it resides in the Hut library. It concerned the Berlin Airlift that was ongoing while he served in Germany at that time. It began the change from the Army Air Corp to the USAF. It was an amazing story of risk and success on a flying mission that laid the ground work for our current aviation worldwide industry.
Today in 1948, in response to the Soviet blockade of land routes into West Berlin, the United States begins a massive airlift of food, water, and medicine to the citizens of the besieged city. For nearly a year, supplies from American planes sustained the over 2 million people in West Berlin. On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked all road and rail travel to and from West Berlin, which was located within the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany. The Soviet action was in response to the refusal of American and British officials to allow Russia more to say in the economic future of Germany.
The U.S. government was shocked by the provocative Soviet move, and some in President Harry S. Truman’s administration called for a direct military response. Truman, however, did not want to cause World War III.
Instead, he ordered a massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin. On June 26, 1948, the first planes took off from bases in England and western Germany and landed in West Berlin. It was a daunting logistical task to provide food, clothing, water, medicine, and other necessities of life for the over 2 million fearful citizens of the city.
For nearly a year, American planes landed around the clock. Over 200,000 planes carried in more than one-and-a-half million tons of supplies.
The Soviets persisted with the blockade until May 1949. By then, however, it was apparent to everyone concerned that the blockade had been a diplomatic fiasco for the Russians. Around the world, the Soviets were portrayed as international bullies, holding men, women, and children hostage in West Berlin and threatening them with starvation. The unbelievably successful American airlift also backfired against the Russians by highlighting the technological superiority of the United States. By the time the Soviets ended the blockade, West Germany had become a separate and independent nation and the Russian failure was complete.
One of the lighter moments was when the “Candy Bomber” began, on his own, packaging small parcels of goodies for the children with small parachutes. Donations from the troops flooded him. Although unauthorized it became a positive face on the efforts to help those on the east side of the wall.
We will be putting out flags on Main Street and Highway 99 & 20 on Friday June 29th at 9:00 AM. We will pick up flags on Friday July 6th at 9:00 AM. Then we will have a short flag raising and salute at 9:00 am on July 4th at the Legion Hut flagpole.
Get yours now! The Department of Oklahoma in OKC has Legion 100th Anniversary coins for sale at $15 each. I got my 10 coins and they are beautiful (I have awarded nine of them to special folks in my life). I will continue to distribute mine to folks who have a special meaning to me. Also, please participate in our rifle raffle. Carl Blue has set up opportunities at the NAPPA Store (Thanks to the Breedloves) and The Hominy Pawn Shop.
Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in June are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy with always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians). Keep your eye on the weather in case things must be postponed. Attend our next meeting July 5th at 7:00 pm. If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.