Thursday, June 26, 2014
This Day in History: Berlin Airlift Begins
On this day in 1948, U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin when Josef Stalin's Soviet government attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin to pressure the Allies into evacuating. The western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel and other crucial supplies.
President Harry S. Truman feared an aggressive response would trigger another world war, so instead he authorized a massive airlift operation under the control of General Lucius D. Clay, the American-appointed military governor of Germany. The first planes took off from England and western Germany on June 26, loaded with food, clothing, water, medicine and fuel.
During the Berlin airlift, pilot Gail S. "Hal" Halvorsen ran an operation known as "Operation Little Vittles." Shortly before landing at the Berlin Tempelhof Airport in the American sector of Berlin, Halvorsen would drop candy attached to parachutes to the children below. Other crews followed suit and were given the name candy bombers. The program gained widespread attention that led to an outpouring of public support and donations. My home town of Chicopee, MA was crucial to this operation, as Westover Air
Force base in Chicopee was the stateside headquarters of "Operation Little Vittles." The motto of the Operation was "For the children, by the children, and of the children." Each of the 22 Chicopee schools spent time sewing handkerchiefs into tiny parachutes and a local businessman even donated whistles and balloons as Christmas gifts for the German children.
To read more about the Berlin airlift, visit http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/us-begins-berlin-airlift You can read about Chicopee's involvement in "Operation Little Vittles" at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/airlift/sfeature/candy.html There are links to several historical articles.