Every year, Shirl designs our Christmas cards around our best aviation story of the year. Last year’s card had a Spitfire, and we have cards marking horrendous air traffic, a migration to a magical grass airfield, a year of endless, er … maintenance, a year of aerobatic training. It was a close call this year, because I had to choose between flying in an actual dogfight vs. celebrating another kind of aerial victory. Given the Season, it was an easy choice.
In 1948, just 3 years after the World War against Germany ended, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin to force its former allies out of the city. Deep inside East Germany, West Berlin was a democratic island in the middle of a Communist sea.
Allied pilots flew over two million of tons of food, coal and other critical supplies to Berlin in 1948-49. It was one of the coldest winters in Germany. During his final approaches in a heavily-laden C-54 cargo airplane, American pilot Gail Halvorsen dropped parachutes with gum and chocolate bars to German kids who waited all day at the end of the runways. He had met the German kids at the perimeter fence, and he realized that they had never tasted chocolate bars or chewing gum before.
The Airlift defeated the Soviet blockade, won the hearts and minds of a former enemy, turned around an impossible election for an American President, preserved democracy in West Berlin, and left an indelible mark in the hearts of German kids who today run Germany.
I’m a supply chain professional, and a pilot. I always wanted to fly, since I was a very young child. I love candy and chocolate. The story of the Berlin Airlift captivated me. This is a heart-warming tale of pilots, kids, chewing gum, an incredible supply chain case study, fabulous feats of flying, and an aerial victory without any shots fired, neither at a former enemy or at a former ally.
This year I went to Tempelhof, toured the Allied Museum, walked the runways I had read about decades ago, and stood on the ramp beside a C-54 on that had actually flown in the Airlift, nearly 70 years ago.
I tried to give everyone a card until I ran out. And a few illustrated books about the Candy Bomber, which were really written for children. To all of you, especially those whose cards are lost in the post office supply chain, …
… Merry Christmas! Frohe Weinachten!
Posted from Manila
24 December, 2015