Bolster your knowledge of the Berlin Airlift on the eve of its 70th anniversary

Bolster your knowledge of the Berlin Airlift on the eve of its 70th anniversary

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

With just a few weeks remaining before commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift kick off, what better time to increase your background knowledge about this remarkable operation credited with cementing the special bond Germans and Americans have held so close to heart for decades? To add context to a visit to one of the German airfields from which many old planes from the original operation will once again take to the skies on June 10-17, check out the following resources:

"The Berlin Airlift: The Relief Operation that Defined the Cold War": This book by British historian Barry Turner puts into focus the role America felt compelled to take on in a post-World War II Europe. Turner not only discusses the logistical and political challenges the operation faced but its legacy, including the U.S.’s emergence as a global leader, German ascendancy and the threat from Russia. Published in November of 2017, the author makes use of materials from American, British and German archives and personal interviews with the veterans who took part in the operation. 

"Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's “Chocolate Pilot”: This work by Michael O. Tunnell tells the story of the Berlin Airlift through the eyes of its best-known protagonist, Gail Halvorsen, also known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” Through photographs, background info and personal recollections, this uplifting read speaks of how hope and simple acts of human kindness can touch lives in ways unimaginable, both to those who give and those who receive. The book is geared to middle school readers but can be enjoyed by all ages.

"Daring Young Men: The Heroism and Triumph of The Berlin Airlift-June 1948-May 1949": This book by Richard Reeves tells the story of how in June of 1948, airmen who were just returning to their normal lives back stateside were once again summoned to active duty in a bid to save the people of Berlin, a city some of them had been bombing just three years before. The book, published in 2011, serves as a testament to the heroism of the civilian airmen called upon to execute extraordinary tasks at a crucial juncture in history by drawing upon their service records and personal stories.

The Berlin Candy Bomber: This website provides primary content in the form of photographs, pictures and videos concerning the airlift code named Operation Vittles and what came to be known as “Operation Little Vittles,” the dropping of candy to the children of destitute postwar Berlin. Take inspiration from the words of Halvorsen himself in a linked video in which he describes how attitude, gratitude and service before self are paths to happiness in one’s daily life.

The Big Lift: This movie filmed in 1950 starring Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas was shot on location in occupied Germany and with the exception of the main actors, features actual members of the U.S. Armed Forces. With the Berlin Airlift as its historical backdrop, the film is a fictionalized account of a romance between a sergeant and an attractive Berlin girl. The airman and his friend present polar opposite attitudes towards the defeated German population.

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