Reflecting on the 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future: The Legacy of the Berlin Airlift

June 19th, 2024
Yana Kurteva, News from Berlin
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On a memorable day at the US Embassy, the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift was celebrated, reflecting on this monumental event that profoundly shaped Berlin’s history. Without the success of the Airlift, Berlin might be an entirely different city.

After World War II, Berlin lay in ruins, facing both physical reconstruction and political rebirth. In 1946, the city held its first post-war elections, where non-Communist factions triumphed. The following year, SPD candidate Ernst Reuter was elected mayor, a decision vetoed by the Soviets, marking a defiant stand for democracy.

The Soviet Blockade of Berlin in 1948 aimed to force Western allies to surrender control by severing supply lines. However, the skies remained open, leading to the most extensive air transport operation in history. President Truman declared, “We stay in Berlin,” initiating a monumental effort to sustain the city. An aircraft landed every 45 seconds, delivering over two million tons of essential supplies.

On this 75th anniversary, U.S. veteran Harald E. Bowers, who participated in the Airlift, was honored. Colonel Gail Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber,” symbolized hope by dropping candy to children. Four of his children attended as guests of honor, alongside two recipients of his candy drops.

The Airlift ended on May 12, 1949, when the Soviets lifted the blockade, hastening NATO’s creation and West Germany’s establishment. Berlin, the last European battlefield of World War II, became the first battleground of the Cold War, emerging as a symbol of democracy and freedom.

To commemorate this event, the Embassy and the Allied Museum sponsored a social media contest, inviting young people to reflect on the Airlift’s impact. Historic planes, the C-47 and C-54, were transferred from the U.S. Air Force to Germany, symbolizing the enduring transatlantic relationship.

The event concluded with a model C-47 handover to the Deutsches Technikmuseum. This marked the completion of the plane turnover project, thanks to Kari Raffensberger’s efforts. The Berlin Airlift’s legacy of unity and resilience in the face of adversity continues to inspire and guide us.


News from Berlin