Berlin Airlift Veterans Association Collection

DSpace/Manakin Repository

Berlin Airlift Veterans Association Collection

 

The collapse of the Axis Forces after the Second World War left the United States and the Soviet Union the remaining super powers and marked the beginning of the Cold War. The first conflict that put the two countries to a test was the Berlin Blockade from June 24, 1948 through May 12, 1949.

Germany was divided into four sectors each being governed by one of the Allies: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. Because of its special status, Berlin was divided as well.

The Soviet Union intended to keep the “old” Reichsmark and thus keeping the German economy weak by only allowing the Soviet currency in their own sector, should the western Allies introduce the Deutsche Mark (DM) without the former’s consent. However, the Allies issued the DM in their sectors on June 21, 1948. The Soviet Union considered this an act of provocation and closed all land routes to and from Berlin.

Overnight, the more than two million inhabitants of Berlin were without any energy and all traffic had stopped at once. The Allies, under the leadership of the United States and the command of General Lucius D. Clay, then Military Governor of Germany, used the three air corridors – each twenty miles wide - leading through the Soviet Sector to the city of Berlin. On June 29 1948, the United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) formed the Berlin Airlift Task Force and on July 7, the first Douglas C-54 Skymaster flew a load of coal stored in duffel bags for industrial use to the besieged city. Operation Vittles was officially under way.

In an unprecedented combined Allied effort and under the command of General William H. Tunner, who reorganized the initial endeavors by staggering the airspace in the corridors so that the airplanes were flying three minutes apart from 4,000 to 6,000 feet, more than 1,000,000 tons of goods were flown to support the city.

To fame came pilot Gail Halvorsen, who had visited Berlin in his spear time and had given candy to children standing at the end of the runway of Tempelhof who observed the unloading of the airplanes. Halvorsen promised the children that he would return the next day to drop off some more candy. As a sign to the children, Halvorsen would “wiggle” the wings of his airplane. The following day, Halvorson dropped the candy attached to a handkerchief and Operation Little Vittles was born. The children named Halvorsen either Mr. Wiggle, Rosinenbomber (Raisin bomber), or Schokoladenbomber (chocolate bomber).

The Berlin Airlift Veterans Association (BAVA) was established in January of 1991. The main purposes of the BAVA are to commemorate the services rendered by the participants of the Berlin Airlift both military and civilian, to perpetuate the history and significance of the Berlin Airlift, to honor those who gave their lives, and to establish programs that will enhance Education, Friendship, and Understanding between people, among other things.

In 2010 the association donated their materials to the History of Aviation Collection (HAC). The Berlin Airlift Veterans Association Collection is open for research and contains personal papers, BAVA association records, private and association correspondence, clippings, magazines, newsletters, photographs, scrapbooks, moving images, microfilm, audio tapes, ephemera, memorabilia, rosters, articles, excerpts, internet search printouts, speeches, presentations, brochures, programs, tourist information, and other materials that were created and/or collected by the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association's historian or their members. The Berlin Airlift Veterans Association Collection is housed in thirty-six boxes of various sizes totaling 26.5 linear feet.

Even today, the Stiftung Luftbrückendank (Airlift Gratitude Foundation) organizes exhibitions and events as well as grants scholarships to honor those who participated in the Berlin Airlift. The citizens of Berlin will never forget.

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