Hamre Hails Allied Effort in Berlin
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Jul. 2, 1998 For nearly 50 years, East and West Berlin stood divided by the infamous Berlin Wall. Today, the city stands united, a testament to hope and freedom.
"The spirit of liberty can tear down the mightiest walls of oppression," Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said in Berlin June 27, at ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
"Fifty years ago this week, as Joseph Stalin's Iron Curtain descended around a free Berlin, the last battleground of a World War became the first battleground of the Cold War," Hamre said. Berlin became a symbol of resolve, defiance and, ultimately, freedom.
Despite overwhelming odds, Berliners turned fields into runways, enabling American, British and French planes -- more than 277,000 flights in all -- to deliver about 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and medicine.
"Some of freedom's darkest days were transformed into one of freedom's greatest triumphs," Hamre said of the airlift. Freedom again triumphed when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989, answering "the hopes of all freedom-loving people in the world" he said.
The spirit of Berlin lives on as NATO welcomes new members, in Partnership for Peace, and in new relationships with Russia and Ukraine, Hamre said. It is alive "as we cool the cauldrons of hate in Bosnia and try to prevent Kosovo from boiling over. The spirit of Berlin -- the spirit of liberty -- is helping us reach across old divides to build a new Europe for a new century."
Hamre spoke at the opening of Berlin's new Allied Museum in Berlin-Zehlendorf. He said the collection of Cold War remnants "will remind future generations that freedom is never free."
"For decades, Checkpoint Charlie and other allied checkpoints symbolized both the last defense against tyranny and the passageways to freedom," Hamre said. "Checkpoint Charlie now sits in this museum, its job as a guardhouse done.
"Now let us commit to build a Europe in which we need no Checkpoint Charlies," he continued. "Let us commit to build a Europe where there is no need for concrete walls and barbed wire to keep people in and ideas out. Let us commit to build a Europe that is itself a gateway to openness and freedom for all humankind. And let us always recall Berlin as the ultimate symbol of that freedom."