Air Show Celebrates Berlin Airlift Anniversary
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md., May 17, 2008 The historic humanitarian efforts of the Berlin Airlift 60 years ago demonstrated to U.S. allies and enemies alike that the country would not be deterred from its commitments, the Air Force secretary said today.
Two Oracle bi-planes perform aerial acrobatics during the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., May 17, 2008. Thousands attended the event, which coincided with the 60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Defense Dept. photo by Fred W. Baker III
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“It displayed a U.S. dedication to a stable and prosperous rule of law and international system. It demonstrated truly the ingenuity of America’s military to create sovereign options … in response to a changing national security environment,” said Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, speaking at the opening ceremonies of the Joint Service Open House at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.
This year’s open house coincided with the 60th anniversary of the airlift, the largest humanitarian mission in Air Force history. Officially named “Operation Vittles,” but known as the Berlin Airlift, the U.S. and its allies delivered more than 2.3 million tons of food, fuel and other supplies to residents of the German capital. The Soviet Union had blocked them from receiving supplies by ground transportation.
For almost a year starting in June 1948, the U.S. and allies launched 750,000 flights to the beleaguered population. The flights delivered food for the starving, but also the parts to build an entire power plant.
Wynne likened the airlift to the humanitarian efforts the U.S. is providing in Burma and China today as the result of natural disasters in those regions. The airlift confirmed, he said, “the absolute criticality of strategic airlift to the nation.”
“It demonstrated that our national leaders require an entire range of options to both, defend the United States and extend its vital interests, and provide that international security environment we all seek,” Wynne said.
Klaus Scharioth, German ambassador to the United States, said freedom was at stake 60 years ago and called the airlift “one of the greatest humanitarian efforts of all times.”
“I stand in awe (of) what these Americans did for my country,” he said.
Scharioth said the airlift accomplished the impossible. “It was a truly heroic effort inspired by the will to preserve freedom. The common effort made allies and friends of former enemies that had fought each other in World War II,” he said.
“By keeping alive the hopes of the people of Berlin, the airlift laid the foundation of friendship.”
Scharioth said the airlift demonstrates what it takes to change the course of history. “It takes your hand -- hard work and ingenuity -- and it takes your heart, sacrifice and perseverance, the will to be free and stand together as friends,” he said.
The airlift inspired his generation and demonstrated that the United States stood for freedom and democracy and also forgiveness and generosity, the ambassador said.
“America’s helping hands and humane hearts changed the course of history for my country. The Germans will always be grateful,” he said.
Scharioth said the efforts and results of the airlift should inspire future generations as they deal with the new challenges of international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ensuring energy security and preserving the planet.
“Just as Germany and the United States stood together on the freedom’s front line 60 years ago … we will confront these challenges together,” he said.
“The men and women of the airlift left us with a legacy of friendship. They tell us our friendship is based on shared fundamental interest and values,” he said. “We will face the challenges of the future together.”