October 12, 2005

Rhein-Main ends flying operations

Posted in Military at 10:11 pm by billdawson

[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]

Rhein-Main photo by Air Force Staff Sgt Ricky Bloom

(photo by Air Force Staff Sgt Ricky Bloom)

The real “Gateway to Europe” is no more. As this article at European Command explains, the gateway mission will now be shared at two other U.S. air bases in Germany, Ramstein and Spangdahlem.

Present at the Monday ceremony was retired Colonel Gail Halvorsen, who became famous as the “Candy Bomber” during one of Rhein-Main’s most memorable missions, the Berlin Airlift of 1948–49. I poked around on the web and found this CNN interview with Halvorsen. It’s worth reading. Here’s a little gem:

Kids came up on the other side of the barbed wire [and] looked at me in [my] uniform. … They came up and started talk to me: “How many sacks of flour have you got?”, you know, “How’s it going to be tomorrow? More airplanes?”

They’d tell me they kept a list, how many airplanes would come in every day, and week-to-week. But they got off the subject of flour very quickly [and onto] the subject of freedom. “Look,” [one of them] said. “Some day we’ll have enough to eat. Just give us a little. Just don’t give up on us when the weather gets bad. But we can get along without enough to eat. Some day we’ll have enough. But if we lose our freedom we may never get it back.

And these kids were 8 to 14 years old and blew my mind with their maturity [and] understanding of what was important. They’d seen enough of Hitler; they saw what Stalin was doing across the border; their aunts and uncles were coming into West Berlin to use the library to find out what’s going on in the world; they couldn’t travel; they didn’t have their church opportunities. So these kids had a real understanding of what was important in their life and they wanted freedom like Americans.

[My emphasis]

31 Americans died during the airlift.

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