Americans, Germans Memorialize Berlin Airlift Personnel
U.S. Army Jessica Ryan, Garrison Benelux Public Affairs
“All gave some, some gave all” were the words that summed up the
courageous feats of military personnel who served in the Berlin
Airlift from 1948 to 1949. Community members remembered these acts
of heroism during memorial services on June 10-11, 2019 at Lucius D.
Clay Kaserne Airfield at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden.
memorial services were a part of the Berlin Airlift’s 70th
Anniversary commemoration. During the ceremony, garrison leaders,
local officials, time witnesses and retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, the
famed “candy bomber” and “chocolate pilot” during the Berlin
Airlift, spoke to the audience about the historical significance of
the airlift in military operations and its symbolism of friendship
Bradley Provancha, the
master of ceremonies, rings a bell 81 times to honor
personnel, who lost their lives during the Berlin Airlift,
during a memorial service on June 10, 2019 at Lucius D.
Clay Kaserne airfield in Wiesbaden, Germany. The event
commemorated those who participated in the historic military
operation in 1948 to 1949. (Image created by USA Patriotism!
from U.S. Army photo by Jessica Ryan)
“The Berlin Airlift was the first time in history where military
air transport was used to achieve diplomatic goals,” said local
historian Dr. John Provan. “Only the Berlin Airlift has come to
symbolize American resolve in supporting nations in time of need
through the use of military air transport.”
During the Berlin
Blockade from 1948 to 1949, the Soviet Union blocked the Western
Allies’ railway, road and canal access to the sectors of Berlin
under Western control.
The airlift, which started June 26, 1948, and ended Sept. 30,
1949, was a joint humanitarian effort between the U.S., British and
French militaries to help those impacted by the blockade.
The airfield on Clay Kaserne served as a hub as pilots made frequent
flights from Wiesbaden to Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. The U.S.
Air Force transported 1.8 million tons to West Berlin, Provan said.
“A total of 75,000 individuals were directly involved in
making the combined airlift task force work,” he added.
community remembered 81 personnel -- 13 Germans, 32 Americans and 36
British – who lost their lives in support of the airlift. A bell
rang for each loss.
A LASTING FRIENDSHIP
One of the
Berlin Airlift pilots was Halvorsen, then a first lieutenant, who
became known as the “Candy Bomber” for delivering candy to German
children. He constructed makeshift parachutes with handkerchiefs so
candy and other goods could drop from his plane into the children’s
At 98 years old, Halvorsen attended the ceremony and
spoke about his experiences.
“The real heroes are the
Berliners,” he said. “They talked a lot about freedom and how much
it meant to the human soul. The spirit of freedom is alive and well.
We (the Americans) are glad to be here, and we are proud to be by
your side forever if that is what it takes.”
Retired U.S. Air Force
Col. Gail Halvorsen, the famed “Candy Bomber” in the Berlin
Airlift and Mercedes Wild, the subject of the children’s
book “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot,” share memories
during a memorial service on June 10, 2019, at Lucius D.
Clay Kaserne airfield in Wiesbaden, Germany. Halvorsen and
Wild formed a lasting friendship decades after the Berlin
Airlift as Wild remembered Halvorsen as the man who gave her
candy and other goods during the Berlin blockade. (U.S. Army
photo by Jessica Ryan)
By his side was Mercedes Wild, one of the Berliners, who was 7
years old during the airlift. Wild wrote a letter to the man she
called the “chocolate pilot” and told him that his plane scared the
family’s chickens. She then asked if he could drop candy by her
Her story later became the subject of the
children’s book “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.” Wild and Peter
Witmer, USAG Wiesbaden school liaison officer, read excerpts from
the book onstage.
Decades after the Berlin Airlift, Wild and
Halvorsen reunited and formed a lasting friendship.
reflected on the impact of Halvorsen’s acts of kindness on her life
as well as on others.
“Most of the children in school did
not have a father because of the war. Col. Gail Halvorsen was a
symbol of a father in my school,” she said.