FRANKFURT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Germany --
American, German, British and French citizens gathered at the former Rhein-Main Air Base to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
The commemoration paid tribute to the 101 service members who lost their lives during the humanitarian mission, which lasted from June 26, 1948 to September 30, 1949, and emphasized the ongoing need for international partnership and friendship.
“The Berlin Airlift has always been a symbol,” said Hessen Minister President Volker Bouffier. “The Berlin Airlift is a compass for the future. It was a victory of freedom over dictatorship.”
The commemoration also included performances from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Bands Ambassadors Jazz Ensemble, who performed popular music from the 1940s. As the band played, speakers throughout the ceremony talked about the sacrifices and contributions of U.S. and allied forces during the Soviet blockade of Berlin.
Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker said the airlift was an important milestone in the building of a new and democratic Germany, and ultimately in the reunification of the nation four decades later.
One of the most notable figures of the Berlin Airlift, Ret. Col. Gail Halvorsen, was unable to attend due to his health. Representing him were his daughters Denise Halvorsen-Williams and Marilyn Halvorsen-Sorenson. His daughters shared recounts of their father’s memories from the year-long mission. Halvorsen, also known as the Candy Bomber, is most famous for initiating the delivery of chocolate and other treats to the children affected by the Berlin blockade.
They quoted their father saying, “We were working to feed the two-and-a-half million people of Berlin and to keep them free. But it was the children who taught me the purpose of the airlift.”
“The men and women of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe will continue to carry on Halvorsen’s and the Berlin Airlift’s legacies,” said Maj. Gen. John B. Williams, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa mobilization assistant to the commander, based out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
The commemoration concluded as members of the Ramstein Air Base Honor Guard and Frankfurt Polizei laid wreaths in front of the Berlin Airlift Memorial while the band played the German and U.S. national anthems.
“The heroes of the airlift came from so many countries, but they all shared the same goal,” said U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. “Even today our shared commitment is still the same, that peace and stability may be the cornerstone of our shared partnerships and friendships.”