THE BERLIN AIRLIFT
T'was 1948 and in Germany, the winter was cold
AN ODE TO
The Russians had blockaded, a move that was bold.
The Americans, the French, and of course the Brits,
Had met the challenge, and gave Russia the fits.
Their plan was to force the Allies to retreat,
And leave Berlin City for them to mistreat.
The roads had been closed, bridges destroyed,
Railroad tracks dismantled, and totally void.
But their move was too quick, and poorly planned
For the Allies flew over with supplies to land.
They came from all over, the cargo planes,
C-47s, C-54s, and all with great names,
Like "Floozie" and "Dolly", Marilyn" and "Dames".
Shoulder to shoulder Germans and West Allies
Unloading cargo, and caught the Russians by surprise,
Who would have thought former foes would share
The love for a city, for which they all care.
Day and night the airplanes would fly
Twenty-four seven, but spirits were high.
They carried supplies, food, fuel, how dandy
One pilot alone even "bombed" children candy!
The word spread so fast, everyone tried
Bombing candy too, so no child cried.
Yes, food, fuel, and coal and especially salt
They'd fly in fly out, with no thought to halt.
One glorious day, in May '49, the news was here
The Russians "gave in" after almost a year.
Celebrations exploded, happiness and good cheer,
The blockade was over, Hoorah and hear hear!
To all who took part, or gave the ultimate price
The gratitude a hundred fold, a thousand and thrice,
For a city was saved and paved the way
For a united Berlin, to be realized one day.
So here's to the Heroes, they know who they are
Berliners remember, they're never too far.
They're always remembered with joy and love,
With praise and Thanksgiving, for the gifts from above!
Dr. Daniel L. Bunting Ph.D
Teenaging In BERLIN 1947-48
by Dan Bunting
What can one say about teen-aged life in BERLIN during the Cold War? I arrived in BERLIN in July 1947, accompanying my father by auto through the Russian Zone. We traveled via the autobahn and finally reached BERLIN's Western Sector (American). Enroute, we were ordered by the Russians to drive straight through, not to stop under any conditions, and exit the Russian Zone before dark. Flat tires, engine trouble, no excuse, but a quick trip back to the American Zone! We made it!
My mother, sister and brother followed later. My father secured quarters in a beautiful home in the Schlachtensee area that had previously been owned by the Mayor of BERLIN until the war's end, when taken over by American forces of occupation. I made a beeline to the local teen hangout where we met mornings daily for donuts and coffee. Later, transferred to a teen club established for us. Teen life was much the same as in the other German locations; school, sports, dances and parties and all. I fell madly in love with a beautiful girl named Virginia Avery, with the nickname "Bitty". We went steady until we both left Germany in August 1948.
The BERLIN Airlift was an event that went down in history as one of the greatest accomplishments in modern history. The saving of a city totally surrounded and isolated from the world by a major blockade forbidding any land entry into the city from the west. A city without fuel and food most certainly would fall. To respond to this blockade, the allies decided to fly the life sustaining needs of a besieged major city. This then is a description of the teen life, and my personal contribution to the effort.
At first it was a minor series of annoying events. Westerners were no longer allowed free access to the Eastern sector of BERLIN. The East was totally blocked out. No one in. No one out. Then more serious actions took place. The Russians, who controlled the power plants for BERLIN located within their sector, began cutting off power from evening until late in the morning. Any cooking, bathing, washing, etc. requiring power or heated water had to be done during the "on" hours. Teen life became a blackened series of events. No buses, cabs or trains at night. no electricity for light... so "sleepovers" became the partying times. We still partied, and still came together, but without power. Only flashlights and kerosene lanterns.
I remember vividly, my father receiving a telephone call as our family sat down to dinner prior to the total blockade. He took the call and then went to his room, returned with helmet and sidearm and told us he must leave for a while. I told my dad that I was going to go with him. He said no, and for the first time and I'm sure the only time, I stood up to my father and insisted. He finally said OK but I was to stay with the driver and the car the whole time. We ended up in a rail yard where a young Captain approached my dad and told him the Russians were demanding a railway engine they claimed as theirs. We saw the engine surrounded by armed Russian soldiers and a covered 6 by 6 truck with a machine gun crew in the back aimed at the MPs and others guarding the engine. The Russian Major refused to talk with the American because he was of lesser rank. My father approached him and, through an interpreter, told the Russian Major that he (my dad) was a Colonel and refused to deal with an officer of inferior rank. This was a standoff until a command car arrived and out stepped a Russian officer, obviously of higher rank. The officer was a General but considered of equal rank with my father. They argued back and forth to no avail. The Russian threatened to open fire and with that my father raised his riding crop into the air and suddenly a deafening noise was heard as American tanks moved into position and directed their weapons toward the Russians. The Russian snorted and ranted but shouted something out loud and they loaded onto their vehicles and departed. I like to call this incident, the first "battle" of the Cold War, and I was there!
The harassment continued until the actual blockade began... when the Russians made an American train turn back at the boarder, not allowing it to enter the Russian Zone. The Airlift began.
My father was Transportation Officer in BERLIN and in charge of the Templehof operation of unloading the planes and seeing that the supplies were transported to designated areas of West BERLIN. One day, early on in the "lift", he asked what I was doing after school...as usual, I said "nuthin" and he replied "oh yes you are. Beginning tomorrow, after school, you will be at Tempelhof helping to unload the cargo. We need all the help we can get."
And so I did. I seemed to have been lucky enough to draw nothing but coal planes. I think I recall unloading maybe four or five times, flour and other goods, but coal mostly. I continued my volunteer work up until the day before I departed to return to the United States. My parents sent me home to attend my senior year and graduate stateside so I would be eligible to be a resident student at the University. My parents sent me home alone, and saw me off as I flew out of BERLIN on... of all things... a coal plane! I flew to Rhein-Main then by train to Bremerhaven, aboard ship to New York, then trains west to Eugene, Oregon and my senior year.
I am very proud to have been a part of such a historical event, and I still cherish every moment. President Harry Truman and others in Washington D.C. were demanding that the American dependents be evacuated from BERLIN ASAP. In fact I recall he ORDERED us to be evacuated. My mother and several other wives approached the BERLIN Commandant and stated flatly that neither the women nor children would leave. They argued the point that should the American dependents desert the people of West BERLIN, that is exactly what the BERLINers would believe, and Russian propaganda would most certainly get a lot of mileage on that! The wives initiated a drive for charity funds by creating a cookbook of donated recipes and called it "Operation Vittles" a cookbook compiled by the Blockaded American Wives of BERLIN. It was hard cover and included some photos of the Airlift. They also designed note cards depicting the Airlift and sold them as well. Harry Truman backed down and we stayed. I still have a copy of the book in mint condition and one original note card!
Dan Bunting '49 arrived aboard the "Daniel I Sultan" in April 1946