Berlin thanks airlift pilots 60 years later

The city of Berlin on Tuesday kicked off celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Soviet blockade of West Berlin.

Berlin thanks airlift pilots 60 years later
Photo: DPA

Speaking at a ceremony at the Tempelhof airport, Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit said Berliners still feel a deep gratitude towards western nations responsible for organizing the Berlin Airlift 60 years ago.

“The Berlin airlift was a human and logistical stroke of mastery,” Wowereit said, adding that the Allied forces had won the hearts of Berliners with the operation.

In 1948, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin cut off all land links into West Berlin in an attempt to force out British, French and US troops. In response, Western nations launched the biggest airlift in history to keep the city’s 2.25 million residents from starving. For the next 11 months, planes landed every two minutes, bringing in more than 2.5 million tons of food, fuel and machinery.

Tuesday’s ceremony was attended by thousands including 120 American, British and French airlift veterans. While saving lives in Berlin, the effort took its toll – more than 60 British, German and American citizens died in plane crashes.

“Your actions secured the survival of Berlin as well as the freedom of this part of the city,” Wowereit said as he paid tribute to those involved in the airlift.

As part of the event, 700 tiny parachutes carrying candies were dropped over the airport, repeating something the Western pilots did to keep Germans’ spirits up during the blockade.

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