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Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, salutes the American flag during a Berlin Airlift ceremony near Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, salutes the American flag during a Berlin Airlift ceremony near Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, salutes the American flag during a Berlin Airlift ceremony near Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, salutes the American flag during a Berlin Airlift ceremony near Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Germans refer to the Berlin Airlift memorial at Rhein-Main Air Base as the 'hunger fork.' A similar sculpture was erected in Berlin. In a little more than a year, American, British and French planes delivered about 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine and other supplies to people in East Berlin.
Germans refer to the Berlin Airlift memorial at Rhein-Main Air Base as the 'hunger fork.' A similar sculpture was erected in Berlin. In a little more than a year, American, British and French planes delivered about 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine and other supplies to people in East Berlin. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
Sgt. John Romero, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, take part in a ceremony Thursday to honor the 62nd anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
Sgt. John Romero, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Guyot from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, take part in a ceremony Thursday to honor the 62nd anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A C-47 that was used during the Berlin Airlift sits at the site of a Berlin Airlift memorial at the former Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany. Seventy-nine airlift personnel died during the missions.
A C-47 that was used during the Berlin Airlift sits at the site of a Berlin Airlift memorial at the former Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany. Seventy-nine airlift personnel died during the missions. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)
A C-54, which was delivered on March 16, 1945 to the U.S. Air Force sits at the Berlin Airlift memorial at the former Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany.  After the war, the plane was rebuilt as a passenger plane for Pan Am, and was sold to several airlines over the years until it arrived to the monument in 1990.
A C-54, which was delivered on March 16, 1945 to the U.S. Air Force sits at the Berlin Airlift memorial at the former Rhein-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, Germany. After the war, the plane was rebuilt as a passenger plane for Pan Am, and was sold to several airlines over the years until it arrived to the monument in 1990. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

FRANKFURT, Germany — Although 62 years have passed since the most ambitious humanitarian airlift operation in history began, many remember it like it was yesterday.

They hope the Berlin Airlift legacy lives on.

“We don’t want this to be forgotten, we have to bring it to the young people,” said Celeste Warner-Heymann at a ceremony last week at a Berlin Airlift Memorial on the former Rhein-Main Air Base.

As postwar Germany was attempting to heal from its war wounds, West Berlin was under the control of U.S., British and French forces as the Soviet Union held watch over East Berlin. In June 1948, the Soviets instituted a land and water blockade of West Berlin in an attempt to starve the city’s more than 2 million residents.

On June 26, the first relief flight left the Wiesbaden airfield for Berlin. Over the next year, American, British and French planes would deliver about 2.3 million tons of food, coal, medicine and other supplies in the operation known as the Berlin Airlift. Seventy-nine airlift personnel died during the missions.

Warner-Heymann remembers sacking potatoes for the Berliners as an 8-year-old girl. As she watched the planes flying overhead on their way to Berlin, she would yell out, “That’s my sack of potatoes!”

Traute Grier, then 15, was on the other end, living on rationed food and stealing potatoes from nearby fields to survive.

“The Russians came in and they were very brutal, there was raping going on and stealing … it was horrible,” Grier said. “We feared the Allies would leave … if it wouldn’t have been for them, who knows where we would be sitting now.”

At Thursday’s ceremony a hush grew over the group as a letter was read from Gail Halverson, better known as the “Candy Bomber.” He was legendary among the Berlin children for dropping bars of chocolate tied to parachutes during the airlift. To this day, he remains the most recognized figure from the airlift.

Gisela Raineri was working at the Rhein-Main Air Base at the time and got to know Halverson as she helped him construct parachutes for the candy bars and translated letters that Berlin kids wrote to him.

“Today brought back a lot of memories, some good and some bad,” said Raineri.

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil

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