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Senior Airman Amir Eftekharmousavi, left, and Tech Sgt. Derek Holcomb fit a piece of aluminum to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Senior Airman Amir Eftekharmousavi, left, and Tech Sgt. Derek Holcomb fit a piece of aluminum to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Senior Airman Amir Eftekharmousavi, left, and Tech Sgt. Derek Holcomb fit a piece of aluminum to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Senior Airman Amir Eftekharmousavi, left, and Tech Sgt. Derek Holcomb fit a piece of aluminum to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
It was wear and tear like this on the C-54 Skymaster that airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron repaired Saturday afternoon on the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany.
It was wear and tear like this on the C-54 Skymaster that airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron repaired Saturday afternoon on the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron patch up the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, ahead of Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the airlift. Ten airmen volunteered their time to patch up the aging aircraft on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron patch up the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, ahead of Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the airlift. Ten airmen volunteered their time to patch up the aging aircraft on Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Airman 1st Class Rachael Robinson sits on the shoulders of Staff Sgt. Nathan Burner as she scrapes off old paint on the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Airman 1st Class Rachael Robinson sits on the shoulders of Staff Sgt. Nathan Burner as she scrapes off old paint on the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Norbert Kandzorra, right, a former Lufthansa employee, tells airmen of Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron about the Berlin Airlift, Saturday, June 23, 2018. Kandzorra, 71, received his first pair of baby shoes from an American CARE package.
Norbert Kandzorra, right, a former Lufthansa employee, tells airmen of Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron about the Berlin Airlift, Saturday, June 23, 2018. Kandzorra, 71, received his first pair of baby shoes from an American CARE package. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Tech Sgt. Chris Blank makes repairs to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany. Ten airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron volunteered to patch up the aging aircraft ahead of Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the airlift.
Tech Sgt. Chris Blank makes repairs to the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany. Ten airmen from Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron volunteered to patch up the aging aircraft ahead of Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the airlift. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Airman 1st Class Rachael Robinson sits on the wheel of a C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, as she make repairs to the aircraft on Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Airman 1st Class Rachael Robinson sits on the wheel of a C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, as she make repairs to the aircraft on Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)
Senior Master Sgt. Billy Brown, left, and Maj. Brandon Ray of Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron patch up the the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Senior Master Sgt. Billy Brown, left, and Maj. Brandon Ray of Ramstein Air Base's 86th Maintenance Squadron patch up the the C-54 Skymaster at the Berlin Airlift Memorial near Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 23, 2018. (MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES)

Frankfurt, Germany — Ten airmen from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, volunteered their Saturday to do some extra repair work. Their mission: spruce up two vintage airplanes at the Berlin Airlift Memorial.

The decades-old planes have been sitting at the memorial outside the Frankfurt airport for more than 30 years, exposed to the elements — and the birds.

The planes flew in one of the greatest peacetime aerial supply operations in history in 1948. On June 24 of that year, the Soviets — in one of the opening moves of the Cold War — blocked all rail, road and water access to West Berlin. Two days later, the Berlin Airlift launched to deliver supplies and food to the 2.2 million civilians and soldiers cut off by the blockade.

The 70th anniversary of the historic airlift is Tuesday, and the memorial’s aircraft were in need of some TLC. So airmen from the 86th Maintenance Squadron scraped off old paint, cut away rotting metal, measured and cut sheet metal plates, then drilled and riveted the plates into place.

“The concept is the same as repairing a C-130,” said Tech. Sgt. Jody Bussier, as he watched a fellow airman seal a window on the memorial’s Douglas C-47 Skytrain. “Here we’re not worried about strength, here the focus is keeping water from getting inside. But the work is the same, cut metal, put in rivets.”

Most of the work was done on the other plane, a Douglas C-54 Skymaster. It looked better than the Skytrain cosmetically, but up close the holes and rust were evident. Birds had used the holes for nests.

“The planes needed a good cleaning before we could come in and get to work,” said Maj. Brandon Ray, noting that they had inspected the planes a couple of months earlier to see what needed to be done.

The airmen worked on the C-54 for nearly four hours, sealing holes, replacing parts and making it as rain- and bird-proof as possible.

Tech Sgt. Chris Blank inspected the work when they were done. “Hopefully, it will give it a longer lease on life.”

abrams.mike@stripes.com Twitter: @stripes_photog

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