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Berlin Airlift veterans pause to remember those who died during the operation at a ceremony Wednesday at the base of the Berlin Airlift Memorial on Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany.
Berlin Airlift veterans pause to remember those who died during the operation at a ceremony Wednesday at the base of the Berlin Airlift Memorial on Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)
Berlin Airlift veterans pause to remember those who died during the operation at a ceremony Wednesday at the base of the Berlin Airlift Memorial on Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany.
Berlin Airlift veterans pause to remember those who died during the operation at a ceremony Wednesday at the base of the Berlin Airlift Memorial on Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)
Berlin Airlift veterans Fred Sohn, left, and Harold Nance get a closer look at the Rosinen Bomber troop carrier on display just outside of Rhein-Main Air Base and the Gateway Gardens housing area.
Berlin Airlift veterans Fred Sohn, left, and Harold Nance get a closer look at the Rosinen Bomber troop carrier on display just outside of Rhein-Main Air Base and the Gateway Gardens housing area. (Jessica Inigo / S&S)

RHEIN-MAIN AIR BASE, Germany — Harold Nance went through two combat tours in Vietnam and still he says his work with the Berlin Airlift from 1948 and 1949 was his toughest assignment.

Nance was one of 50 veterans at Rhein-Main Air Base attending a reunion and memorial service for troops who died during the Berlin Airlift. The ceremony was held at the memorial between the air base and the Gateway Gardens housing area, and marked the 55th anniversary of the end of the operation.

“I’m pretty proud to be here,” said Nance. “Though the Army was in a support role, in a case where I’m not shooting at no one and no one is shooting at me, I take pride in this.

“I’ve done combat tours and I can tell you this was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” he said laughing and looking up at one of the display planes set up around the memorial. Nance said he worked seven days a week for 18 hours a day for 13 months.

The Berlin Airlift began after the Soviet Union tried to control all of Berlin by cutting surface traffic to and from the city of West Berlin, which was controlled by the Allies.

Starving out the population and cutting off their business was their method of gaining control. However, the daily airlift — which ran from June 1948 to September 1949 — brought food and supplies into the city, helping it survive.

Wednesday’s ceremony called the successful airlift the first victory of the Cold War. Among the events was the reading of the names of all those who died during the operation by Dr. Earl Moore, president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association.

Also, Col. Bradley Denison, commander of the 469th Air Base Group, addressed the veterans. The ceremony ended with the color guard firing a 21-gun salute and “Echo Taps” played on two trumpets.

(Click here to read a 1948 Stars and Stripes story about the Berlin Airlift.)

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