The Berlin Airlift Began 73 Years Ago This Week

by HB Auld, Jr.

Seventy-three years ago this week on June 26, 1948, the United States began the Berlin Airlift. The Lift was instituted to deliver food and supplies to a beleaguered Berlin, blockaded by the Soviet Union following World War II.

Berlin was located in the Soviet Sector of Germany after the War, but the city was divided into four sections (Soviets, US, British, and ultimately France). The Soviets wanted the other Allies OUT of Berlin and blockaded the entire city, cutting off all land and sea routes to the city in an attempt to force the Allies to evacuate Berlin. Many Americans wanted a military response, but President Harry S. Truman resisted, fearing another world war, this time against Josef Stalin.

Instead, President Truman began an airlift of supplies to the city, with US Navy and Air Force pilots each flying two round trips into the city daily. This went on until September, 1949, even though the Soviets lifted their blockade in May, 1949. All-in-all, allied pilots from Great Britain and West Germany delivered more than two million tons of cargo during the Berlin Airlift.

The Soviets were not through, however. They built the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany in 1961. It lasted until it was torn down in 1989, leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On a personal note, my great-uncle George Franklin Hargis’s son, USAF First Lieutenant Frank Hargis, was killed December 5, 1948, when his plane crashed on take-off from the British Zone during one of these mercy flights. Eleven years later in May, 1959, his mother, Mrs. Euzelia Hargis, went to Berlin to attend a tribute to her son, Frank, and the others killed in the crash (see article and photo above).