Monday, September 21, 2015
Edwin “Eddie” Ide
Public Relations V.P.
Berlin Airlift Veterans Association
15 N. College Ave
Newton NC 28658
For Immediate Release
BERLIN AIRLIFT VETERANS TO MEET IN OKC
OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 21, 2015) – On Wednesday, Sept. 30, approximately 100 members of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association will gather for a welcome reception at the Tower Hotel to begin their four day reunion in Oklahoma City. Among those will be 29 members who participated in the life-giving Berlin Airlift in 1948-49 that saved 2.4 million West Berliners from starvation and communist enslavement. The airlift involved 117,000 airmen but time and health has taken its toll and the membership includes family members.
Included in the gathering will be several former Berliners who experienced the airlift as children. They attend the annual reunion to express their appreciation to the men who flew day and night in any weather to save their families.
After WWII, Berlin was divided into four sectors. The United States, France, England and Russia each had a part of the city and controlled their respective, however, the quadripartite governance seldom worked. In response to diplomatic and economic actions the city of West Berlin was land blockaded by the Russians and the airlift was started on June 26, 1948. Lead by General Lucius Clay the flights of the Berlin Airlift landed an aircraft in Berlin every three minutes for 11 months supplying everything except water.
The city was surrounded by over 250,000 Russian troops waiting for the airlift to fail. With a minimum food and coal requirement of 4,500 tons a day, the airlift began using aircraft left from WWII. They soon transitioned to the larger Douglas C-54 with a 10-ton cargo capacity. Once the airmen hit the minimum mark, they never looked back and soon exceeded 5,000 tons a day.
By March 1949, more food and coal was being supplied by air than had been delivered by road, rail and canal. Russian leader Stalin admitted defeat by ending the blockade on May 12, 1949. The last airlift flight was made on Sept. 30, thus the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association always hold their annual re-union to include that date.
Adding to the reunion highlight will be the arrival and display of one of the aircraft that flew support during the airlift. The C-54E “Spirit of Freedom” will be parked at Sundance Airport in Yukon, Okla. and open to the public from Tuesday, Sept. 29 thru Saturday, Oct. 3. The aircraft is owned and flown by members of the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation based in New Jersey. Painted in original airlift colors this large 4-engine propeller aircraft is a flying museum to the Airlift with displays and artifacts. The crew members are well versed in the history and welcome questions. You can see this aircraft at; www.spiritoffreedom.org.
The public is invited and schools are welcomed to bring classes to see this historical airplane during the five days it will be at Sundance Airport. Also welcomed are Boy and Girl Scouts, and civic clubs. Photography of the many exhibits is invited and the cockpit if open for visitation. The airlifters in reunion will all visit the aircraft on Friday morning arriving approximately at 10:30 a.m.
While in Oklahoma City the Airlift veterans will tour several attractions. Additionally, they will hold an open forum in the Tower Hotel on Thursday, Oct 1 beginning at 2:30 p.m. for interviews by the press, historians, students and the public. The span of military participation among these gentlemen include; WWII, Berlin Airlift, Korean War and Vietnam.
On Friday afternoon, Oct. 2 they will place a wreath at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and conduct a short memorial service.
The C-54E “Spirit of Freedom” will be at Sundance Airport in Yukon from Tuesday Sept. 29 thru Saturday Oct. 3. It will be open to the public to view the flying museum exhibition about the Berlin Airlift of 1948 & ’49. Its visit co-insides with the reunion of the Berlin Airlift Veterans being held in Oklahoma City.