After we demonstrated our courage by skydiving yesterday, today we’re off to the airport festival in Berlin-Gatow. Here we briefly delve into the airport’s history, which the Cold War influenced.
BERLIN & THE COLD WAR
In 1948, it played a major role in the Berlin Blockade. It was one of the first significant crises that led to the so-called Cold War, the sad climax of which was the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Berlin had been under the control of the four victorious powers since 1945 and was divided like a pizza into four occupation zones: the USA, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union.
It’s clear that this liaison between representatives of democratic-capitalist countries and the communist USSR quickly led to conflicts.
In addition, midst East Germany, which was occupied by the Soviets, Berlin was a true hot spot. Political provocations happened almost every day. Moreover, West Berlin was the meeting place for countless secret agents from all over the world. Therefore, it was seething.
Of course, the existence of the enclave of West Berlin was almost unbearable for the Soviets. The introduction of the Deutsche Mark in the West – and, thus, also in West Berlin – was the last straw. The communists blocked the routes to West Berlin on June 24, 1948.
THE AIR BRIDGE
A city like Berlin cannot provide for itself and is therefore dependent on supplies such as heating (at that time mainly coal), food, clothing, medicine, etc. However, now nothing could reach Berlin anymore.
So, the US armed forces, led by General Lucius D. Clay, decided to set up an airlift to be able to supply the city with the essentials of life from the air.
The first candy bomber*, as the planes were lovingly called by Berliners, landed in Gatow. A little later, the more centrally located Tempelhof Airport became the most important transshipment point for the airlift.
With the support of the other Allies, a plane carrying vital supplies landed in West Berlin every three minutes, every day, until May 12, 1949. Impressed by the perseverance of West Berliners and their friends, the Soviets finally gave up the blockade.
That’s why Berliners have a very special connection to these two airports and their history. Tempelhof Airport, which closed in 2008, is currently undergoing a revival. Many cultural and art projects now take place here. In Gatow you can find the military history museum today.
By the way, why were the planes called candy bombers?
During his landing approach, the American pilot Gail Halvorsen saw the children on the ground waving to the pilots. Hence, he thought that they would probably be happy if he threw some candy out of the plane, just for them.
He did so and the children’s joy was visible from above. And so what was a nice gesture at the beginning turned into a major campaign. In the USA, many people, including children, donated to their peers in Berlin. Countless sweets were dropped from small, handmade parachutes. And so, former enemies became friends.
Anyone who has ever boarded one of these old aircraft knows that the pilots of that time must have been Fearless Flyers. That’s also the name of Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson’s new film, with whom we were able to have a short conversation.