March 19, 2017

1948. Secretary Forrestal Visits Berlin to Review the Airlift

The Airlift as an "Investment in Peace"
"Heidelberg, Germany, November 15, 1948: Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal, wrapping up a three-day European Command inspection tour, asks a member of the 7777th Honor Guard about his uniform decorations during a review" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 14, 1948

It is a dull, dreary, rainy, foggy, nasty Sunday in Berlin—the kind that the Russians talk about when they say that the Anglo-American airlift will fail this winter.

No planes have landed at the Tempelhof airdrome for the past thirteen hours, and only a dribble of supplies have come through to Gatow in this time. The weather is supposed to lift this afternoon, but thus far there have been no signs of it. Bad weather has closed most of the zonal airports as well.

I was out at Tempelhof this morning. The ramps are covered with idle planes. Tired and unshaven airmen, caught all night away from their bases, are sitting around sweating out the weather, bored with it and, one gathers, pretty much bored with the airlift itself. The glamor is gone from the airlift. It is now just a tough job.

Secretary of Defense Forrestal was scheduled to leave at 10:30 this morning after a series of conferences with General Clay and Ambassador Bedell Smith.

But Forrestal got a little more of the airlift than he bargained for. He was stuck at Tempelhof an extra two hours and finally took off in the soupiest weather we have had so so far this winter.

All the secretary would say about his trip to Berlin is that "it is a long-delayed look at the job the airlift is doing." He said he conferred with Clay and our Moscow ambassador on broad and general matters. He praised the airlift and said that it is costing the American about $100 million a year.

This is an interesting statement. When the airlift began, officials used to speak of it as costing so much a day. Then it became so much a week, and now a member of the Cabinet reckons the cost by years.

Secretary Forrestal defined this airlift expenditure as "a good investment in peace."

When a reporter asked how he felt about "peace or war" in the present international crisis, Forrestal answered: "The whole world wants peace."

But out at Tempelhof this morning the feeling was that those weary airlift fliers wanted good weather almost as much.

This is Bill Downs. Now back to CBS in New York.