July 4, 2017

1948. U.S. Celebrates Air Force Day by Ramping Up the Berlin Airlift

Some Morale for Berliners Living Under the Blockade
"A line of US Air Force C-47 transport planes unload milk during the Berlin airlift in 1948" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 18, 1948

The United States Air Force in Europe is out to celebrate its first anniversary by breaking a cargo record into Berlin, and for the past twenty-four hours, old-time Berliners say there haven't been so many planes over this blockaded city since the days of the thousand bomber air raids.

A half hour ago the final C-54 of the anniversary airlift landed at Tempelhof with some ten tons of coal. Starting at noon yesterday the Air Force aimed at bringing between four and five thousand tons of coal into Berlin in a test of strength, not only of the airlift but of American determination to remain here.

The final figures of the number of flights and the tonnage delivered have not been released yet, but the way the planes have been buzzing overhead this morning, it's a good guess that the Air Force set its record all right.

The lift has been carrying only coal this Air Force Day, and it will go entirely to German families. Every Berlin family in the Western sector of the city having two or more children ten years of age and under will get one hundred pounds of coal for household heating. The payoff will be not so much in warmth as it will be in heightened morale and friendliness to the Western cause.

General Clay, in a message of congratulation to the Air Force, took occasion to say that "the achievement in feeding the people of Berlin has won the interest and admiration of the people of the world who resent the threat of starvation being used as a political weapon."

There's another food story in Berlin this morning. A month ago American authorities seized a Soviet truck in our zone that contained about five tons of meat and fish. Today the Soviet sector commander, General Kotikov, sent a note to the American commandant demanding the immediate return of the captured food.

Colonel Frank Howley, chief of the United States sector, replied to the Russian chief assuring him that the food had not been wasted; that it had been distributed to the Berliners in the Western zones. And finally, the colonel replied, the food most certainly will be returned—when the Russians lift the blockade of the city.

Incidentally, October the 1st will mark the hundredth day of the blockade, and paradoxically the people of the Western zones plan to celebrate it—if the blockade is still on.

I'm not sure what they have to celebrate.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

September 18, 1948 (evening)

The Communist reply to the record-breaking Berlin airlift is in the making tonight with attacks on newsstands carrying details of the flying over the Russian blockade and propaganda threats that every American supply dollar accepted in Berlin will cost one German life.

Young thugs, members of the Soviet-sponsored Socialist Unity Party, invaded several newsstands in southeast Berlin, tearing down signs advertising Western zone newspapers and destroying copies of the Tagesspiegel and Telegraf—publications licensed by the Americans and British. The gangs, according to the news dealers, carried cans of kerosene with them and threatened to burn the shops if they continued to distribute Western zone newspapers.

Later this evening, Colonel Sergei Tiulpanov, head of Soviet propaganda in Berlin, told a German audience that Moscow takes a serious view of the anti-Communist demonstrations staged by Western zone Berliners, and that for every dollar of American aid accepted, Germans can expect to pay one human life. Tiulpanov said that the United States will demand the lives of German soldiers in the imperialistic war America is preparing.

But the big news in the minds of Germans today is the record-breaking seven thousand tons of coal and supplies delivered over the blockade today by American and British forces. The American Air Force, celebrating its first anniversary, flew in 5,572 tons of coal as a gift to Berlin families with small children. The British flew in another fourteen hundred tons.