August 26, 2017

1949. The Allies Wind Down Airlift Operations

Airlift Put on Standby
RAF Dakota plane involved the Berlin airlift, November 23, 1948 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

July 30, 1949

The Joint Chiefs of Staff will arrive in Frankfurt today, just in time to see the last 32 hours of the Anglo-American airlift in full operation.

General Omar Bradley, the Air Force General Hoyt Vandenburg, and Admiral Louis Denfeld will be met by a band made up of Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel. This afternoon they will confer with High Commissioner John McCloy.

The strange thing about this visit of America's highest military men is that it has provoked no outrage or cries of warmongering from the Iron Curtain countries. A couple of months ago, before the Paris modus vivendi agreement, the visit would have been raw meat for Communist propagandists.

Air Force officials this morning have revealed the staging-out process which will put the Berlin airlift on a skeleton, standby basis.

During the month of August, the Air Force will fly 5,400 tons of supplies into the city, a figure that would be considered a bad day for the airlift today. In September the deliveries will be reduced to 3,500 tons and again to 2,000 tons in October.

In other words, beginning on Monday, only an average of 18 planes will fly daily through August. In September the average will be 12 planes and in October the average will be down to seven planes.

There are a mountain of statistics about the achievements of the airlift. For example, British and American planes flew a distance that adds up to 215 round trips to the moon. But the most important statistic is that 70 persons died in making Operation Vittles possible. 31 were American.

The four power committee of experts meet again this afternoon. There is hope that they may be able to get down to cases in discussing resumption of East-West trade. This is the first meeting of the economists since the Berlin commandants agreed on procedure to be followed in the meetings.

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