During the 70th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Clay Kaserne airfield gates are open to the public and thousands are expected to attend.
U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden and the city of Wiesbaden are planning a joint celebration of U.S., French and English forces who began sending food and supplies to parts of Berlin after the end of WWII.
Vintage planes, music, food and other activates are planned for the two-day celebration. The airfields are open to the general population Monday, June 10th and reserved for the Wiesbaden military community on Tuesday, June 11th.
All guests, including DoD ID cardholders, need tickets to attend the June 10th events. Those driving onto base will need special parking placards for that day.
Base residents can enter the airfield at the intersection of Lindsey Blvd. and Wheaton Ave. with their ID cards and tickets (for June 10). It’s noted that attendees should not bring chairs, pets (other than service animals) alcoholic beverages or weapons. Also, onsite vendors accept Euro only.
The Shuttle will run it’s normal routes on both days. However, riders should prepare for full buses and traffic delays. Those who live on Clay should expect crowded areas and that school bus drop-off times could be delayed as the buses enter the base.
History of Berlin Airlift
Upon the end of WWII, Allied forces divided Germany and Berlin into occupied zones. The U.S., Brittish and French controlled the Western territory of Berlin. The Soviet Union controlled the East.
As the Allied forces tried to help rebuild Germany and it’s economy, the Soviets were not in agreement in their methods. Soviets began to set up blockades and closing roads to prevent any aid to Berliners in the east and backed out of Kommandatura, the agreement with other Allied forces.
Soviets hoped the American, French and British military would withdraw, however, they did not. Instead, they decided to help those in the Eastern part of the city by sending fuel, rations and other supplies by air.
“This project, code-named “Operation VITTLES” by the American military, was known as the “Berlin airlift.” (West Berliners called it the “Air Bridge.”), according the History Channel site.
According to an article on the Truman Library site, “The order to begin supplying West Berlin by air was approved later by U.S. General Lucius Clay on June 27 1948. President Truman, wishing to avoid war or a humiliating retreat, supported the air campaign, against many advisors wishes. Surviving a normally harsh German winter, the airlift carried over two million tons of supplies in 270,000 flights.
American pilot, Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen, became known as “The Candy Bomber” after his efforts to drop little treats and chewing gum to children on both sides of the blockade.
Children, and adults, knew when Halvorsen was approaching with his signal – a wiggle of his airplane wings.
After getting permission from commander, Major General William H. Turner, Halvorsen and his peers began Operation ‘Little Vittles’. As eager crowds gather below, so did the support of this effort and pilots no longer needed to rely on their personal rations for the drops.
According to a Herald Union article in 2018, “Back in the States, scout troops and wives clubs collected money to buy candy and handkerchiefs, while candy companies made bulk donations, one of ten tons.”
The blockade officially ended in May 1949, however, Allied forces continued to airlift supplies until September.