Wednesday, 21 September 2016

rosinenbomber

Naturally, one associates the year-long blockade and subsequent airlift (Luftbrücke) in the immediate aftermath of World War II with Berlin and the Tempelhof airfield of the American Sector, and while there were serious geopolitical intrigues involved, including the Western powers propping up of the new Deutsche Mark (to make sure that a recovering West Germany was not able to completely renege on its debts, in part) that led the Soviets’ attempt to isolate West Berlin and starve the exclave into submission, in my mind it remains as a goodwill mission and those flights had to have originated from somewhere.
Two hundred thousand flights from the from the summer of 1948 until the following June formed a bucket-brigade that continuously brought food and supplies to the divided city—and I’ve never been able to quite reconcile that popular image (nothing trivial, no, but also not the stuff of a hot war either) of the airlift with the rather grim fact that all the streets on the military installation (recently named in honour of the general and deputy military governor of Germany who orchestrated the so-called Operation Vittles) are in turn named after service members who died during the operation, a moving tribute and considering the scope and complexity of the continuous runs, it is surprising how few casualties there were. Command and control for the entire mission—which was distributed over three air-corridors, in British occupied Lübeck and Celle as well as the main thrust coming from Rhein-Main airbase and Wiesbaden’s airfield—was headquartered in a townhouse at the head of Taunusstraße just off the Kurpark and Casino of Wiesbaden, since converted to apartments and a florist shop. The Soviets tolerated the stream of flights, not wanting to be accused of stoking more conflict, and supposed that the British and Americans would eventually grow weary and either surrender West Berlin or concede to Soviet demands that they stay out of German economic policy. Though the contrast of humanitarian mission so embargoed with the victory of the Allied Forces (East and West) is nonetheless still a little jarring, it’s probably far more noble and civilised for preserving the peace—mutually—in the face of frustrations that could have just as easily descended into renewed violence.