U.S. Pilot Chuck Childs was familiar with Germany and Berlin from the Second World War. The bombing missions he participated in had been directed at the German capital. He wondered how people on the ground would react? As he movingly described, his fears proved groundless. The Germans he met on his arrival in Tempelhof were happy and grateful for the assistance the Airlift brought them.
Edwin Gere was stationed as a U.S. pilot at the Royal Air Force airfield in Fassberg, Lower Saxony and experienced the close and trusting cooperation between the two countries’ air forces there. Because of the short distance to Berlin, coal in particular was transported to Berlin from Fassberg. In his book The Unheralded: Men and Women of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift he honored the work done by these people.
Dale Whipple probably had the longest journey to Berlin of any of the veterans. He traveled three months on a transport ship from Japan to Europe before reporting for duty in Fassberg, Lower Saxony.
Jean Eastham belonged to the personal staff of the junior commander of the British Army in Berlin and was thus informed of emergency plans. She reported that at first, the Berlin population by no means greeted members of the Western armed forces with open arms. The Blockade and the beginning of the Airlift, however brought a dramatic change. Now everybody was in the same boat and relations warmed considerably.
Group Captain Colin Parry was deployed as a navigator for the Royal Air Force. He spoke about the everyday lives of British flight crews.
Leo Hatcher, finally, who belonged to the Royal Air Force technical staff and was responsible for the maintenance of the Sunderland amphibian aircraft, told the audience how his unit came to Hamburg and organized the deployment of the huge airboats. The crews had virtually no contact with the Berlin population, since the amphibian planes were unloaded directly on Wannsee and flew back immediately afterwards.
The meeting with the veterans made for an interesting and informative evening. There were a number of young people in the audience, which was appropriate since the Americans present included two participants who were familiar with Berlin only from family stories. Derek Sorensen came to Berlin with his grandfather, the famous Chocolate Pilot Gail S. Halvorsen. Charlie Steinhice’s grandmother was Marion S. Coleman, to whom the Allied Museum had just devoted a special exhibition. Together with her daughter Laurel, Charlie’s mother, she experienced the period of the Blockade and the Airlift. Charlie thus rightly thanked the veterans, who had helped to save not just the Berlin population but also his mother and grandmother from starvation.
At the beginning of the evening, the Allied Museum was able to present a brand-new acquisition donated to the Museum on the occasion of the Airlift anniversary. In memory of her brother Harry D. Barnes, who died in 2001, the well-known American painter Ann Barnes had painted a picture featuring a C-47 aircraft deployed during the early days of the Airlift and fondly known to Berliners as the “Candy Bomber”. Harry, too, had been an Airlift pilot.