Monday, June 26, 2017

Remembering The Berlin Airlift and presidential leadership

Remember when we had a president who made consequential decisions rather than pander for votes with unconstitutional decrees?

Years ago, Pres Truman started the Berlin Airlift of 1948:
"On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked all road and rail travel to and from West Berlin, which was located within the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany. The Soviet action was in response to the refusal of American and British officials to allow Russia more say in the economic future of Germany. The U.S. government was shocked by the provocative Soviet move, and some in President Harry S. Truman's administration called for a direct military response. Truman, however, did not want to cause World War III. Instead, he ordered a massive airlift of supplies into West Berlin. On June 26, 1948, the first planes took off from bases in England and western Germany and landed in West Berlin. It was a daunting logistical task to provide food, clothing, water, medicine, and other necessities of life for the over 2 million fearful citizens of the city. For nearly a year, American planes landed around the clock. Over 200,000 planes carried in more than one-and-a-half million tons of supplies. 
The Soviets persisted with the blockade until May 1949. By then, however, it was apparent to everyone concerned that the blockade had been a diplomatic fiasco for the Russians. Around the world, the Soviets were portrayed as international bullies, holding men, women, and children hostage in West Berlin and threatening them with starvation. The unbelievably successful American airlift also backfired against the Russians by highlighting the technological superiority of the United States. By the time the Soviets ended the blockade, West Germany had become a separate and independent nation and the Russian failure was complete."
It was a victory for the West.  It showed that we had a president who was willing to stand up to the Soviets.  In other words, we had a leader rather than "a panderer" for votes.

I should add that Pres Truman made this decision in an election year.  He could  have played it safe and avoid the issue.  Thankfully, Pres Truman put the US, and the West, over his own reelection and demonstrated leadership.

The Berlin Airlift was also the story of the "candy drops" for children.  It showed the valor and heart of the pilots who flew these dangerous missions:
"In the beginning of the candy drops, Halverson used his own weekly candy ration. Soon the other pilots and support staff started giving their candy and gum and their handkerchiefs. The project grew so big that his old army base also began to contribute candy and handkerchiefs. The city of Mobile, Alabama, formed a drive to request help. Soon, candy and handkerchiefs from around the country began arriving for the pilots to drop. One week, Lieutenant Halverson flew 368 pounds of candy and fifty pounds of handkerchiefs from America back with him in his C-54 airplane that he had brought to the states for maintenance work."
Overall, a great day to recall presidential leadership and to remember the men who carried out these missions.  



















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