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tv   Berlin Airlift 70th Anniversary  CSPAN  November 28, 2019 3:25pm-5:01pm EST

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12th, 1949, the soviet unit blockaded west berlin, germany, preventing shipments of food, heating fuel, and other necessary goods. next, from the international spy museum a program marking the 70th anniversary of the berlin air lift. two historians present an illustrated history of the crisis. they are then joined on stage by 92-year-old berlin air lift veteran ralph dion, who was a c-54 flight engineer. >> all right. i just got the thumbs-up. good evening, everyone, thank you for coming out today. i am chris costa, the executive director of the international spy museum. i am excited to us sbro this. practice, dawn cold war looking back at the berlin air lift 70 years after the flight.
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we will commemorate the berlin air lift this even. first i want to recognize our cosponsors for this event. deutschelandier. did i say that right and the allied museum in berlin where our vice president, our exhibitions and programs vice president anna slaver is on the advisory board. anna. i would like to thank you all for your support and coordination in organizing this even this even. at the moment, i would like to introduce the director of the allied museum in berlin. he is in charge currently of the museum which is moving currently from berlin to a hanger at the former airport in berlin, temple hof. a huge complex built in the nazi era. his academic career brought him to washington, d.c.
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he was a research fellow at the united states holocaust memorial museum working. his latest publication in 2016 dealt with the memorialization of democracy, the history of democracy in museums in memorial sites across germany. without further ado, i would like to welcome the doctor. >> hello. can i move this up. >> i think i can move that up a bit. it is nice to be back and to see actually. thanks that you all came. thanks chris for the nice introduction. and thanks to your team to host us here in this magnificent building, i have to say, being
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charged -- reinventing a museum i really understood what you have achieved here. congratulations. it is a honor that you have up aa slaver on our advisory board. she will be with us once we create our new museum. i am grateful that ralph is with us. he is a real air lift veteran. it is amazing to have you here tonight. thanks for coming. it's cordial welcome from us all. i will introduce you shortly. our event today is part of the campaign of the foreign office of germany under the title wonderful together. the allied museum in berlin has also designed a traveling exhibition on the berlin air lift which travelled through parts of the united states. thanks to the foreign ministry for its support for the event today and the traveling exhibition and the reception
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afterwards. also thanks to the institute which was our closest partner in making this happen. to put it briefly the berlin air lift is a central part of our permanent exhibition in berlin. we have a huge airplane in front. which shows british -- shows the originality of that event. the museum has an expertise on it about 25 years i would say. what is the allied museum. some people say what is the allied museum. this is a name which has to be explained 25 years after the withdrawal of the troops, of the allied forces from berlin. our museum was founded sort of two years after the withdrawal as a gesture of gratitude of the german people towards the allied troops, to great britain, france, and the u.s. these three countries are members of our museum, so we are
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a real international museum. and they sort of steer our fate, let's say n a way. so despite whatever happens in international relations in our museum people come together. so we still live as today the transatlantic relations, friendship lieu the years. hess tree has this potential to tell a positive story and say that's what we have, you never can steal it from us. our museum is charged to show the merits western allies for berlin and jearlny as a whole. the first exhibition was in 1994. today our permanent exhibition focuses on the process of how enemies became friends. and you would think what about the russians? they also were allies. there is another museum -- well in east berlin, right in the beginning and the museum in
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berlin became a sort of museum in charge -- well, first showing the german war in the soviet union. but that's the place where the soviets have their spot, let's say. our memorial culture is sort of really a process of or a result cold war. we will see how it comes together one day. our museum is facing several challenges chris costa was saying to face these challenges and become relevant we have to change places because we really want to show our big objects in that huge airport, well, one of the hangers. still it is a big project. and you really have to see, it is this kind of story that we are telling tonight, really central to the german memorial culture. it is part of the mergial culture in berlin. as you know in germany we focus on the nazi past of the ggr, the
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sdgd membership. so -- that's what i want to say. let me introduce you to the guests tonight. officers, professor hope harrison, she's an associate professor of history and international affairs at the george washington university here in washington, d.c. she is the author of her new book, "after the berlin wall, memory and the making of the new germany 1989 to the present" which has just been published this week. congratulations. her previous work includes the book driving soviets to the wall which was also published to wide acclaim in german translation. doctor is a member of our board at the museum. we owe her already a lot. she will be with us reinventing the museum.
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show has appeared on cnn, the history channel, the bbc and other channels. ep how, it is nice to have you with us tonight. ben costa, a curator at the allied museum and our expert on the berlin air lift. he has published several articles on this topic and participated in countless discussions. he gave several lectures on the air lift in italy. he's one of the founding curators of our museum and created several exhibitions. ben was in charge of creating the traveling exhibition i just mentioned. and managed also its journey. i can tell you that's a really hard job. you never though -- something gets broken, so you have to
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manage it from germany. through his long lasting experience he knows several veterans. he got in contact with ralph and he just said yes, i am coming. we were really happy. ralph, it is a special honor to have you here. you are already in your 90s, in i might say that. some hints on ralph. ralph joined the u.s. army air force soon after he graduated from high school in new hampshire in june 1946. he became a c-54 mechanic and was transferred to the 520th air transport group at west dover f dfb to work as a transport aircraft. on the 26th of july 1948 he was selected for 90 days tdy in frankfurter north the support the german aleft effort.
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he performed 20-hour shifts. near the end of october 1948 he was assigned to flying status at a c-54 flight engineer sitting in the actual plane and caring for its functionality in between the pile and the copilot. if you have ever been in such an historic airplane, it is not like an airplane to the. it is a challenge. he was at age 21 during these days. today he is active in the berlin airmen's veteran's association and he is going to meet his friends soon, tomorrow. that's the information. ralph. the floor is now yours, hope. thanks a lot. [ applause ]
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>> thank you. it's wonderful to be here. i am honored to be here, particularly with mr. ralph dion, and very happy always to be with my colleague from the allied museum in berlin. majoringen and berndt and anna as well. before we have a high point of the evening with mr. dion. why was berlin the center of the world, the center of the cold war.
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at the end of world war ii, the four allies, u.s., soviet union, great britain and france, decided their treatment of germany hadn't worked so well. germany rose up again and started world war ii. so this time, they decided they needed boots on the ground in germany, which they aren't done after world war i. so they established four occupation zones in germany. these were not meant to be permanent. germany was not meant to be divided. this was just to keep germany defeated and sort of figure out what would come next. not only was the country as a whole divided into four occupation zones, but the capital, berlin, was also divided into four sectors.
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the country was run by the allied control council with four military governors from each of the four powers. but there was a deep contradiction embedded in the original plans which said that germany must be treated as a whole. everybody hs h to treat their zone of germany the same. but on the other hand, each zonal commander could make his own decisions. so you know what happened there. the cold war began. they had different views.
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they often could not agree. so berlin was also run by these four military commanders. now, the key thing to understand all of this is the geography of berlin. berlin the city was 110 miles deep inside of the soviet occupation zone. hence, for the u.s., britain and france to get from their zones of germany to their sectors of berlin, they had to get across 110 miles of the soviet occupation zone. and that's where our dramatic story really begins. germany, after world war ii and the capital city was in ruins,
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particularly the cities which had been bombed by the allies. of course, germany had invaded and occupied many countries. no country suffered more than the soviet union under josef stalin which lost 27 million people in world war ii fighting the brunt of the war for the first three years on their own. so you can imagine how stalin felt about germany. his policy was one of revenge and to definitely keep germany weak. he also sought to take as much as he could in terms of reparations out of his zones of germany and berlin. president harry truman increasingly was worried about soviet communist power in
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germany and in eastern europe, worried about the economic situation in germany and europe and increasingly feeling that we needed to be concerned with the soviets more than the germans. winston churchill felt the same way, coming to the u.s. in 1946, giving his famous speech in missouri where he coined the term, iron curtain, saying there's an iron curtain descending in europe with communism and lack of freedom on one side and democracy and freedom on the other side. britain play aid very important role. the british zone of germany was primarily industrial. and britain was suffering after world war ii. so in addition to trying to pick
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themselves up again and get their own economy going, they also had to be feeding the germans in their zone of germany, because there wasn't much agricultural land. pretty quickly, the prime minister and foreign minister felt that they needed to let the germans in their zones start creating their industries again so that they could produce goods for export and make money to get the food to feed themselves instead of british taxpayers doing that. as the cold war developed, the secretary of state visited joseph stalin in the spring of 1947, in moscow, in the kremlin to talk about germany and the state of europe. he left the meetings very worried that stalin said he
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wasn't worried about the dire situation in europe. they should be patient. marshall thought he was waiting for things to get so bad in europe that they would all vote for communists. marshall didn't want that to happen. so he came back to the u.s. and talked to president truman about helping germany and europe recover from world war ii with massive marshall aid. ultimately, $12 billion given to 16 countries to help them recover. now we come to what would begin the crisis in berlin. in order for the german zones to be able to recover and profit from marshall aid, they needed
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to get rid of the old currency and institute the new deutsche mark so the currency would actually be worth something and the economy could be stabilized. the soviets said, this is not allowed. you can't introduce your own currency. we're supposed to be all be treating our germany the same. we said, well, you haven't been treating your zone the same. you are spon sosoring the commut party. you are taking things out of the zone. you are not following the rules either. stalin was cognizant that the west had become so suspicious of what he was up to that the west was beginning to plan for the creation of a separate west german state. to stop that, stalin decided to blockade the land and water routes to berlin.
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it was the brits with bevin and general clay in the united states who decided to respond to stalin's blockade of berlin with an airlift. no one thought this was going to work to be able to supply the 2.5 million west berliners who were surrounded by the soviet communist zone to supply 2.5 million berliners from the air with food, with coal in the winter, with books for schools, with clothes, with furniture, everything you can imagine. no one thought this would work. but increasingly, it showed that it was going to work. the berliners under the mayor
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came together in a mass demonstration on september 9, 1948. 300,000 people came. the mayor announced, we cannot be bartt bartered, we cannot be negotiated, we cannot be sold out to the soviets. whoever would surrender the city, whoever would surrender the people of berlin would surrender himself. that showed how the morale of the west berliners was to fight this blockade. the u.s. called the airlift operation vittles. the brits called it operation plainfare. the germans called it the air bridge.
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again, to remind you, deep inside the soviet zone these planes were flying in three air corridors from west germany -- from the western zones of germany to the western sectors of berlin. here are some amazing numbers to tell you what went on. at the beginning of the airlift, they were delivering 5,000 tons a day. by the end of the airlift, a year later, it was 8,000 tons a day. on easter sunday in 1949, there were 13,000 tons of supplies brought to berlin. a total of over 278,000 airdrops. u.s. crews with people like ralph flew over 189,000 flights
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to help the west berliners. at the height of the airlift, one plane landed every 45 seconds at temple hawk airport. here you see the three airports in the western sectors. tempelhof was in the main airport where our allied museum is hoping to move. you see gatow to the left in the british sector. during the airlift, a third airport was built. the airport that is now still used as the main airport in the western part of berlin, tegel airport was built during this airlift. one of the most beloved parts of the airlift for children is that some people, in particular the
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pilot gail halvorsen, became known as the candy bomber. he dropped parachuted es of ca who would write to him and give him their address, next time, come over my street. i didn't get any candy last time. angela merkel honored halvorsen on the 60th anniversary of the airlift. i know ralph will see him tomorrow in kansas at the reunion for the airlift. here outside of the airport is the monument to the airlift showing the three air corridos.s stalin finally realized he had failed in what he wanted. and on may 12, after almost a
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year, he stopped the blockade. the allies continued the airlift actually up until september 30th. so the anniversary will be next week, because they wanted to really have stockpiles of goods in west berlin in case the soviets did it again. but it was a massive failure. it was, in fact, one of the biggest foreign policy failures stalin ever made, because he got the exact opposite of what he set out to do. while the airlift was still going on, nato was founded. the north atlantic treaty organization founded right here in washington, d.c. a separate state of west germany, a democratic capitalist state, was founded in may of 1949.
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two of the things stalin most wanted to forestall, a separate west german state and some western military alliance, instead he provoked by this blockade which so brilliantly was countered by the american and british airlift. i will close with this final slide that the berliners ever since then have felt a very strong solidarity to the united states. and after september 11, 2001, when we suffered the terrorist attacks, tens of thousands of berliners went out on the streets in solidarity with the u.s. mourning for our loss and saying that they would stand with us the way we stood with them during the berlin blockade and airlift. thank you very much. [ applause ]
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>> so good evening, ladies and gentlemen. i'm glad we can be guests of the new international spy museum, this new, fascinating location here in washington today. some of you might ask themselves, why is the topic of the berlin airlift presented in a spy museum? well, first of all, this was the beginning of the cold war and second, i would like to emphasize that there is a connection between the history of the berlin airlift and the espionage and reconnaissance. i will explain this connection
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now for a minute before i start my lecture. during the year 1945, the four powers produced a huge amount of agreements. one of them was the result of soviet wish for an agreement because they want to prevent uncontrolled air traffic over the soviet zone. so in november, they were talking about a treaty concerning the creation of a system of air corridors to be used for flights. there are zones in germany. in 1946, this 14-page agreement was signed. it established the installation of three air corridors from the western zones to and from berlin. all three were limited in length, width and height. so they were physical corridors. here is the flight line.
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see the corridors. one is from the north, from the big air fields in the american zone. the other two corridors lead into the british zone. this is the way of the american and british were entering the city by air. the americans started to operate planes with good long range cameras on those corridor flights. this reconnaissance operation continued during the berlin airlift and didit did not only continue but was getting bigger. the threat of a war in 1948 was bigger than in 1946. they wanted to know what is going on in the soviet zone. second, it was much easier to fill in those reconnaissance planes in the flight routine of the airlift. in a daily bunch of approximately 500 planes inside the corridor to berlin, you
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would not notice there is one single plane just taking photos and not even landing in berlin. also, those reconnaissance flights in those three corridors to berlin over the gdr territory continued weekly for more than 40 years until germany's unification in 1990. as you can see, there's a connection between the berlin airlift and our location here this evening. now back to my main subject, berlin airlift and the 15 to 20 minutes is just enough to tell you about the basics. some of the subjects they were touching on already. we start the life in berlin and currency reform. four occupation powers, great britain, united states, france and soviet union were restarting the daily life in berlin from
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1945 onward. especially in the first couple of months they did that very successfully together. starting in 1946, and more in 1947, the idea how to deal with germany drifted apart. besides minor problems, the currency form was a big problem. the powers had been forced to tackle the currency situation since the end of the par in 1945. a lack of acceptance for the currency. a flourishing black market made reform a matter of urgency. finally, they could not agree on a four power combined agreement to reform in the summer of 1948. as a result rs occof the curren reform, the soviet union started the blockade of berlin because they didn't want the new currency in berlin. between june 19 and june 29,
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1948, the soviet blocked all routes by land, by rail and waterways between west berlin and the three western zones. on the 24th of june, all land traffic and electric supply was cut off. here is the photo at the border. doesn't mind what the load is. fresh food, whatever. they were just standing there. couldn't get any further. that was the blocking of all land traffic. only the air corridors on which the four powers agreed in 1945, '46 that i already mentioned were unaffected by this blockade. because interception of an allied airplane in the corridor would be a reason for war.
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because the air corridors, believe it or not, was the only agreement that the soviets ever signed how the allies should get to their sectors in berlin. no agreement on the land. no agreement on the rail. and the air agreement was the only thing they ever signed. they didn't want to breach that assignment. so the air corridors were not affected by the blockade. the western powers were still in a position to provide food and goods to their own military personnel in the blockaded city. that would not solve the much bigger problem. how should they feed more than 2 million west berliners? to solve the problem, the three western powers began an airlift to berlin to supply the city and its inhas bes been inhabitants.
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it was unclear whether it would work. there had been other plans. an idea was rejected because of high risk of an armed confrontation with the soviets that could lead to a new war. when the british had the idea that a combined air fleet would be able to supply most of the people in west berlin, that was the only option they could try. the airlift starts on june 28. the first american and british aircraft landed with goods for the people of berlin. many other things, many other flights followed. nobody could predict how long the blockade would last. for that reason, the western powers initially planned to supply the city into the winter.
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the aim in the first weeks was to fly in roughly 4,400 tons. it was climbing up more and more. in this picture, you can see german workers unloading sacks from a c-54. most people think that food was most important. but that's not true. people need food to survive. a city needs energy to survive. more than 60% of the overall tonnage of the berlin airlift was coal.
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they were able to receive 12 ki kilograms. but not for each month. 12 for the whole winter '48/'49. the rest was used to create energy for the berlin industries to produce goods for at least two to three hours a day. in late summer 1948, a u.s. general was appointed to head the combat airlift task force. he was the logistic genius behind the operation, and he perfected the airlift. american military governor of germany ensured the necessary political support of the u.s. president harry s. truman and requested new and larger aircraft to use in the airlift and truman approved them. the british royal air force not only involved most of their
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military transport aircraft but the british government also hired and paid for planes from 23 private charter companies to fly goods to blockaded west berlin. the c the former enemy that sent rockets to great britain just four years before. was not supplied by former western enemies. the part of the french forces was basically the construction of the urgently needed third airport in the french sector. it was completed in november 1948. some 19,000 workers built it in record time. just taking three months. with their c-54 transport planes, the u.s. air force p provided the largest air fleet for the operation. more than 400 c-54 planes were
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involved in this operation. the amount of cargo flown into berlin as well as out of berlin was increasing every month. only november of 1948 was a bit difficult because of the heavy fog. the winter 1948/'49 was not as cold as the soviet might have hoped. you can see one of the general's ideas. is that a laser pointer? it's not. anyway. i mentioned the air corridor. it's a physical corridor. it was the idea that they split the corridor in five levels. each level just 500 feet from the next level. a plane in the middle on a day like today could easily spot the plane in front of him or above
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him. they were flying so tight. the next idea is that a pilot who was not able to land on the first attempt could not say, come on, folks, let me in there somewhere in between. he has to fly back with his plane and full load back to his base. as a pilot, you do that once or twice and then you know what your colleagues are saying. he is coming back with a full plane again. thank you for that. the pilots did their best to land the plane in berlin on the first attempt. the airlift functioned amazingly well in spring 1949, bringing in a record amount of tonnage on the 15 to 16 april in a period of 24 hours, approximately 13,000 tons wer$13,000 tons wer.
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more goods were thrown into the city on that day that arrived before the blockade by road, water and rail together. the allies were able to land 1,396 planes within this 24 hour period. this is one plane every 62 seconds over 24 hours. an incredible and outstanding record. this was a unique demonstration of the allies' capability. this impressive numbers were broadcasted by the media worldwide and demonstrated the power of the logistic ability of the air fleet. the continuing positive reporting and the growing reputation of the western powers were certainly part of the reason for the lifting of the soviet blockade on may 12, 1949. despite the end of the blockade,
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for a couple of reasons, the airlift continued for another four months into late summer 1949. on the 30th of september, 1949, the last u.s. plane of operation landed in berlin. next week, monday, we have the 70th anniversary of the last u.s. airlift flight to berlin. what remains are the impressive numbers. 2.1 metric tons. by the way, that is another problem in the literature and explaining the airlift. you have different figures. for example, metric ton. we have three partners involved. the americans, the british and germans. germans are counting tons in metric tons. the british are counting tons in long tons. americans are counting tons in short tons. which ton are you talking about? the air fleet decided to count
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american short tons. that makes a difference to the german metric ton. that's one of the reasons why sometimes literature different tonnage turns up. they transported that in about 270,000 flights to berlin. same amount backwards. 67% of the tonnage was flown in by americans. the remaining 24% by the british. also 166,000 people were flown out of the city during the airlift. the tragic death that occurred during the 15-month airlift must be acknowledged. 39 british, 31 american and at least eight germans lost their lives in accidents. their names are on the base of the memorial in berlin district
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which we see a picture when this monument was built. there's a ceremony every year to honor those who lost their lives during the airlift. the berlin airlift changed the relationship between the western powers and west berlin. a few years after world war ii, the one time enemies had mastered political crisis by intensive cooperation. population of berlin now experienced the occupying powers as protecting powers. you know this photo from the poster downstairs, this is an 11-year-old handing over a bunch of flowers to a pilot.
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you might not saw it on the first glimpse. she has no shoes. that's how it was. not every girl, every boy on the berlin streets in '48 had shoes. at the museum, 60 years after this picture was taken, we found both. we found her. she was living in switzerland now. and we found him. he was one of the members of the airlift association. we brought them together after 60 years. that was a remarkable moment when they met for first time 60 years after this picture was taken. for the world politics in this first episode of the cold war, that was also create blueprint. serious conflict was not solved by bombs or machine guns. this first crisis of the cold war was solved by logistics and
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by flying transport planes like the c-54 or the c-47 without firing a single shot. looking back at the operation, it is still fascinating how perfect the logistics for the airlift was. that includes the maintenance of the planes. i'm happy that our special guest today, ralph, was not only flying inside the cockpit but also the maintenance, the backbone of the operation. we will talk about his involvement in the berlin airlift. i thank you for your attention for the moment. thank you. [ applause ] please come up.
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you want to join us now or later? >> i will join you after. >> please. >> sir ralph, we already heard that you are joining the age of 90. after two years in 1948, you were sent to frankfurt. you are a young man, the war was over three years. now you have to go to germany. >> just out of high school, almost. living here in this country, being brought up was so different. when we got to germany, berlin,
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buildings were bombed. it seems like there weren't many men around at all. ladies in dark clothing with a bicycle. it was real poverty. it was pitiful. in frankfurt, we had -- our outfit had a good barracks. it used to be ss barracks. we were well off. in other air fields, other veterans were in tents and mud. i can't complain. there was a gate around this barracks area. women would come to the gate begging to help with laundry. we will give the laundry to the ladies, to people there. they would take it home and bring it back faithfully. you depended on them and you could trust them. good people. they would get paid in cigarettes. that was the money of that time. cigarettes.
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you know, people would walk around. they would stop and pick up the butt, save it and put it if their pocket. it's pitiful. that's tough for a young man to see such a change. >> were you smoking at the time? >> no. i very seldom smoked. don't have any bad habits. >> you had another special currency. >> right. i would buy a couple cartons of cigarettes and use them as currency. as a matter of fact, i went to paris on two cartons of cigarettes. that's all i had. >> i know -- main problem is that most of the veterans were smoking themselves. clay was a heavy smoker. you can see him smoking on nearly any picture.
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if you are non-smoking at the time, you usually had a good life or you safe. one veteran, he saves all cartons. after two years, he brought a new car with cigarettes he didn't smoke. a picture of you. can you remember when that was taken? >> i believe that was at westover field, during the wintertime. that was prior to the airlift. i was a corporal at that time, two stripes. i got to be a sergeant. then when it was time to re-enlist, we will put you in for staff sergeant if you stay in. i said, that's -- the promise is not good enough. if i had stripes now it would be different. there was a g.i. bill of rights at that time. i decided to go to college instead and get an education.
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i attended boston university and took up business administration. i felt that if i wanted to go back in as an officer, i had the education, i would do so. i met my wife in my third year of college. i got married. i decided, it's not good to bring your kids around the country and all over the world. let them stay home and have a normal upbringing. i had three boys. they are wonderful. they turned out great. that's just a little side talk. that's what happened. >> ralph, i mention maintenance being the backbone of the operation. >> absolutely. >> i know all the steps that an airplane had to do. can you briefly explain what the maintenance for, let's say, c-54 was during the berlin airlift?
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>> well, each engine has sparkplugs. they have to be replaced occasionally. they go bad and they skip. there were 144 sparkplugs on the c-54. it kept us busy. the heavy loads of the aircraft landing after landing just seared the tires. you had to change tires all the time. maintenance, you had to inspect the aircraft, open up the engine, climb a ladder. didn't have anything else. at night with a flashlight, get in that engine. check to see if there's leakage of fuel or oil of that type, which is a fire hazard. also, check the wiring and the piping for security. that's part of the inspection. they have a 25-hour inspection,
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50-hour, 100-hour. planes are continuing taken out of service and serviced as fast as possible and get them back into action. >> all these maintenance services were done at the base until up to 100 hour and then i think they had to fly to a special base -- >> there was a change in the procedure. the local 25 hour and so forth were done at a home base. there was another base near munich and that was for a larger inspection. i got called in one day and said, you are going to be a crew chief. take an aircraft to munich and they will -- you will -- i did
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stay there. i stayed up for 36 hours to make sure the inspection went well. after that was over, they told me i had to fill in the logbooks of all the maintenance that had been performed. i was tired. i had a photograph of all the paperwork. it was a lot to do and then go back and start all over again. there's a lot of stories. work is good. when you are accomplishing something, you have a sense of accomplishment. it is rewarding. the airlift itself is one of the highlights of my life, because the american people were behind us. the air force and the british and it was a great football game. you gotta win. we kept up and we did. it's great. >> the pilots were relying on you that you did your maintenance good.
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>> i had faith in the pilots. believe me. flying ma ining in fog during t, all the aircraft had to work on instrument flight rules. not visual. they had to adhere to the instrument flight rules and they had a gca approach they had to maintain all the time. keep the planes timed at certain altitudes, certain distances apart, all the same air speed. that's why they standardized on the c-54 the earliest c-47 and the commercial planes from britain traveled at different rates of speed. they said they had to organize everything. >> after a while on the ground, maintaining like here in the photo, we can see you working on a propeller. after a while, you enter the cockpit yourself. you join pilot --
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>> after that. after two months of being the mechanic, i was -- they needed more air crew. they were pulling everybody. they said to me in the operation shack, you are going to be an air engineer. fine. what do you do? all you do is what the pilot tells you to do. you are the third hand for the pilot. the pilot does the flying. the co-pilot does the navigational work and radio work. the flight engineer sits in the middle like this. pilot and co-pilot. he is in front of the stand of controls. the pilot will be coming in for a landing. he will say lower the flap 15%. lower the landing gear. open the flaps. open them up. you keep your eyes on the oil pressure, oil temperature, fuel
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quantity. anything that has to do with the operation of the engines. it's a team. it's a three-man team. you work together and it works excellent. we did not have the same crew on each flight. it just happened that you got called for a flight and you might have a different pilot, co-pilot all the time. you had to work together, team work did it. that's what made the difference. >> one unusual thing that you told me when we were talking about this evening. what would you estimate how often did you fly to berlin roughly? >> i really don't know. i would say about 30 times. because i flew to england for maintenance and back to the united states for maintenance. there's a lot of different flights. i would say 30, 40. i have 300 hours. they called me in and said, you
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got 300 hours. you are going back to westover field in massachusetts. i said, i was having the time of my life. how many people are sitting up in the cockpit of a large airplane and see what's going on? when you come in for a landing, you see everything. one flight, there's a road that goes by the airport. the autobahn. i didn't give it much thought. one day we're coming back and it's foggy. you see nothing out the window. we're coming in for a landing. the pilot is in contact. i'm looking at the altimeter. 500 feet. can't see nothing. 400 feet. 300 feet. 100 feet. a car goes under the wings. holy cow. we hit the runway.
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go around, go around. pilot says, negative, we're on the ground and rolling. >> even though you had been up to 30 times or more to berlin, you didn't have a chance to stay in berlin for a couple hours or a day? >> i never saw berlin during the airlift. we flew into berlin and we got out of the plane and we put the locks in the landing gear. we put the stand on the till and opened the doors and the truck would come up and unload. we had to stay there. they changed that. pilots and crews used to go away for coffee in the cafeteria. no more. stay with the plane. 15 minutes, you are out. it worked. >> roughly, 15 minutes was the time that a german unloading
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crew needed to unload a c-54 with ten tons of cargo. on the other hand, send those nice doughnuts. >> they had the coffee car, a little van, beautiful girls. they would serve coffee. that's where we went. we had to go back, duty calls. it's something to sit in line 10 or 12 large aircraft ahead of you, engines all vooming. you get that thundering feeling. i can't forget it. i will never forget it. it was great. >> so, hope, if you would like to join us. i think we are now open for any
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questions you would like to ask either dealing with hope's lecture, with mine or with things ralph just told us. if there is a question, please go to the microphone and let us know. >> don't be shy. >> thanks very much for a terrific series of talks and your service. the stories that i have heard in the past have always been that the berlin airlift landed in one place. i was surprised to -- >> three air bases. two airports and then the third.
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>> why does this have the prominence? >> it's in town center. to be honest, it's a myth. the fact is that also a lot of -- all british planes land in gatow. the idea is it was in town center. every berliner could see the planes coming into the city with cargo. gatow is far away. even today, you would need by car more than half an hour. at the time, there were no berliners around to see what is happening in gatow. all three air fields were -- had a lot of work during the airlift. it was most prominent because it
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was actually in town center. >> i have flown there in the day. i was astonished to see how downtown it was. thanks for that explanation. >> we all have the benefit of hindsight. we can see the airlift was successful. at the time, when did it become apparent that this was -- this crazy idea was actually going to wo work? was there any time where we -- where truman or clay thought that it wasn't going to work and we would have to abandon the idea? >> i think that's twofold. from my perspective, i would say after turner arrived and introduced those new things, i mentioned a few, that's from my point of view the point where
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they knew it will work. maybe from the pilots' point or guy involved in it, that was maybe different question for you. >> we didn't get involved in the politics. we were flying. that was the job. >> working on the ground, working on the base, did you have the feeling it's not going to work? well, we didn't ever had the feeling it wasn't going to work. you do your job. you do your job. >> you made it work. >> no sign of failure. if the weather was bad, you went. if it was good, you went. >> you felt it was sustainable? you could go on like that and it wasn't a point where we could only do another three months and we would -- >> it went on for six months and three months after. they kept flying stuff in. in case the russians changed their mind. at one point, that hasn't been brought up -- we didn't know about it, those flying.
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the president truman sent 90 b-29s to england. he let the russians know about it. these b-29s were atom bomb capable. they did not have atom bombs in they were. the russians didn't know that. they made it known that moscow was going to get hit if they interfered. that stayed their hand. it was great. >> there were times when the russian pilots were buzzing the aircraft. >> early in, yes, they were. >> did you ever experience that? >> no. not for my flights. the british had more problems. as i say, i was comfortable in frankfurt. in the british bases, they were discomfort. the food was lousy. we had a mess hall. the german people, had women serving the food. they had the women taking care
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of the barracks. we had it good. as a matter of fact, they had school buses, military buses would take us from frankfurt to ten miles to the airport. we would do our duty and after 12 hours come back. we were shuttled back and forth. we used to joke with the german drivers all the time. one of the fellows says to the driver, driver, he says, speed up, there's a dog paying on the back wheel. we had a good time. you have to have a sense of humor to get you through. >> how was the feat of logistics
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received by soviet intelligence? >> they didn't expect it. that's for sure. i think they were hoping that the winter would stop the berlin airlift. i mentioned our arrival, i mentioned fog. fog was a problem, especially in november. the number of flights going down because we had a couple of days, actually weeks where the weather was very bad. that's it. it was not as cold. we had no strong winter '48 and '49. the operation -- >> that helped a lot. that's why they didn't circle the airplanes around. if you missed, you went back. that kept things going like a big chain. >> i don't think russian intelligence -- they noticed how many planes were landing. it's in the newspaper every day.
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they don't have to count it. it's in the newspaper next day how many planes landed. they can't do anything about it. >> absolutely. it fuelled this image of the west is helping, you know, while the soviets have been taking things out of their zones, the americans and british are bringing things into their zones. in addition to saving the island of 2.5 million west berliners, it was a massive propaganda coup and a real coup for the west showing we were helping people. people who had just been our enemies. really, extraordinary. >> that's america. >> had gets which gets me to my. you mentioned your interactions with germans. can you tell us more about what that was like to be a young american, world war ii has just ended and there you are?
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you are meeti ining germans. what was that like? >> there was -- a bad feeling toertd towards the germans and so many americans had been killed. can you imagine the pilot who had been bombing the germans, who had been shot at and go through all that? they are the ones that had a problem in converting their attitude. they did. i have a friend, chuck chiellds who flew 37 missions. he had to fly to help the berliners. he is a great man. he did his duty. is there anything else? >> thanks so much. this has been wonderful. as we are sort of experiencing a reboot of the cold war and a lot
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of the same issues where a lot of people -- our relationship with russia is becoming increasingly stickier, this is such an encouraging story. but i don't think a lot of young americans know it. i don't know if young germans know more about it. what should america remember about this? what shouldn't we forget, especially as these issues are sort of coming about again? >> i'm not sure i got the question. >> are there lessons for us now? are there things that americans should take from your experience in the airlift and remember now and just not forget? >> absolutely. they say history repeats itself. if we're not careful, we're going to repeat the bad parts of history. america was great doing these things. they should maintain that
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friendship and relationship with germany, hand in hand. >> hope, what do you think about the last question? >> i think it's a wonderful question. i agree that u.s./german relations remain a cornerstone of the -- >> peace. >> peace. and the post world war ii era. germany is the main power in europe. it is absolutely essential that the u.s., from my perspective, that the u.s. and germany have good relations in every way. looking back at this period of time when we helped them and again with german unification. the same four powers, u.s., soviet union, great britain and france in 1990, after more than 40 years of division, those four powers had to agree to allow
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germany to be reunited. because of world war ii, the soviets, british and french were skeptical about letting germany be reunited. it was only the united states with president george h.w. bush that was firmly trusting that west germany had become a democracy and was going to expand to east germany and that that was okay. we could trust this germany. i think that is overwhelmingly proven to be the case in the 29 years since germany united. i think germans should be proud of what they have achieved. americans and germans, i think we always have to remember that we have been very strong allies and should remain so know and in the future. >> absolutely.
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>> thank you very much for a very interesting presentation. two questions. number one, what was the french involvement? were they not involved at all? number two, a question about women and whether there were any female pilots involved in terms of the airlift or were they -- you mentioned earlier you needed bodies. i was curious whether the women also participated in the airlift. thank you. >> the french contributed not so much by flying. they had a zone. they offer ed. that was a key factor in getting supplies in. they did a little bit more.
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there was a russian raid wrh ra radio tower close by. one of the french officers went down there and the tower disappeared.tower close by. one of the french officers went down there and the tower disappeared.close by. one of the french officers went down there and the tower disappeared. what happened to the tower? dynamite, sir. they blew it up. they helped. don't forget, all their coal was important to go to berlin. that coal had to come from french mines. it had to be mined. it had to be put on trains and transported to western germany. it had to be put on trucks and brought to the planes. they contributed. food had to be available for the people. it came from holland and netherlands and france. they all contributed. not in aircraft. >> the main contribution was
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building the badly needed third airport in the french sector. concerning women, it was built by approximately 19,000 workers. roughly 40% of them were women. they were doing the hard work with a shovel. that's one point. the other, the french had four aircraft. but they were junkers with a load of three tons. in october, turner said to the french, please do us a favor and leave those four planes on the ground. they wouldn't fit -- i showed you the stream of those airplanes. they were too slow. they wouldn't fit in there. they kept the four on the ground. they were working on the airport. >> the other important thing to say about france in all of this
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is that france was initially closer to the soviet attitude toward the germans, namely revenge, as opposed to help rebuild. because of the occupation of france. it was really the soviet blockade of berlin that finally, three years after the end of the war, persuaded the french that they should see the soviets as a greater threat than the germans. that was part of it. there was the political diplomatic feeling the french weren't initially fully behind this. the soviet blockade changed that. >> good question. >> i would like to thank this evening's panelists. i enjoyed your presentation. i was wondering if one of you may speak to how these goods were distributed to germans in
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berlin after they left the airport. there must have been an enormous logistical undertaking. who administered that and saw the goods got to the people in need s needs? >> it was the berlin senate. after the freight landed, no longer allies were in charge of it for the stuff that went to the berlin population. the berlin senate had to make sure that the coal went to industry or to the people with the 12 kilogram on their card. the stuff went to the bakery so the bread can be done. >> flour. >> that was a task for the berl berlin, not the allies. >> the people -- each family was entitled to one haul of coal per week. it was cold.
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very cold. >> of course, this is before the berlin wall was built. there was, i guess, some free movement between what was east berlin and west berlin. i guess the radio and newspapers and so forth were more freely distributed than after the berlin wall. my question is, what did the inhabits of the ddr know about this, think about this? how did it affect them? >> first of all, it's important to keep in mind for most of the airlift, the two german states didn't exist yet. it was still occupied germany. it was only in may of '49 that west germany was created and in october of '49 east germany was created. the misnamed german democratic republic.
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they weren't states. everyone was fully aware of what was going on. for one thing, especially, hearing the planes, sometimes seeing the planes, reading about it, on the radio, the u.s. radio and the american sector was very influential announcing what was going on, telling the story of this. all the berliners could listen on the radio. it had been a united city. it mostly still was a united city. so people were moving around. you had families in different parts of it. that didn't change until the berlin wall was built in 1961, a completely different berlin crisis years later. certainly, the newspapers that
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were published in the communist zone of berlin and germany were somehow -- i don't know what story they would have been telling to spin this in some sort of negative way. that would have been pretty hard to do. but they certainly wouldn't have been reporting on it a lot the way it would have dominated the press in the western zones. >> one aspect is that in the soviet zone, they offered east german ration card for the west german. if the west german would go to east germany, register, they would be supplied with a better ration card. less than 5% did that.
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we stay firm. we don't register in the east to get more, to get 100 grams of butter more. we stay in west berlin and put our faith together with the allies. that was one response from the east. they were offering better ration cards in the east if the west germans are going to the east and register in the east. as i said, only a very limited percentage did that. >> could i interject something here? we hear about the candy bomber. not just a candy bomber. the results of his dropping candy to the children had a very important affect there in berlin. the parents were under pressure and trying to decide whether to go with the russians or the
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americans. the children came home with candy. the kids didn't know what candy was. they didn't know what chewing gum was. they would come home and bring this candy. show it to the parents. parents would say, these americans, they love children. they can't be that bad. it helped turn their attitude. the candy bombing, it's amazing. it's true. >> berliners remember that and the airlift to this day. it was a foundational moment in establishing a close relationship of berlin with the west. >> it started with one young lieutenant, starting -- dropping a few parachutes down to the kids. he would get called in by his commander officer the next day. what are you doing? you are dropping candy. you are supposed to be flying
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the airplane. he got the devil. however, the newspaper got ahold of it. when the general found out -- not a general. they found out about the results and what it was doing. he was commended. they started the little vittle program and dropping of candy and others followed suit. even in westover field, the local towns, kids were making parachutes and parents and the confectionary industry, they devoted an amount of candy. they didn't know what to do with it in germany. it was important. >> it's a good example of relationship -- starting relationship. in united states, they ask for candy and sweets for the berlin airlift.
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tons and tons of sweets and candy was collected here, shipped over to germany and dropped there. in the allied museum, we have parachute done by american family that put on the address. the idea was that the german boy or girl able to get this pa parachute will write to family. create a relationship. that was a good idea. >> another little thing about the candy bomber. >> we can see why the airlift was so successful. if you had the energy now, imagine what he was doing with the planes. >> gail, he got a flight in as a passenger. he wanted to speak to the kids gara gathering near the fences watching the airports. he asked, did you get a candy
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bar? the little girl says, no, i never know what airplane you are on. he said, i will tell you what. when i come, i will wiggle my wings. you will know it's me. thereafter, he was known as uncle wiggly wings to the kids. another child complained, you got any candy? no. she complained that the plane was bothering her chickens who wouldn't lay eggs. >> they become good friends. >> that's the little girl -- >> no. another one. it's a little girl and she wrote him a letter complaining that the chickens are laying no eggs because of the planes.
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he sent them a parcel. many years later when she was adult and with her husband, they met again. for a lifetime, up until now, they stayed close friends. >> it lives on forever. i went to berlin on may 12 this year at the invitation of the mayor. i brought my son from california with me. i wanted him to see and experience the love and the respect and the memory of these people in berlin. they say berlin never forgets. they still celebrate every year. we were invited in. we had about 20 from the states that attended. they had concerts for us. and t
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anyway. the there. >> because of what you did. >> yes. because of what i did. i went to vicky. heard about the restaurant in berlin. very they myself. -- famous. it's very quaint and very old. typically berlin. when it got time to go, we had a van that was supposed to pick us. they did arrive and went down five stairs to the sidewalk and checked things out. the waitress comes flying down the stairs and another waiter in the back of her. she comes to me and says you're -- i said yes. she hugged me.
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she said my grandmother in the past american men came down from the air and saved us. she wanted to meet them. she was so thrilled. she asaid to the other waiter, did you pay your bill yet? i said no. i came down to check on the bus. anyway. and so they waiter goes back and brings the bill and brings it down. she takes and said "i pay." that is a -- that tells you 5 lot how the common berliners feel. it's due to the americans. that's the heart. it's wonderful. [ applause ] >> if you have more questions, you can meet ralph outside.
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>> oh, yes. [ inaudible question ] >> yeah. so the question is about the sounds and smells of all the -- [ inaudible question ] >> yeah. you've described it pretty well because you're a mechanic and you know! [ laughter ] >> yep. >> were you wearing ear -- >> no. never had earphones.
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[ inaudible question ] what was i going to say? you know what is interesting, they're sitting there you get the engines running and it's time to go. to hear the sounds of the engines and then you have four propellers. you have to wiggle the blade angles. then they only nate. just beautiful. it's a great feeling.
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they have cargo win doughs in the back. it's cold. you also use those to walk out on the wings when the plane is in park. you have to go on to the wings and a fuel truck will pull up. they'll pull the hose up. you ground it and you peel up the tanks. and you got to walk and it's great. yeah, you got gas. >> i had a buddy at the british base. his job was to put up smudge
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pots. ever see the smudge pots? car seen lamps? you have to put them along the runway on both sides so the flyers can see where the runways are at nighttime. that was his job. everybody's job is important. and the person who unloads the trucks -- in berlin we had a special session and during the concert they stopped and called up three berliners. they were loading and unloading and gave them a medallion, each. it was a nice 70 years later to recognize those people. they did things in berlin. they helped themselves and they helped us. i got one, too.
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let's keep it up. >> yeah. [ inaudible question ] you still have the chance to approach -- >> thank you. watch american history tv all week on c-span3 and features this thanksgiving weekend. friday at 8:00 a.m. a two-part guided tour of the national portrait gallery exhibit votes for women marking the centennial of the 19th
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amendment. >> saturday at 5:00 p.m. eastern. >> he said, kate, why didn't you say you were in solitary. you kept saying i was alone. my mind didn't work in those connections of this is solitary imprisonment. my mind worked in quite my god i've been given an incredible gift of time. no appointments, no meetings, no plans. what can i do with it?
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>> and sunday at 6:00 p.m. eastern, on oral histories. from the richard nixon presidential library, hillary rod ham clinton on their experiences as house judiciary committee lawyers during the impeachment inquiry of president nixon. >> if it does fall to you while you're in the house to examine abuses of power by the president, be as circumspect and careful as john door was. restrain yourself from grand standing and holding news conferences and playing to your base. this goes way beyond whose side you're on who is on your side. >> explore our nation's past. on american history tv. every weekend on c-span3.
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enjoy american history now and every weekend on c-span3. a few days before tragic death comes to president john f kennedy, he and the first lady are the picture of happiness. their children john jr. and caroline are to mark their birthdays after the president returns from a trip


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