Posted: 10/30/2008
Title: AUF WIEDERSEHEN, THE CANDY BOMBERS

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     Built in 1923 and renovated in 1933 the Nazi-built Templehof Airport (THF) was the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon and until 30th October 2008 was one of three Berlin Airports.

    Hitler had the idea of the world' largest roof so that thousands of people could listen to him speak as he arrived at the unique airport in the centre of the city with its large overhang so that planes taxied up to the gate and passengers didn't get wet. In 1927 the world's first airport underground station was opened. It is now called Platz der Luftbrucke on the U6 line, to honour the airlift.

     The first time I flew to Berlin on a Pan-Am Clipper I arrived there during the cold war. Lufthansa and other German airlines were not allowed to travel on the three 25 mile wide corridors agreed upon by the occupying forces. The name came from the fact that it was built on former medieval Knights Templer land and in the 1930s' there were 52 foreign and 40 domestic flights daily. Albert Speer. as part of Hitler's idea of Germania, the expanded empire, had 5 floors of underground tunnels contructed and fighters such as Junkers Ju 87 and Focker Fu 190 were built.

     The Soviets took it during heavy fighting on 24th April, 1945 during the Battle of Berlin but suffered heavy losses in the tunnels which were booby trapped, and so they flooded the levels and sealed them. They are sealed to this day due to the unexploded ordnance. When The Soviets stopped all land routes into West Berlin on June 24th, 1948 the USAAF and RAF started the Berlin Airlift to supply the 2.5 million Berliners.

      Originally only 80 tons were delivered, but the city needed at least 4,500 tons daily of food, coal and other necessities,  A command was set up to get the planes coming, one every 90 seconds ,night and day.  Seeing the young kids looking on behind the fence, one airman, USAAF Lt. Gail Halverson got the idea of making little parachutes and dropping candy to the starving kids which became popular and great PR. They were called The Candy Bombers, and a legend was born. He and his fellow fliers used their candy and gum rations and their handkershiefs, and then the story was published world wide.

     The American Confectioners Association asked how much candy he needed.  22 schools in Chicopee,MA converted an old fire house to make the bundles which were delivered to Rhein-Main AFB. In the 11 months before the Soviets were embarassed and gave in on May 11, 1949, over 250,000 bundles of candy were dropped to grateful children.

    My next flight into West Berlin was into Tegel, the year it opened in 1975. There are plans to close this airport as well, and to concentrate all flights into Berlin Schonefeld which was where I last flew prior to FIFA World Cup 2006. This was the airport of East Berlin and at the moment there is huge construction to make Berlin Brandenburg(the state where it is situated) International Airport.

   In 2006 I visited the museum to the airlift across the road from the US Embassy. There is also a Berlin Airlift Memorial, at Templehof with three 'wings' for the three air corridors and a memorial to the 39 British and 31 American pilots killed flying the dangerous mission to save West Berlin from starvation. 'Time to Save Goodbye'  was sung by guests at a closing ceremony on the final day.

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