70 years ago

Photos courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force


June 26, 1948 – SEPTEMBER 30, 1949
This timeline follows news reports on Operation Vittles, also known as the Berlin Airlift, from The Occupation Chronicle, a weekly newspaper published at Frankfurt Military Post.
Each issue of the Herald Union now through June 2019 will feature articles, photos and information on what became known as the greatest humanitarian airlift in history as we commemorate the
effort’s 70th anniversary.

June 24, 1948
The first major international crisis of the Cold War begins when Soviet forces blockade rail, road and water access to western-controlled areas of Berlin, leaving its population of 2 million without food, coal and other supplies.

June 26, 1948
The Western Allies respond by airlifting food and fuel to Berlin from Allied airbases in western Germany. The Berlin Airlift, or Luftbrücke, featured nonstop flights from Wiesbaden and other nearby airfields to the 2 million citizens and thousands of Allied troops in the American, British and French sectors of West Berlin with food, coal and medicine.

July 10, 1948
U.S. Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen, who would later become known as the Berlin Candy Bomber, is assigned to Germany to be a pilot for the Berlin Airlift.

July 30, 1948
The Occupation Chronicle reports that nearly 3,000 Lithuanian and Polish people displaced during the war would provide support to Operation Vittles.
They would be “handling all cargo transfers at railheads and airports in Frankfurt and Wiesbaden,” the report said.

September 22, 1948
Operation Little Vittles begins officially. Halvorsen and his crew members dropped candy, tied to handkerchief parachutes, for children on the ground while flying supplies into Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin.
What started out as a personal promise by Halvorsen, turned into a major PR opportunity.
People all over the U.S. heard about the effort and began sending donations of chocolate and candy.
“The small things you do turn into great things,” Halvorsen told a reporter in 2014.

U.S. Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen came up with the idea of dropping candy, attached to small handmade parachutes, for children in West Berlin.

Nov. 12, 1948
The Occupation Chronicle reports that twelve Berlin Airlift pilots are invited to an opera performance and dinner “in appreciation of … great services rendered in the Berlin airlift.”

Feb. 11, 1949
An Operation Vittles C-47 plane catches fire while parked at Rhine Main Air Base, according to a report in The Occupation Chronicle.

March 4, 1949
The Occupation Chronicle reports that, to date, 400,000 hours, or approximately “50 years of a man’s life”
have been spent at work on the Berlin Airlift by personnel of the Lithuanian 4060 Labor Service Company, stationed at Rhine Main Air Base.

April 29, 1949
Letters of appreciation, recognizing the completion of 500,000 man-hours of work on the ground phases of the Berlin Airlift, were to be presented to personnel from the 4060 Labor Service company, which was composed entirely of Lithuanian displaced persons, according to a report in The Occupation Chronicle.

May 12, 1949
The crisis ends when Soviet forces lift the blockade on land access to western Berlin.
The Allies continued the Berlin Airlift through September to stockpile fuel, food and medicine in Berlin in case Stalin changed his mind.