Ensuring that those who died are remembered has long been a personal mission of D-Day veteran and historian Ronald MacArthur Hirst. The 84-year-old military retiree, who served with the Air Force at Wiesbaden’s former Lindsey Air Station, spent years researching and organizing such groups as the British Berlin Airlift Association. In doing so, he has made a personal connection with Families of the fallen, letting them know their loved ones are remembered.
With the closing of Lindsey Air Station in 1993 and Rhein-Main Air Base in 2005, Hirst made sure installation signs paying tribute to those killed during the airlift and in other air crashes made their way to Family members – or found a new home on Wiesbaden Army Airfield.
“There must be some form of remembrance for the people who have given their lives,” Hirst said.
Explaining that while the exploits of one pilot, referring to Gail Halvorsen who was known as the Candy Bomber, have captured the attention of most people who know anything about the Berlin Airlift, Hirst stressed that it is important to remember all who contributed to the phenomenal effort to save the starving population of Berlin.
“I don’t think it’s publicized enough … what these guys went through. I really don’t think people realize what that airlift was all about.”
After noting what he called “decrepit street signs on Lindsey” while serving as an Air Force action officer, Hirst approached the base public affairs office to learn more about the men behind the names on the signs, which had been dedicated in 1949. “Over the years,” he said, “I found out exactly who these guys were.”
His persistence also helped to identify service members who died during the airlift but were not included among those memorialized. After he questioned why only one sign for them was erected on Wiesbaden Army Airfield in 1994, it was decided in 1995 to recognize each fallen American with his own sign – 32 in all.
This article was originally published by Karl Weisel in 2008 for the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.