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Today marks the 60th anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift. It's called the largest humanitarian airlift in history. At the height of the fifteen month operation, nearly 600 airplanes landed in West Berlin per day to deliver goods to the people. The airlift was the American and British response to the Soviet blockade that prevented the delivery of goods by ground to West Berlin. KSMU's Missy Shelton was at Templehof Airport and files this report.
Dieter Nickel has worked at Templehof Airport for decades, overseeing engineering and construction projects. He takes us through various non-public parts of the airport. And we end up on the roof of the airport.
Here, we have an excellent view of the runways and the terminal. The terminal is a broad half circle, giving planes direct access to hangars. Nickel says this made it easier to unload the planes during the airlift. The runways and terminal combine to create a good place where planes could land, unload and take off again.
The direction that planes landed and took off became particularly important in managing such heavy traffic...and the landing pattern was of interest to area children who eagerly awaited the "Candy Bomber." Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen began dropping candy tied to little parachutes as he landed his plane. Nickel was ten years old at the time.
Even if he didn't know what chocolate was, Nickel tried to catch one of the candy packages.
So Nickel didn't get his candy that day but years later, he worked for Halvorsen at Templehof and told him the story of how he missed out. A few days later, Halvorsen invited Nickel into his office.
For Nickel, as a 10 year old boy, the airlift meant getting food and clothing. But he says that now, it has a deeper meaning.