Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Washington DC

On May 21, 2024, I was honored to represent the Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance at the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. The event took place in the shadow of the imposing towers of the US Air Force Memorial in Washington DC.

Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Washington DC

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, his Excellency Andreas Michaelis spoke first about the importance of the Airlift and the partnership between Germany and America. He also spoke fondly about Col. Gail Halvorson, the Candy Bomber, and how much Operation Little Vittles did to smooth relations between the two countries. He was followed by the US Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, Kelli Seybolt, who also spoke about the importance of US German relations. She also put into perspective how fast those planes were coming in when she noted that 13 would have landed in the time it took for her to give the 10-minute speech.

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

The Air Force Band played.

And then I stepped to the microphone, and with a slightly shaky voice, gave this speech-

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

Thank you, Your Excellency Ambassador Michaelis, Thank you, distinguished guests.

I’m here today representing the Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance. The Alliance is dedicated to keeping the memory of the Airlift alive. This incredible moment in history should not be relegated to a single paragraph in our history books. It deserves a whole chapter.

The importance of the Airlift can’t be understated. It was more than just feeding people, it was about people coming together from many nations to save Berlin, help the German people, and to ensure that democracy would prevail.

In Germany, they use the word Luftbrücke to describe the Airlift. Like most German words, it’s very precise. An AIR BRIDGE. That bridge, once established, hasn’t gone away.

And it’s a bridge that’s always been part of my life.

These airmen built a bridge.

Although the German people had been enemies just a few years before, now the Allies held out a helping hand

And the people of Berlin, and all of Germany, remember.

I once received an email from a woman named Dorothea Thunig. She told me “My grandparents lived 2 blocks from the landing strip. When you were on the balcony, you automatically ducked when the planes came, you could see the pilots. The lights to guide the planes were on the roof. “

Dorothea told me she was lucky enough to get two parachutes from the Rosinenbombers, the Candy Bombers. Her brother even climbed up into a tree to bring down a precious parachute caught in the high branches.

Years later, after marrying an American and moving to the US, she was able to thank one of those airmen.

She never forgot what they did for the city, and for her.

The airmen built a bridge… and she was able to cross it.

My parents came across that bridge too.

My father, his brother, and their mother were able to move West towards Berlin in May of 1945, just ahead of the Soviet Army. American soldiers helped them.

Think about that for a moment. American Soldiers made sure my Oma could get her boys to safety.

My mother’s family lost their home in Silesia at the end of the war when borders shifted. She shares memories of how the Americans helped feed them when she was a child. The chocolate soup was her favorite (I think that was served on Wednesdays… naturally all the kids loved Wednesdays)

After marrying, my parents crossed that bridge and were able to move to U.S., secure in the knowledge that America wasn’t the enemy.

They crossed that bridge.

So soon after a war that cost millions of lives, Americans changed everything by taking a chance on an incredible plan that had never been tried before.

They brought food and coal, instead of destruction.

 They dropped parachutes with chocolate bars, instead of bombs.

They built a bridge to usher democracy into Germany.

And now, 75 years after the airlift ended, I can still cross this important bridge between the two countries.

As we look back today on those brave men who set aside their hatred for their recent enemy to take on this mission, I am both grateful and proud.

They built a bridge with a heavy foundation that we still use today.

On behalf of the 10 member organizations of the Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance, I thank you for your time.”

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

Thank you again to Eddie Idle for pushing me (I mean, suggesting nicely) that I make this speech on behalf of BARA.

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

 

I’m extra proud that my parents were in the audience! They were even asked to join in the pictures.

75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

What is the Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance

75 years isn’t the End!

The mission of the Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance is to emphasize the achievement of the successful Berlin Airlift of 1948 & 1949 and keep its history alive through the 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary and beyond.  This Alliance, is currently comprised of 10 like-minded organizations and persons that recognize the success of the Berlin Airlift and what that success has provided by stopping communist expansion in Western Europe.  In addition, BARA honors the memory of the 32 American, 38 Commonwealth, and 8 German fatalities and shares the  Berlin Airlift story in celebration, events, media, and live presentations. The Alliance members will also be a source for information on the times and events of 1945 through 1950 relating to the Berlin Airlift in Germany. Learn more about BARA here-> Berlin Airlift Remembrance Alliance

If you have stories about the Berlin Airlift that you would like to share, please, contact me-> [email protected]

10 thoughts on “Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift Washington DC

  1. Congratulations Karen!

    That is quite an honor and also a beautiful speech!

  2. This is just …. so totally cool and magnificent!! Congratulations and well done!! Your speech was great and hit home with me – makes me proud to be German/American!! Thank you for sharing it with all of us!! Great pictures too!!

    1. thank you. While I was listening to the professionals give their polished speeches, I worried that mine was just not right. I’m glad it landed well

  3. Hi Karen, too bad I missed you.Would’ve been nice.
    We didn’t know about this particular event but the small one we went to was ok. We had good food!Ha,ha. Even Maibowle !!!! And we enjoyed DC!!!!!

    1. I’m sorry that we didn’t meet. This one came up sort of last minute for me because I was in DC for my daughter’s graduation.
      (My mother wished they had served drinks at this event…it was extraordinarily hot. )

  4. Congratulations on your excellent speech! Most times, the crowd really doesn’t want to hear another polished speech full of phrases that mean nothing. Hearing real stories from real people – that touches the heart and makes a lasting memory! And good job working in a language lesson regarding Brücke/Bridge! You used it well to create connection and structure in your speech – just like a Bridge! And how precious that your parents were there – a living testimony to the success of that Bridge.

    1. Thank you so much. I tried to speak from the heart, and the Brücke seemed like a great fit.
      I’m delighted that my parents could be there too. We were all in DC to celebrate my daughter’s graduation, and this came up. (I think my father was proudest that they gave me a parking space with the family name on it… he took a few pictures of that)

  5. Hi Karen,
    Wonderful speech,from the heart.
    Thank you for representing us German Americans so well.
    Sincerely ,Trudy

    1. Thank you for your kind words about my speech. thank you

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