June 24, 2014
I hear many argue these days there is no such thing as American compassion. Those serving in Germany 66 years ago today would have evidence otherwise.
The end of the European conflict of World War II on May 8, 1945, or V-E Day as Americans call it, sparked the beginning of the Cold War. After the surrender of Germany, the Western Allies made an agreement with the Soviet Union to allocate control of Germany among the forces fighting the Nazis. The western portion of Germany was to be occupied by the democratic Allies while the east was occupied by the Soviet Union. This also applied to the capital of Berlin. Unfortunately Berlin was located 100 miles inside the Soviet Union controlled section of Germany.
In 1939, Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union and Adolph Hitler of Germany were actually working together invading neighboring countries. Stalin, a leader in the communist movement, and Hitler, a champion of the socialist movement, saw common ground in their beliefs of world domination. (see and ) Stalin was more than agreeable when Hitler approached him for support in invading Poland. He even returned Jews fleeing to Russia for Hitler to confine in concentration camps. Having starved millions of Ukrainians himself, tossing them in mass graves, Stalin had no issue with Hitler or his treatment of Jews. That is, until June of 1941 when Hitler dared to invade parts of the Soviet Union. After 2 years of fighting his one time comrade, Stalin met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (see ) in November of 1943 at the Tehran Conference to discuss a coalition. They began a 2-front offensive against Germany. Because of this alliance, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union received controlling portions of Germany after its surrender. Originally France was denied any part of Germany but the United States and Britain wished to recognize Frances’ contributions to the war and each gave a portion of their territories to their ally.
While capitalist America was trying to help Germany become stable and prosperous again, the communist Soviet Union had other plans. Three years after V-E Day Stalin began flexing his muscles and orchestrated the Berlin Blockade. In efforts to choke Germany’s economic growth, on June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union began blocking all Western Allies’ land transport routes, including roads, railways, and canals, to their respective portions of Berlin risking the lives of 2 million people. Their goal was to force the Western Allies to purchase supplies for Berlin from the Soviet Union which would all but guarantee total control of the city to the superpower. They wanted to ensure not only their occupied territory but all of Berlin to become a communist stronghold. Convinced America would soon withdraw from Germany all together, Stalin was working with German communist leaders to force hardship and struggle on all Germans so as to unite the country completely under communist and Soviet control.
The Western Allied forces, understanding the humanitarian crisis evolving, quickly organized the Berlin Airlift and began flying supplies to the citizens of West Berlin a few days later. Air Forces from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa flew 270,000 flights during the 1-year blockade, supplying up to 4700 tons of fuel and food daily to Berlin. This is not the end of the charitable story of the people of America though.
The children of Berlin would often gather at the end of runways to watch supply planes land and take off. One day an American pilot approached these children to talk. Knowing they were hungry he reached into his pocket only to find just 2 sticks of gum. Disappointed he didn’t have more, he gave the children what he had. Without hesitation or argument the children began sharing the gum and enjoy what little piece they were given. Overcome with compassion, Gail S. “Hal” Halvorsen promised to bring more candy on his next flight and drop it to them from the sky. Since planes were arriving every 3 minutes the children asked how they would know which plane was his. He responded, “I will wiggle my wings.”
“Uncle Wiggle Wings” Halvorsen returned to base to gather as much candy as he could. As promised he started dropping the candy attached to handkerchief parachutes during his next flight. His fellow pilots and crewmen donated candy and dubbed him the “Candy Bomber.” As attention grew, Halvorsen’s commanding officer, Lt. General William H. Turner, ordered "Operation Little Vittles" sparking widespread media attention. Public support exploded in the states prompting donations from individuals like school children to companies such as the Confectioners Association of America. By the end of the blockade, Uncle Wiggle Wings, with the help of approximately 25 other crews, had dropped 23 tons of chewing gum, chocolates and other candy to the children of Berlin.
By April 1949, the Berlin Airlift campaign was so successful it was supplying more cargo than the railroad had been before the blockade. The Soviet Union was forced to lift the ban a month later to avoid further humiliation from the capitalist allies. As a result of this incident, Germany was split into two separate German states instead of just occupied territories. West Germany became the Federal Republic of Germany and East Germany was designated the German Democratic Republic, which is quite ironic as is was under communist control. This was the first of many peaceful conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Liberty, you will always find forces in this world, whether international or domestic, that have interests in exerting dominance over the people. There will always be someone out there trying to grab as much control as he or she can. You have a weapon, Liberty, that can defeat this force at every turn. It is called love. Love for God and love for your fellow man whether they live next door or 4,000 miles away. While dictators desperately force people into groups, remember to concentrate on the individual. Show love, show courage, show compassion and you will foster hope, foster kindness, and change the world.
That’s my 2 cents.