Nearly seventy years later and 4,000 miles away, one of history's greatest humanitarian efforts is about to remembered in New Jersey.
For almost precisely 15 years, the world's last remaining Boeing C-97 aircraft—a Cold War workhorse linked to the famed Berlin Airlift in 1948-49—has sat idle, undergoing repairs and retrofits, overhauls and maintenance in a hangar at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.
But next month, the aircraft and a small crew will make the 45-minute flight to Farmingdale, where it will become a flying classroom and museum of the Cold War and tribute to the 100 airmen—including 31 Americans—who were killed in the relief effort that hastened it.
"She's fuelled up and ready to go," said Bob Maddox, 82, vice-president emeritus of the Berlin Airlift Foundation and one of the prime movers in getting the "Angel of Deliverance" airborne.
All that stands in the way now, he said, is final FAA inspection.
That the plane has even made this far is a testament to the efforts of the BAF, which rescued it from a scrap heap in late 1997 and has since invested some $350,000 and countless hours make it airworthy again.
This includes new plumbing for its four massive Pratt and Whitney engines, new instrument guages, cabin fabric and paint identical to the original used in the airlift. The last C-97 to roll off the assembly line was subsequently purchased in 2003 by the foundation and used for parts.
And sitting in the cockpit next month will be BAF founder and president Tim Chopp, who credited the "loyalty and dedication" of a legion of volunteers for helping re-tell such an essential piece of history.
Boeing built 888 of the C-97s, a huge, lumbering aircraft that Maddox calls "awkward" and Chopp politely describes as "demanding."
While its role in the airlift was limited, the plane became the precursor to the U.S. Air Force's venerable KC-97 inflight refuelers.