Arts & Entertainment

Madison Rotarian to Lead Talk on Berlin Airlift, WWII

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Madison Rotarian and U.S. Army veteran Herman Fickenscher will host a lecture titled “How the U.S. Air Forced Saved 2 million people in the Western Sectors of Berlin after World War II” Thursday at 12:15 during the club’s weekly luncheon at Rod’s Steak and Seafood Grille, 1 Convent Road in Convent Station.

Members of the public are invited to attend for a fee of $20. A three-course lunch is included.

Fickenscher will discuss Joseph Stalin, who in 1948 closed all access routes to Berlin—rail lines, auto routes and canals—leaving at least 2 million living in the city’s western section to starve or freeze to death. Only air travel was allowed.

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Upon hearing this news, Army Gen. Lucius Clay, commander of all U.S. forces in Germany and West Berlin, started a supply drops via U.S. Air Force cargo planes to those who were trapped.

The airdrops regularly provided food, fuel, coal and medicine—basic necessities for survival—for about nine months until Stalin’s grasp loosened and all routes were reopened. Members of the Royal Army and French military forces also contributed assistance.

Of the approximately 280,000 cargo plans that provided supplies to those in Berlin, a total of 17 U.S. planes crashed, killing 31 servicemen. Seven more planes went down on the British side for a total of 76 casualties.

The German government erected two monuments in appreciation of this effort—one at the Berlin airport and the other at the Frankfurt airport, where most of the supply drop flights originated—and as a tribute to men who lost their lives in service of the German people and to the American taxpayers who funded these efforts.

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