The Berlin Airlift

One of the earliest Cold War confrontations involved the divided city of Berlin. In June 1948, in an effort to squeeze the Western countries out of the city, Russia cut off road access to Berlin, preventing American aid from reaching the city. America decided to defeat this Russian blockade by flying supplies into the city’s airports. For months, American and British cargo planes landed supplies around the clock. The West Germans, with massive effort, constructed new runways for the cargo planes in remarkably short time. By December 1948, 4,500 tons of supplies arrived per day. That number increased to 8,000 tons per day in the spring of 1949 and 13,000 per day by the middle of May, 1949 (Jennings and Brewster, p. 305.) The Russians then realized that their ploy was producing favorable propaganda for the West and called off the blockade.

Irving Berlin, one of America’s most famous song smiths, accompanied Bob Hope and other entertainers to Berlin in December 1948 to give shows for American military who were involved in the Berlin airlift. While there, using the common phrase for describing the airlift, Berlin composed a song called “Operation Vittles” in honor of the on-going efforts to provide relief to those in Berlin.;;

Not long ago
A group we called the Air Corps
Helped win the war and took a bow
Not long ago
we cheered the fighting Air Corps
Let’s see what happened to them now.
Operation Vittles
We’ll soon be on our way
With coal and wheat and hay
And everything’s OK
Operation Vittles
As in the sky we go
We won’t forget to blow
A kiss to Uncle Joe
We’re growing fonder
Of the wild blue yonder
Making a break
Flying a truck
No one here belittles
The job that must be done
Although the war was won
We’ll be there
Earning stripes and bars
In our old freight cars
Till the airlift gets the air