BRIDGE ACROSS THE SKY: The Berlin Blockade and Airlift: 1948-1949 by Richard Collier

BRIDGE ACROSS THE SKY: The Berlin Blockade and Airlift: 1948-1949

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Collier's 30th-anniversary account of how the greatest air transport operation in history was mounted is as heroic and sentimental as one could wish. A specialist in military derring-do (The City That Wouldn't Die, The Sands of Dunkirk), Collier hails the resolve of the military brass--particularly Lucius D. Clay and Curtis LeMay, who realized that a show of strength was essential--and the courage of civilians during the 328-day blockade. Though the relations between the Russians and the Western Powers had been deteriorating, it was the newly introduced currency reform that led the Soviets to close the railroads and autobahn to Berlin. . . leaving the United States, Britain, and France to contemplate WW III or the starvation of 2(apple) million Berliners. It was the British who first suggested supplies by air, but Clay was chiefly responsible for implementing the wild scheme--which quickly acquired the unglorious title of Operation Vittles. Collier looks at the strain on ordinary people as well--on young lrmgard Angermann struggling to survive in the war-battered city with an infant daughter; on the mayor-elect of Berlin, Ernst Reuter, who insisted that food wasn't enough, Berlin's industries must be kept going; and on the pilots who flew nonstop in planes held together by the proverbial scotch tape and rubber bands. One pilot in particular, Gaff Halvorsen, a Mormon from Utah, won Berlin's heart by starting his own one-man candy-and-gum mission--earning himself the title of The Chocolate Flyer. Diplomatic maneuvers are, naturally, relegated to secondary importance as Collier allows the human drama--and there was plenty of it--to surge to the fore.

Pub Date: May 12th, 1978
Publisher: McGraw-Hill