In 1948, the Soviet Union attempted to gain total control of Berlin – which was at the time divided into West Berlin, occupied by Allied countries and East Berlin, occupied by the Soviets – by cutting off surface traffic to West Berlin. U.S. President Harry Truman reacted with a steady daily airlift that brought much-needed food and supplies into the city of West Berlin. On May 12, 1949, the Soviet government yielded and lifted the blockade.
Speaking at a reception during the Diamond Jubilee of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill praised the veterans of the operation that still ranks as the largest humanitarian airlift operation in history.
"Nobody has done more for freedom in (Berlin) than the veterans of the Berlin Airlift," Hill said. "I had the occasion to visit both East and West Berlin on my first midshipmen cruise in 1969. It was incredible, the difference, the dichotomy between those two cities. They were completely different. West Berlin was 90- to 95-percent rebuilt. East Berlin was maybe 20-percent rebuilt. One or two buildings on a block. Piles of rubble everywhere."