Friday, May 23, 2014
The Good American
Last weekend, we went to Tempelhof Airport. A massive airport designed and mostly built by the Nazis inside of the city of Berlin, this structure has a history almost as grand as its facade. It would fall into the hands of the Allied forces at the end of the war, and it would be finished by the US Air Force and subsequently used to house Americans until the end of the Cold War. However, wikipedia (linked above) can give a better history than I can in this limited space. Instead, I want to discuss what this airport represents to Berlin. You only need to know one little piece of history for this and that is that Berlin was blockaded by the Soviets for almost eleven months, and that for fifteen months (eleven were during the actual blockade the other four were to help build reserves) the US and British forces flew in industrial goods and food into the city by using Tempelhof as their landing strip. Planes would fly in and out of Berlin at a rate of a plane every thirty seconds at the height of the airlift. They brought in more than 2.3 million tons of supplies. To many Berliners, Tempelhof marks freedom because of the "Luftbrücke" (airlift in English) which saved the city from the blockade. People could continue living and not have to give in to the Soviets. The airport represents how close the city was to becoming entirely Soviet and how close everyone in West Berlin was being forced to live under the communist regime. Thanks to the Americans and British forces, life continued in the city. This now-defunct airport represents how good American forces could be. While we haven't always had the best relationship since the war (most recently), this moment will forever define the potential that can be reached. To many Berliners, Americans will always be the ones that saved them. It may not of been completely out of the goodness of our hearts, but we still spent enormous amounts of money and man power keeping Berlin running. In the end, our actions were all that mattered and not so much our motives Tempelhof and the airlift memorial will always represent the good side of the Americans.