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American History: October '98 Letters

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: August 11, 1998 
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I have received your June 1998 Special Collectors' Issue. This is an exceptional compilation of events that had a major impact on post-war history.

Certainly the world would be much different today without the British, French, and American coalition for the Berlin Airlift and the Berliners' determination to be free. These were major factors in the success of the airlift. It has continued to be a cornerstone of National Security Policy and provides the deterrence that saves lives and prevents conflict. General Tunner should have been given a bit more credit, as his policies saved many aircrew lives and maybe mine.

Each of the issue's features were especially well presented by writers who did their homework. The issue will take its rightful place in my permanent collection for future reference. Well done!

Gail S. Halvorsen, Col. USAF Ret.
Provo, Utah


As a retired naval aviator who flew the Berlin Airlift, I was deeply interested in your fine article about that operation. I was disappointed, however, that no mention was made of the role played by U.S. naval aviation.

For your information, two navy transport squadrons of R5D (C-54) aircraft operated from Rhein-Main airfield at Frankfurt during the lift. These squadrons were designated VR-6 and VR-8.

I had the privilege of flying 125 round-trip missions to Berlin with VR-6 between March and August 1949. As I recall, these squadrons set some impressive records for tonnage hauled, missions flown, and their overall efficiency.

Robert E. Pine, Cdr. USN Ret.
Boulder, Colorado


How true that the combat pilots during World War II classed the transport pilots as less than true aviators. I was a transport pilot with the Air Transport Command (ATC) and we learned several other meanings of ATC: "Allergic To Combat" is one that I remember well. The mention of the bad weather during the winter of 1948/49 was entirely correct. The landing aids consisted only of Ground Approach Control (GCA) and a high intensity lighting system on the final approach. Near zero-zero landings became routine thanks to the efficient GCA operators. We often required a "follow me" Jeep with extra bright lights to guide us from the end of the runway to the loading ramp.

During 1997, I made a return trip to Fassberg, the Royal Air Force Station in Germany where some American pilots, including myself, were stationed. I was delighted to learn that there is an excellent Airlift museum there, complete with 100-pound gunny sacks that represent our cargo–coal. Without a doubt, that was the dirtiest job I ever had.

Hugh McBride
Sun City, Arizona

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