Monday, April 14, 2008

April 14, 2008

Allied Museum in Berlin:
Berlin Airlift Veterans Association:

By John Andrew Prime

"On to Berlin!"

That cry, on the lips of most soldiers and airmen in World War II, may also be on the mind of Benton's Lewis Dale Whipple, who plans to visit the German capital this summer for the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.

Whipple, vice president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association, will be one of 15 international veterans invited to take part in ceremonies recalling the modern era's first major effort to save a city under siege by communist forces in the Cold War.

The invitation was extended by Helmut Trotnow, director of the of the Allied Museum in Berlin.

"There are six Americans, four British, two French and three Germans that either participated in the airlift or had other connections, that have been invited," said Whipple, who had visited Berlin on several occasions to mark past anniversaries, including 1994 and 1999.

Whipple is a veteran of the Berlin Airlift, a joint Allied effort to keep food, medicine, coal and other vital materials supplied to the city of Berlin when the former Soviet Union cut off all access to the city in the late 1940s.

The airlift lasted from June 1948 to May 1949 and in thousands of flights moved tons of supplies into the city, keeping its two million people alive and free.

Whipple plans to leave June 23 and will return July 6. The ceremonies in Berlin will be June 26-28.

"We are also to be transported to Frankfurt for ceremonies on June 29 and June 30 at Wiesbaden," Whipple said. "After these we will be transported back to Berlin to attend the dedication of the new American Embassy in Berlin on July 4. Needless to say, I am thrilled to have been chosen to go."

Whipple was stationed at a U.S. Air Force Base in Japan, part of the 317th Troop Carrier Wing, when the blockade started. After 40 days at sea, his unit arrived at Celle, a Royal Air Force station that was a terminus of one of the three air corridors that remained open into the city.

In his 1994 trip, Whipple visited Celle with 49 other Berlin Airlift veterans and their spouses. He also visited Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Fassberg and took part in wreath-laying ceremonies at Rhein-Main Air Base and Tempelhof Airfield.