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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  June 24, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

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>> we have several here tonight. i know senator mccain has to leave. i want to ask jim warner, bob hammond. i mean, tom hansen. where is my list? who is the other one here? >> he is hiding back there. >> who is the other k-9? alvarez, he is gone. come on up and there will take your pictures. [applause] ..?
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[inaudible conversations] >> can i have a special place for you? no, you should sign above your -- [inaudible] don't you think? >> yes, definitely. they're the heros, i'm just the young kid. [inaudible conversations] >> thank you. >> you're welcome. [inaudible conversations]
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hope you enjoy the book. >> can i give you a hug? >> yeah. [laughter] thank you so much. >> up next, a program from the booktv archives. richard reese presents a history of the -- reeves presents a history of the berlin airlift focusing on the exploits of american airmen called back into service by president truman three years after their duty in world war ii. this is just over an hour. >> thanks for your patience. good evening and welcome, i'm the director of national programs here at the national constitution center. we're pleased to welcome to the center acclaimed historian richard reeves whose latest book, "daring young men," recounts the story of the brave pilots who risked their lives to supply humanitarian aid during world war ii. the success of the berlin airlift is viewed as the first cold war victory for america against the soviet union. as the editors of publishers weekly said in if their review of "daring young men," quote:
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reeves gives us a mesmerizing portrait of america at its best when challenged by russia's tyranny. utilizing previously-unpublished documents and interviews, reeves provides the voice for these extraordinary men who accomplished extraordinary things. it was that same spirit which brought the constitution center to live, and it is our exhibit, the story of we the people, that demonstrates how ordinary americans have helped perfect an extraordinary document. this desire, evident through our nation's history to improve upon the present and make things right, exists inside our borders as well as outside as the recent earth quake in haiti should remind us all. richard reeves is the senior lecturer at the university of southern california. he served as the chief correspondent on the pbc series "front line" and has garnered numerous awards for abc news.
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as a syndicated columnist, his articles have appeared in more than 100 newspapers since 1979, and he's the author of several books including "a ford, not a lincoln: what the people know, freedom and the press," president kennedy: profile of power," and "president nixon, alone in the white house." leading tonight's conversation is sheldon childers from the university of pennsylvania where he has taught since 1976. in addition to teaching at penn, professor childress has held visiting professorships at cambridge, smith college, and he has lectured in london, oxford, berlin, munich and other universities. he's widely recognized as an authority on 20th century germany and the author of several highly-acclaimed books on the third like and second -- reich and second world war. we're very honored to have both of these accomplished speakers, so, please, help me welcome richard reeves and thomas
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childress. [applause] >> well, it's a pleasure and an honor to be here at the national conversation with richard. i will restrain my temptation having read so much of your work about the presidents to ask you about this current president, but instead to talk about this new book of richard's which is a remarkable book about an absolutely, i think, astonishing series of events in 1948-'49. it was particularly important to me, i lived several years in berlin both as a student and then teaching at the free university which was founded at precisely this period. >> right. >> so, um, and one of the things that was really, one of the major events every year and the years that i was in berlin was the german-american friendship
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day which is held at the airport, and the spirit of it is always recognition of the men who were involved in the airlift. berlin was a great place to be an american throughout even the roughest times in the postwar period because of the airlift. so it's i think we'll have some very interesting things to say. it's an interesting book both from things on the macro level, international politics, but also a human dimension which is absolutely central to this. um, i think before we begin, though, we're going to see a brief film, um, about giving some film coverage from the period. >> the, what we'll see is just a couple of minutes of newsreels from the period, american newsreels. some of you will recognize voices like edward r. murrow and walter cronkite. but it gives a picture of the
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political situation which was that germany was divided into four occupation zones, that is american, russian, british and french, and then the three, the british, french and american sections were centrally merged at a point so that you had what we all came to know as east and west germany. because of its symbolic importance, the city of berlin was also divided into four sectors, and shortly after german -- berlin was rubble, and it was a city of women, children and old men and wounded men. and people were literally living in caves.ak for food they were dependent on
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agriculture from the eastern zone which surrounded it. berlin was 110 miles inside east germany. there came a point where joseph÷ stalin was determined to drive out the americans and the british and french. part of it just pride, but part of it espionage. he did not want a western window into the east in the middle of his territory, nor did he want a window where his people could see any of the west and decidedñ to try to drive out the allies by blockading the land, rail and water routes into the city leaving the allies with the option of trying to feed more than two million people by air. and by air i mean planes like dc-3s which could hold on three tons and dc-4s, c-54s
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which could hold ten tons. i'll also mention that i wrote this because i was looking to write about a subject that i felt was about the america that we, that i grew up in, what i thought of being an american as opposed to what many people think now, and there could never be a better example of us at our best than this great humanitarian adventure which had great political implications but also was done basically to save the people who had been trying to kill us, and we had been trying to kill. and these newsreels give you a sense of what it looked like during that time.
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[background sounds] >> in june 1948 blockade. >> trains and road traffic were
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stopped. ♪ >> the threat of starvation for two million citizens of west berlin, blockade imposed by the communists to force be withdrawal of the western allied forces. >> is it possible that the americans will be forced out of berlin? >> we are not going to be forced out of berlin. >> in your opinion, is there any danger of war, general? >> i would not like to minimize the seriousness of the situation in germany. in such a situation, there is always a danger. i consider it a small danger because the peoples involved do not really want war. >> the people of berlin headed for the -- [inaudible] again last week to protest communist terror tactics directed against this city's freedom. over a quarter of a million of them streamed in from all four sectors to make in the greatest of berlin's freedom rallies. here by the ruins of the
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reichstag, they assembled to put their case before the world. >> translator: you people of the world, you people in america and england and france, in italy, look at this city. see that you may not abandon this city. that you cannot abandon this city. [applause] >> but the west does not withdraw. instead, the berlin airlift is launched by a combined allied task force. ♪ >> the air force assigned more than 300 airplanes and more than 20,000 men to the airlift. and britain made a large contribution of both aircraft and personnel. ♪ >> it was an operation without
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precedent and a severe test of precision flying, of logistics, maintenance, communication and weapons. >> the air corridor was narrow and dangerous. with 40-50 airplanes going through it simultaneously, they had to be accurately placed. and until the late stages of the airlift, they were flown at five different levels, 500 feets apart. this called for extremely precise air traffic control. >> some of us had bombed berlin, and now we were trying to keep the same city alive. it meant that we had to get more from each airplane and from each man than ever before. >> -- [inaudible] was called for the utilities. it was backed in g.i. barracks bags. second biggest item was made into pumpernickel. we call it bread. and milk for the kids.
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then medicines. every ounce of cargo was checked. >> a new agreement signed in new york between the ussr and the united states reaffirmed the removal of all restrictions on communications, transportation and trade between west berlin and the ben zones of germ -- western zones of germany. [speaking german] >> translator: attention, attention, we have a communique about the lifting of the berlin blockade. [applause] >> it was officially announced by the big four powers at 2:00 this afternoon that the blockade will be lifted on may 12th. [applause] >> the correct time is one minute past midnight.
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the gates are being opened now, and the first vehicles are going through. [cheers and applause] the crowd in the background seem rather happy about the whole thing. there go the three british trucks. one, two, three. >> no matter where i may go, i shall watch always with interest the part which berlin will play in the formation of german government. and with complete confidence that it's part will be a democratic part. therefore, i shall not use the english word "good-bye," but rather try to say to you, auf wiedersehen.
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>> the last voice, and earlier general lou shus clay. when he left berlin at the end of the airlift, 750,000 people lined the route to temple hoff airport silently as he left the city. >> it's remarkable seeing these scenes of berlin. in one of the scenes there was a man announcing the news on a street corner. he says this is reos. what is that? >> radio in the american sector. the american ingenuity and innovation and just general ability to do things was quite extraordinary. the russians got to berlin two months before we did. they took everything that wasn't bolted down and that was. including the power stations in west berlin. and moved them to the soviet union.
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and construction equipment. and radio berlin, which was the largest and strongest radio station in europe, was in their sector of berlin. what we had was an 800-watt radio station that was carried on telephone lines of which there were very few. so that to deal with the russian voice, the russians telling the story of what was happening we used trucks and jeeps with announcers like that who went from square to square during the airlift announcing the news of the day. >> right. it's, you mentioned in your introductory remarks you were talking about the general view of the soviets and what they were up to in trying to close off berlin. what was it in the summer of 1948 that prompted really dramatic action? i mean, this is the closest we
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came -- i guess before the cuban missile crisis -- to a real shooting war between the soviet union and the united states. >> well, i certainly think that if war had begun, it would have been begun in berlin. what happened at the -- stalin had a meeting with the german leaders, communist leaders of east berlin in march in a secret meeting. there are very fuseau yet records of this. it's very typical of things that didn't go too well for them that you find no record because they weren't kept or they were destroyed. but there are minutes of a meeting in which stalin said the east germans were complaining about the, about the west germans and the fact that they were beginning to progress more economically. and stalin said, well, maybe we can figure out a way to drive them out. let's do it. and he -- the moment he waited for was, or the moment he
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thought he had a provocation, and to them it was, was when we introduced a new currency. the, for those who were too young to remember and most here are, the united states demobilized almost immediately after world war ii. it was all bring the boys home. the boys came home to new lives, the equipment was either buried or put in the airplanes were left in the bone yard. they call them deserts in arizona. the soviets, on the other hand, had a million troops surrounding berlin. we had 6,000. and one of the reasons for that was the soviets had never paid the red army during the war. and one of the reasons they left the army in east germny in addition to wanting to dominate that part of the world was that they were able to pay their soldiers in what was, essentially, worthless currency.
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hitler's require marks in germany. and when we decided and, basically, lucius clay decided that we wanted a vital and industrial germany. there had been many americans who felt that we should try to return germany to a pastoral state and to hold the population to 1500 calories a day a person so that they could never start another war again. clay, the military governor of germany, thought that was a losing policy and that what we needed was a strong germany as a buffer zone between eastern and western germany. so that he pushed for the new currency. and when that new currency came, the soviets took that opportunity to set up the blockade. >> you know, that example is just one of many, it seems to me, that emerges from this story
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where you have a local commander, in this case lucius clay who's the military governor, as you say, of the american sector, taking actions that are not really waiting for the chain of command or placing, in effect, fait accomplis. >> clay was a strong man, quite brilliant. the only four-star general in american history who never commanded troops. he never got to command troops because he was slow -- he had been first in his class at west point, his father was a senator from georgia, and he was a wizard at organization. and, basically, was an industrial czar working in washington during, during the war. he did what people did in those days, and maybe it's unfortunate they can't do it now. people like lucius clay who had confidence in their own abilities, they each -- there
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was a bunker underneath the american military headquarters in germany, and part of that -- in berlin, and part of that was a teletype room where they would teletype to washington and then on a screen much like this, washington's answer would be typed out. that would be done in the middle of the night in europe. but basically that gave clay 24 and 48 hours on any decision he made. and this was a man, as was the air force commander general curtis lemay, they made their decisions before washington knew what the questions were. today with instantaneous communications and what not, local commanders, local political -- the state department had people in germany , washington gives all the orders. now, the most important order was given in washington when
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harry s. truman after the blockade began met with the joint chiefs of staff headed by a legend, omar bradley, the cabinet -- led by a military legend, general george marshall -- his cabinet and the new national security council about how to respond. they all, they voted unanimously that we should leave berlin, that there was no way that we could, we could feed the city or do that. and when that finished, robert lovett who was the assistant secretary of state said, mr. to overrun berlin is shoes. and harry truman said, we stay in berlin, period. and lovett said, have you really thought about this, mr. president? and truman got up and walked out of the and it was truman's
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determination along with clay's on the other end and then the confidence and bravery of these unlikely -- it wasn't a biggest in humanitarian history. >> well, yeah. i think one of the things that's striking, as you said, is that the cabinet, all of these very prestigious military men -- bradley, marshall and so on -- and marshall's staff had not only lovett, but george cannon -- >> wise men. >> right. they were opposed to this, and also opposed for political reasons thinking it couldn't be done. also i think for the logistical issues involved. they didn't believe, they thought it was simply impossible to believe. >> well, they also thought that we only had 37 planes in germany when this began to try to bringu in 4500 tons a day. the british carry a third of the
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load so that they, they, one, thought it was impossible; two, thought that it would be a huge embarrassment. omar bradley's son-in-law was living in germany, was captain of the air force with bradley's daughter and grandchildren. and clay had ordered that anyone, any american serving in berlin if they had a family there, could leave if they wanted to. but they had to take their family -- could move out their family, but if they moved out their family, they had to go with the family. they were gone. and the only exception to that turned out to be bradley's own family because he thought the russians will come in and seize them as hostages. so that they just thought there was no way this could happen. what did happen, in fact, was
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the approval rate on polls weren't quite what they were today. with over 85% of the american people, this is how americans saw themselves, the country, the nation was wildly enthusiastic about this. and i would conclude -- there could be arguments about this -- in fact, it was the airlift that reelected harry s. truman in 1948. no one expected that people would react that enthusiastically to -- the country would be that united over an effort to save our former enemies. >> right. and truman's opponent in that election famously, dewey and the man who was going to be his, everybody expected to be dewey's secretary of state, john foster dulles, both were oppose today the airlift. >> the republicans were opposed to the airlift, one, because they thought it wouldn't work and, two, because it was
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expensive. they had the same argument about anything. one of the great scenes -- lucius clay wasn't the easiest man in the world. his staff, which was terrified of him, would say that, you know, when he's relaxed, he's really a nice guy. the problem is, he never relaxes. [laughter] and he didn't get along particularly well with germans despite what we saw. and when john foster dulles who had already said the first act of a presidency would be to get rid of lucius clay came, it was a few weeks before the election. it was just assumed dewey was the next president, and dulles came and had been mocking the airlift, came to clay's house for lunch in berlin. and they barely spoke, they
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despised each other. but clay had invited earnest reuter, an extraordinary man, mayor of berlin who we saw during the film to come in halfway through the thing, halfway through the lunch. and dulles, quite brutally, said to reuter -- reuter spoke six languages including english -- how can we expect that the people of germany won't fold in to the russians rather than starve to death and beaten down? you can't fool us with that. and reuter said, the people of berlin are used to a great deal of suffering, and they're willing to take a great deal more to avoid russian domination. clay got up and said to reuter, whispered to reuter, actually, he's all yours now. so it is lost to history what happened when outer and dulles -- outer and dulles were
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alone. but dulles never said another bad word about the airlift. >> what actually was available when we talk about the possibility of this? feeding two million people, providing heat? on a good day in the summer, berlin is not terribly warm. so there was very little fuel to do this. did they have any sense how long an airlift would go on? >> it's an interesting question. one of the reasons the military was against it was that it meant taking every plane we had and many that american airlines had. but our military planes were all in the pacific. and the generals and commanders did not want to strip everything on what they considered this fool's mission. saw that what was available in the beginning were the 37 planes, dc-3s could carry three tons, dc-4s could carry
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ten tons, and at the end of the airlift we were landing the major cargo being coal, the second being flour and then down the line, we were landing at each of the three airfields in berlin landing and taking off a plane every 45 seconds. and that's what it took at one point, on one day they delivered 13 million tons of -- i'm sorry, 13 -- 4500, 1300 -- 13,000 tons of material to the city. and, but it was done, one british officer described the american air fleet as a collection of parts fly anything loose formation. [laughter] the planes were so old. among the things -- it's wet and
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cold most of the time in northern europe as most of you probably know. among the many, many problems these daring young men had was, universeally, hemorrhoids because they could not close the windows or doors on the planes. they'd be filled with water. because the two major cargoes, coal and flour, are both explosive in closed situations. so that they had to fly with all the windows open and usually the doors open as well to avoid that. but it was cold, it was wet, and they were flying in and out, these crews, three times a day. >> and the crews, you mentioned the small number of crews available initially. but almost instantly they called up reservists, 10,000 pilots, ground personnel and so on. >> well, that was, to me, the
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most exciting part of this story and the thing that attracted me. on june 26th when the airlift know it yet, telephones rang all across america in smaller towns police came to the door. and the daring young men who had been pilots, weathermen, navigators, mechanics, statisticians which were very important were told to report to military bases within 48 hours, and within 72 hours many of them were flying into berlin so that in many ways the book is the story of these men -- mostly men, almost all men -- who had given three or four years of their lives to the service. they had come back, they had new wives, new babies, new jobs. in one story after another, and they were called back, and it
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was believed that the thing would only last two weeks, that then diplomats would work something out. our relations with the russians weren't that bad, but that isn't what happened, and they were there for a year. one of the big problems when it ended was the number of young men who could not remember where they left their cars. [laughter] and if they could find the cars, they forgot where they hid their keys when they were told, this is temporary duty for two weeks. we also stripped the airlines. in those days there were many fewer flights. airline schedules were different in the winter because flying conditions were so much more difficult so that the government took not only the planes of american airlines, but the pilots, the chief pilot of american airlines then was a man
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named arley nixon who made $500 a month, and that was a lot of money in those days. well, he went back to being captain arley nixon at $140 a month. and when he arrived in frankfurt which was in the american zone and on the first what turned out to be the first day of the airlift went into a local café. and as he did, every german in the café -- and they were the only people in there -- stood up, left their food and drink and walked out. two weeks later and when we talk about how the germans view all this, arley nixon went back to the same place. and as he walked in the door, all of the germans stood up, went to the bar, each ordered a stein of beer and brought them to his table one at a time. more, he said, than he could drink in a year, and these guys were known to drink a bit.
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and you would too. they were living in barns, tempts in the mud, sleeping under their planes. there were no preparations at all for any of this, and they were flying in the worst fog in european history was that winter. and the fog in northern europe is such that their visibility was zero-zero. when we finally got the thing organized, which took six to eight weeks, all the flying was instrument flying.2ñ and so that they flew totally by and the planes were in such shape that the word among the pilots was if one instrument works, it goes. it didn't matter what the instrument did. >> right. well, you touch on a very interesting thing about the german view of this. not only were american mechanics and meteorologists and control tower personnel called up, but
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the airlift had to rely on german mechanics and german meteorologists and so on. >> right. as they could not have enough mechanics. remember, these planes were being used at five and six and seven times their rated so that things were breaking down much quicker, and it was much more dangerous. there were an awful lot of crashes, particularly on landings. and bill turner, general william turner who actually commanded the airlift, he was another workaholic. willie the whip was his nickname. on his own and then went to clay and got permission to hire german mechanics, give them a meal a day. so that suddenly you had this
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situation where a young man from colorado -- by young man i mean 19, that's how old the occupation troops were -- found himself supervising 16 germans working on american planes, him not speaking a word of german, many of them not speaking anything but german. and in his crew was a former submarine captain and two former squadron leaders now working to keep the americans flying, keep berlin alive. and corky was in awe of these peoplement they were all older than he was, they were veterans, he was not a veteran, but he's a very funny guy.2÷ he's still alive. he taught the germans, he couldn't teach them much about6÷ mechanics, but he did tell them to say when his commanding
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officer lined up they'd line up and say, good morning, major, you son of a bitch. [laughter] >> yeah. only the germans could get away with that, i think. >> right. [laughter] >> the story, i think, you tell in the book about, you know, this one man who says, one of these pilots who had flown 20 missions over germany, so a lot of these pilots knew the terrain, they'd seen it from 20,000 feet flying b-17s and b-24s. but he says here i am a year ark five years ago i was killing these people. bombing these people. >> well, that pilot's name was noah thompson -- >> right. >> -- who was a farmer from new hampshire. and his roommate in the eighth air force and best friend named dan dennis, his b-17 was shot down over the eastern part of germany during the war.
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and dennis was, when he landed, was beaten to death by the farmers in the area. this was very common. people don't like the people who bombed them. and many pilots were beaten to death that way. and, in fact, if you remember or check out that's what happened to john mccain over hanoi. he came down in what amounts to the central park of hanoi, and the people were drowning him. he came down in a lake, were drowning him when police and north vietnamese soldiers came and pulled him away from them. so that suddenly noah thompson knows the exact spot where his friend was slaughtered and is flying over it and thinking, my god, this is quite a world, isn't it? but he thought, like all of the others thought -- i know that you know a great deal about
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posttraumatic stress of veterans. my own feeling is that no matter what you did, good war or bad, the act of killing people, trying to kill people is going to do something to you. and as noah thompson told me, he thought as he flew over that i'd rather be feeding these people than killing them. without exception the people i talked to who were combat veterans much purchased and said their greatest satisfaction was flying the airlift. and i think because as i'm sure some of you know, many veterans never talk about combat or about what they did in the war, but they love to talk about what they did in the airlift because they thought they had, they had justified themselves in the eyes of whatever god they believed in. >> right. it was a strange experience for americans, and it certainly was,
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and what a world to have been bombing these people a few years ago, and now i'm saving them. for the germans, too, they responded by saying they couldn't believe how much the americans trusted them. here german mechanics are working on planes that are going to be flown by american pilots and so on. >> it's a very interesting society study of the americans, the british and the french. the french absolutely hated the germans. after all, they had been occupied and brutalized by the germans. the british were correct, but they would have no real frat earnization with the -- fratterrization with the germans except both countries loved what they call football, what we call soccer. and the british and the germans, the german mechanics and loaders, would play soccer games when they weren't working. they were about the roughest soccer games in the history of the sport.
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>> right, right. >> there was blood all over the runways at times from those games. but the americans, the germans simply couldn't believe it. the americans would point to the plane, say, you know, take that engine apart or whatever and then go have a smoke, sit around and talk and what not. they had never seen people -- as one young boy described, he the americans as being so totally different from german soldiers. first, they didn't carry weapons. second, they looked right at you, they didn't have hard faces. and this 11-year-old boy -- exact same age i am -- said he couldn't believe that these people who obviously had a good life not only were willing, but wanted to share it with other people. his name was wolfgang samuel. he lived in a hut at the end of the runway, and there came a
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day -- there's a lot of love and marriage in this book -- there came a day when an american sergeant came to see his mother. you've got to remember, again, germany was almost a country without men. and he said to young wolfgang, my name is leo ferguson, call me leo. eventually leo ferguson married his mother. they moved to colorado, and wolfgang samuel retired a few years ago as a colonel in the united states air force. >> yeah. talking about the dangers these men went through flying into and out of berlin. i mean, the three corridors into berlin, one in the north, one in the south and then the central one, the ranges of return. but one of the things about i wonder if you could describe the conditions of landing at the airport in the center of berlin.
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>> well, the airport for any of you who have seen it, one of the most extraordinary places in the world. in the first place, on one side of it is a building. it's done in nazi gothic. it's a building, it was the large building in the world, three-quarters of a mile long looped around with accept levels. there were hospitals -- seven levels. there were hospitals, plane factories down into the ground. it had more floor space than any build anything the world until the pentagon was finished. on the other side of this grass bowl -- very pretty. other side were six and seven-story apartment buildings. and they couldn't be torn down, not in a city that had lost 80% of its housing. so that the planes had to come into this grass airstrip with metal mats on it. we put down metal mats named
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after where they were built. the planes had to come over -- and, again, they were doing this in fog, at night. it was 24 hours a day and on instruments only. the clearance of the apartment houses to come into the runway was 17 feet. and many pilots swore that there were tire marks on the roofs of those buildings. [laughter] then in a short runway grass airfield, they would practically have to dive in. at that time the landing, lowest allowable landing ratio in the united states air force was 40 to 1. that is for every foot you went down, you went forward 40 feet. the landings at the airport were 10 to 1. they came down like this, and they hit so hard that it would rip up the metal, rip up the ground. and as they landed behind them would rush german work crews,
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mostly women, mostly wearing the only clothes they had, sometimes bathing suits, sometimes evening gowns, who almost with their bare hands, -- the russians had taken all the construction equipment -- would fill in the stones and rubble really, bricks and dirt before the next plane popped out of the sky 90 seconds later. and then they would run off the field, and that plane would land, and they'd run back on and repair. not only did they do that, but there were not enough landing strips, obviously, in berlin so that they built a new airport which is now the main airport in the city but then was just a drill field in the french zone. 17,000 people, almost all of them women, built with their bare hands, again, an airstrip
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there in 60 days. and their pay for it, as always, was one warm meal a day which was no small thing. but that was the link, and you feel it in germany, particularly in berlin, you feel that. i mean, i write stories of the reunions of these people. but they pretty much feel that way. anybody who was -- and not only old enough, because they teach this in the schools. i mean, they feel about americans the way young wolfgang samuel did when leo ferguson came into his life. >> that's right. this was a city that was still starve anything 1948-'49. and as you said, 80% of the housing stock was gone, people were live anything basements and so on. so these rubble women, the germans called them finish. >> right. >> -- were out there clearing things, building things. it was quite remarkable.
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still in the '60s and '70s, i have to say, land anything jets you still sort of went like this. down. and it's -- i often think i'm being hyper bollic, but i'm not. you could look, as you were landing, you could look over into those apartment buildings and see people in their kitchens preparing lunch or dinner. so one can only imagine what it was like when the planes were come anything be at the rate and in these bad conditions -- >> well, one of the ironies was, of course, that when the planes stopped coming in -- the airlift continued after may 12th because we were building up stockpiles in case the russians tried another blockade. but the -- so the planes kept coming in. then they finally stopped in september, and many germans, many berliners had trouble sleeping without the noise. they couldn't go to sleep without the noise of the planes coming over which amounted to every 15 seconds a plane would
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be coming or going from one of -- from all of the airports. >> right. and psychologically for those germans hearing airplanes had not been a good, had not been a good thing in 1943, '44, '45 because they were being bombed. >> right. >> well, one of the things about this book that is really, i think, not only gripping -- the stories of landing the airplanes, but also these human stories that you tell about the relationships. the man and his wife, the pilot and his wife, the wife finally gets to guam where he's just been stationed only to discover he's been now sent to berlin across the world. but there are also things, the candy bomber. >> right. well, the woman you were talking about was mary widmar, and she was actually at an event i did in denver. the candy bomber was a man named gale halverson, later became provost of the university of
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utah, who like any -- he had an .8 mm revere spring-loaded movie camera. and he was nuts to use it. and the first time he landed in the berlin as a pilot he went around the periphery of this great bowl taking pictures of it. and when he came to the end of the runway by these apartment buildings, there were a whole bunch of kids standing there watching the planes land. the kids loved seeing that, watching it. and he talked to them for a while. he actually spoke a little german. and then when he was walking away, he realized that they had never asked him for anything. he had been serving in the pacific and in europe and, of course, kids were always asking for candy, money or whatever. and he realized these kids didn't ask for anything. and he walked back, and the only
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thing he had was a stick of wrigley's doublemint gum. and he tore it into ten pieces -- there were about 20 kids there. and they divided it among themselves, he's taking a bit, and he had the others taking a bit of tinfoil because it had sugar, and these were kids who had never tasted sugar ever. and then they said, you know, would you come back and do it? gale halverson ended up the next day came in with 17 -- he and his crew used their sugar allotment at the px to buy candy bars, and they dropped 17 the next day. they made little parachutes out of handkerchiefs so the stuff wouldn't break up when it hit the ground. by the end of the airlift, we had passed along and people collected around the country candy for, it amounted 40 tons
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of candy which was collected by americans. the other thing that was collected, that was sent by americans from home harry truman sent the first one were care packages. these ten-pound or 18-pound boxes of all sorts of food. it was the food left over care packages with the food that had been prepared -- excuse me, prepared for the invasion of japan. since there was no invasion of japan, fs the there, and it was sent -- it was there, and it was sent. and many people could vividly describe the first time they saw a care package and opened it and what was in it and what it represented. and among the people who told that story was helmut kohl who became the first chancellor of the united germany after the, after the wall went down in 1989.
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but americans were sending over shiploads of candy. it was being collected at fire houses all over the country because of what gale halverson had done. and he thought he was going to get in trouble for doing it. actually. >> the british, we should probably say something quickly about the british, they were also very much involved in the airlift. they couldn't drop candy because britain was still under, was still living under austerity terms and rationing of food. so they didn't have the candy. >> there were times during the airlift where we kept upping the amount as we could get more stuff into the calories. at one point it got to 2200 calories per person that we were bringing in. that was more than the british were giving themselves. the airlift, by the way, was a british idea. when all of the americans said you can't do this, it was a british air marshal named next wade who sat up -- rex wade who
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sat up all night with a slide rule, and 4500 tons was what they figured they needed each day. and he brought in how many planes it would take, how often they would fly, etc., etc., and went to lord robertson who was lucius clay's british counterpart. and at first lucius clay was against the airlift. he thought it was impossible, and he wanted to use an armored column down the audubon, the 110 miles from the western zone. so that when robertson talked to him about an airlift at first, he said, it's impossible. we can't -- it's absolutely impossible. and robertson and then ernst beven both said, well, we're going to do it anyway. and it's certainly going to be embarrassing that americans can't do, with all they have, what we can do with nothing.
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and clay gave the right answer which is, i'm with you. [laughter] but it was -- the british were amazing. and more brits died in the airlifts than americans. partly because their planes were even worse shape, and they had larger crews. they carried a navigator with them. so they had four men in a plane where we had three. so that when their planes crashed, they tended to have a higher casualty rate. but i, for one, who i suppose was a bit of an anglo-phobe, came away with enormous respect. the english, to me, are so interesting. their virtues and their faults seem to me to be the same. that's stubbornness. [laughter] it certainly served them and us and the world well in 1948. >> right. well, i think we have time for just one last question or observation, and then we'll open things up for questions from the
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floor. there's so many interesting stories in this. i'm particularly taken with the two american pilot and co-pilot who were listening to the army/navy game on the radio, weren't paying attention, the game was being played here in philadelphia, and they went well beyond berlin and found themselves in soviet-controlled territory and had to turn around and come back. there are lots of things like this. >> right. [laughter] >> but i think maybe one closing remark that we could -- what do you think the united states, what was the lesson drawn not simply by the government, but by the american public from the airlift? >> well, i think that the lesson was already there. i mean, it has to do with what we would call in the classroom american exceptionalism and what not. this was, and the reason truman is, in my mind, a great man is that he knew somehow instinctively -- certainly no
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one could tell him -- this is how americans see themselves. this is how we want to be. this is the way people my age were brought up believing we were. i decided to do this book because of abu ghraib. i mean, i could not -- i've lived a lot of places in the world, including the middle east and asia. and the idea of america being hated in my old age as it were compared to what it was when i was a youth, i take almost personally. i mean, the berlin airlift is who we are, not the torturers. and i wanted to bring that story out. and to the extent that i can that, you know, to reevaluate what, who we are, where we came from, what we do and what we don't do. and i think that that was the way, that was what was tapped in
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the america of, tom brokaw's america of the greatest generation. he talks about considering it not the first battle of the cold war, but the last battle, last air battle of world war ii. but, so in the end if i represent the american people anyway in my heart, these are the people i want to be. >> well, it's a marvelous, it's a marvelous story, and we've just scratched the surface with it. tonight. but, um, i think we have time for questions. and what we'd like to ask you to do is if you would come to -- is there just a microphone on this side? come here and queue up, as the british say. and -- i'm sure richard would be happy to take questions. >> [inaudible] >> thank you.
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>> as i was listening to and reading a little bit of the book, i realized how much of a hero truman, again, was for doing the right thing. of the three presidents, let's just, let's not include ford just for this. >> right. >> of the three presidents that you've written about -- >> four. >> i know. let's exclude -- >> no, no. i meant kennedy, nixon and reagan. >> of kennedy, nixon and reagan, could either of them have done what truman did, would either of them have had the will to overcome the opposition of their entire cabinet for something so fanciful as this? >> you know, i don't know. the presidency, i mean, the trilogy i wrote on really in the end shows what a rackettive job it is -- reactive job it, that campaigns and promises don't mean anything. we don't pay presidents by the hour, we pay them for their judgment in crisis. i think it's very possible that harry


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