(Airlift photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
In response to a Soviet blockade of land routes into West Berlin following World War II, in June 1948 the United States began a massive airlift to assist the citizens of the besieged city. It was a daunting logistical task to provide food, clothing, water, medicine, and other necessities of life for the over 2 million fearful citizens of the city. For nearly a year, American planes landed around the clock. Over 200,000 planes carried in more than one-and-a-half million tons of supplies. [excerpted from the History Channel webpage]
That fall, just months after graduating, alumnus Edwin A. Gere, Jr. was recalled for active duty for the Berlin Airlift (he had flown Seventh Air Force B-24s against Japan during the war). Gere was soon at Fassberg, a Royal Air Force base in northern Germany, flying with the 1420th Air Transport Group. “During the autumn months, I began to think of all the children in Berlin and Christmas coming up,” said Gere. His solution: “I wrote to student friends back in Alfred, asking if they could organize a so-called Operation Santa Claus with Christmas packages for the Berlin children. Their response was overwhelming!” In the end, students assembled 110 packages of Christmas cheer for Berlin children. According to an article in the Alfred University Alumni News of the time, the “only comment from Saint Nick was ‘Mission accomplished successfully.’”
In all, Gere flew 184 missions during the Airlift and in 2006, published the book “The Unheralded: Men and Women of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift” which outlines this amazing time in U.S. history.