11 October 2005

Rhein-Main Air Base Returned to Germany

After 60 years filled with historic events, the U.S. formally handed Rhein-Main Air Base over to the German government yesterday. The closure, which has been under discussion for about 10 years, was agreed in 1999 and also included upgrades to Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases.


The C-17 Globemaster III "Spirit of Rhein-Main" - S&S Photo

From Stars & Stripes, who have lots more photos:

“It feels like a funeral,” Gail Halvorsen said after the ceremony. “We’re here to celebrate rather than be real sad about it.”

Halvorsen and thousands of others took part in the greatest airlift operation to date. From June 1948 to September 1949, tons of food, fuel and supplies were flown to West Berlin to thwart a Soviet blockade of the city. Rhein-Main was the primary launching point for the airlift.

Halvorsen — the so-called “Candy Bomber” — gained fame for attaching candy to little, handmade parachutes and dropping them to young Berliners. He calls himself the “Chocolate Pilot,” instead, though some fans like “Uncle Wiggles” because of the way he’d wiggle his wings to tip the kids off that he was coming.


Colonel Halvorsen at yesterday's ceremony - dpa Photo

hr-online.de have a roundup article (in German) with events timeline and a great photo gallery.

Update: Personal recollections at Austin Bay Blog, and a great post with lots more on Halvorsen at the Mudville Gazette.

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