This letter is not meant to create controversy: I have no quarrel nor am I trying to re-write history.
I just thought that I'd give Larry Sattgast some support for his position cause when the awards were passed around. Many people like Larry were passed over.
Loosely speaking. The months of April - May and June of 1948 dropped through the crack when the beginning date for the Berlin Airlift was decided for the record. No credit was given for the efforts expended or missions flown in support of the Berlin garrison during the months immediately preceding the complete cut-off of ground access to Berlin by the Soviets sometime around the end of June 1948.
It was during this period of provocation and harassment that the troops in Berlin were supplied with perishables such as mild, butter, eggs, fruits, vegetables and whatever. using the only resources available. i.e.. theater based Gooney Birds and aircrew members pulled away from their desks. On the return trip we carried personal possessions and household goods belonging to the families that were being returned to the ZI as well as the many empty milk bottles. Thusly began the tentative day-to-day, small scale, low visibility effort, now evidently known to some as the " Little Lift ". In support of the U.S. troops in West Berlin. Almost three months later, about the end of June, it became the highly publicized " Operation Vittles " or the " Berlin Airlift " with the objective of supporting the entire West Berlin population. Much later, the officially recognized start date was arbitrarily established as the 28th of June, to the best of my knowledge, in effect ignoring the almost three months of hard work by a small group of dedicated people. this also happened to be the time when MATS and the C-54's entered the picture.
It was during these early disorganized days that the flight and maintenance crews helped, more often than not, to load and unload their own aircraft, tie down the cargo and calculate the weight and balance. Also, these days were the source of numerous then serious but now humorous tales, e.g., indigenous persons loading a fixed number of PSP mats, without any regard for whether they were aluminum or steel, with almost disastrous results. They were days of uncertainty; no one knew where the next provocation would come from, or what its' consequences might be. In the air, we were occasionally hassled by Soviet fighters and subject to false radio navigation transmissions in an effort to draw us off course. On the ground, there were times when we stole forty winks in operations or in the aircraft and, more often than not, grabbed sandwiches on the run. With the arrival of the C-54's, the operation became more organized and relaxed; it became more of a routine.
I personally feel that those of us involved in the early phase actually participated in the Berlin Airlift from the time the very first support mission was launched in early April until its' final termination and/or rotation, whichever came first. There was no break in our participation on 28 June 1948; we just continued to do the same thing, using the same aircraft, until upgrading into the C-54's.
Incidentally, for Larry's information, I flew C-47 #2877 on at least four round trips during the so-called " Little Lift ", according to my personal log - on the 19th, 20th, 27th, and 28th of July.
WM F Shimonkevitz
Colonel USAF ( RET )