Since the days of sword and shield, and maybe even before then, fighting men have valued two things above all others - a good meal after a hard day's work, and a dry, warm place to rest when night falls.  So, how did our Berlin airlift folks make out on that score?  MSGT Thomas Etherson and Colonel Joe Gyulavics, then a MSGT, share with us their experiences - and I presume they are representative.  Tom was a C-54 maintainer at Wiesbaden and Celle, Joe a navigator on B-29s at RAF Scampton.  After arriving at Wiesbaden from Yokota, "I started pulling 50-hour inspections - the maintenance docks had no overhead shelters.  So we worked in the rain and slopped around in the mud for about two weeks until the inspections were completed.  Although the docks were waiting for us when we arrived, there was no room in the barracks.  My buddies and I found space in the attic of an old German barracks.  It didn't matter much since we were tired at the end of our shifts.  The food made up for it.  The chow was great.  The fact that it was served by pretty German girls made it seem that much better."  (I guess we know where Tom's mind was.)
 
But things were going to take a turn for the worse.  Tom's squadron transferred from Frankfurt to Celle, a former Luftwaffe base, unused since 1945.  "When we got to Celle, we found we had beds, but the mattresses were still in Wiesbaden.  We slept the best we could, thanks to our heavy GI overcoats.  About six in the morning, I got up and made for the latrine.  It was dark, and the barracks had no power.  I found a commode by the light of a Zippo lighter.  I was wearing one-piece fatigues, and when I dropped them I was damn near naked.  I sat down and then jumped three feet in to the air.  The toilet seat was gone.  I sat there in the wind on the cold porcelain seat.  The windows in the latrine were broken.  On the way back to my bunk, I ran into a couple of other airmen.  We hadn't eaten for twenty-four hours.  When we got into the chow line, we discovered why the Brits were so thin.  We had a piece of cold fish and a slice of burnt toast.  That was it.  No seconds.  The noon meal, supper, and midnight chow were the same - mutton with some sort of heavy flour and water mixture on top, plus tea.  On Christmas day I was standing in the chow line when the little Brit in front of me turned around and said, 'We're in luck today, Yank.'  How's that?  I replied.  'It's Christmas.  We get double rations.'  For a brief second I saw a picture of turkey with all the trimmings in my mind.  The dream only lasted for a moment.  As soon as I stepped inside, I knew what they were doubling up on, only this time most of the sheep still had their coats on."  I Always Wanted to Fly, pp 77-81.

Now let me turn to the seldom remembered and much neglected B-29 folks who sat alert in England, cruising the corridors above the C-54s without them even knowing they were there.  Joe was an enlisted B-29 navigator with the 28th Bomb Wing from Rapid City, South Dakota.  "No one made provisions for our arrival, and the RAF was a bit overwhelmed by such a large group of personnel and aircraft.  As a senior NCO I got to sleep in the NCO club, which had little rooms upstairs.  They put four of us in one room in double-decker bunks.  The other enlisted men slept in Quonset huts.  We ate in a common mess.  The British fare was not great by our standards - stewed tomatoes for breakfast and meat pie for dinner.  Every day was pretty much the same.  The RAF did the best they could to provide for us, but the men complained continually about the food.  A C-54 arrived loaded with rations.  I remember bully beef, fresh beef, chicken, butter and eggs.  But then what really embarrassed me and made me feel bad, they split the mess hall in half.  We had gotten acquainted with many of the RAF troops by then and formed friendships.  The RAF ate their standard fare on their side, while we ate fresh beef, chicken and eggs on our side, and the RAF didn't have any of that."  I Always Wanted to Fly, page 66.
 
For the officers things weren't all that much better.  Recalls Lt Laufer, "At RAF Fassberg I experienced culture shock.  The German maids when they came to clean my room would open the windows, regardless of the temperature outside.  They were the original fresh-air fiends.  I would be trying to get some sleep after a night of flying, and they would come in, throw the windows open wide, and go about their business as if I wasn't there.  In time I learned to sleep through it all."  I Always Wanted to Fly, page 45.
 
Not withstanding broken windows, missing toilet seats, beds without mattresses, meat pie, stewed tomatoes and mutton - our knuckle buster guys kept those airplanes flying 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  The pilots and flight engineers never faltered.  Celle and Fassberg even began competing with each other in a game of who could deliver the most coal to Berlin.  That says a lot about the American spirit, about team work and the way we go about doing things.  Osama bin Ladin should have taken a lesson from what you fellows did to Joe Stalin in '48-'49.