Story by:
Joe Trent



I served on the Berlin Airlift from the last of March until last of
September, 1949.
It was March 13, 1949 when our Victory ship sailed out of New York Harbor
and we watched the Statue of Liberty from the fantail and plowed out into
the cold and stormy North Atlantic.
We landed in Bremerhaven, Germany about eleven days later, then boarded a
troop train to Kassel (a replacement depot for American troops in Europe).
From there I was assigned to the 317th Troop Carrier Wing on a British Zone
Air Base in Celle, Germany.  Celle was a railroad town, therefore supplies
were brought in by railroad cars to load on the supply planes bound for
blockaded Berlin.  The old luftwaffe air base had hosted squadrons of
German Junker planes during World War II and our engineers had just recently
constructed an 1,800-yard ballast-stone runway to support our American C-54
troop carrier squadrons.  We slept in old Nissen (quonsut) steel-fabricated
huts heated by three pot-bellied stoves that had to be stoked nightly to
keep out the blowing snow and the cold.
I helped supervise a group of German workers loading coal and flour and
other food goods onto the C-54's.  A plane was taking off every three
minutes  during our hours of access to the assigned corridor into Berlin's
Templehof Airport.
The coffee pot was kept going on the flight line twenty-four hours a day,
seven days a week.  As soon as the C-54's returned from Berlin they were
checked and brought back to the flight line to be reloaded and to go again.
The crew got very little sleep except while waiting our base's turn to
access the one-mile wide corridor across Russian Zone territory into
Berlin.
It was soon decided that the Airlift might go on for several more months
And the dependents of Air Force officers and upper-grade enlisted would be
allowed to join their husbands and fathers in Celle.  Three Sergeants and
myself (I was a corporal at the time) were assigned to take a jeep and a
supply truck to Bremen-Bremerhaven to pick up food and supplies for those
families.
Several trips to Bremen-Bremerhaven were made in this way before the top
brass decided that we needed to set up a commissary for the dependent
families of Celle Air Base.  We scouted out an old Nissen Hut and soon had
it set up and stocked like a grocery store with fresh milk and produce from
Scandinavian countries and other supplies and canned goods from the good
Old U.S.A.  Most of the supplies came in by train but we continued our
jeep-escorted supply truck to Bremen to pick up perishables.
The black market was rather rampant by then and things had slowed down on
base.  I was able to spend some of my weekends in Hannover (a much larger
city and only twenty-five kilometers away).  These were good times and I
was befriended by a hotel owner on Gartenallee in Hannover and could stay
overnight on weekends at his hotel.  It was at this hotel, in the bar, that
I was contacted by a German businessman and  after some conversation was
asked to furnish him a 1,000 bag of sugar (I assume he had a customer that
made bootleg whiskey).  He offered me a Volkswagen in return.  Luckily the
Airlift was over before this transaction took place as I'm sure the outcome
would not have been to my best advantage.
I had some great times in Hannover but all good things must come to an end.
The Berlin Airlift was officially over on the 25th of June, 1949 but
missions were flown until September 30th when the last C-54 left Celle.
I was in Hannover on the weekend that the American forces pulled out of
Celle almost without notice.  My train back was late that Monday morning
And I arrived in Celle about nine-thirty A.M.  The British were still there and
manning the gates but the American side of the base was deserted.  My
locker had been broken into and ransacked.  My field jacket was missing but most
of my other things were intact and my travel orders were stuffed in the handle
of my locker.  I had been assigned to the 32nd Statistical Squadron at
Headquarters USAFE in Wiesbaden, Germany.
I caught the first troop train out of Celle leaving for Frankfurt that I
could board.  It was very crowded and I had to catch a few catnaps in a
webbed overhead luggage rack in one of the crowded cars.  I made it to
Wiesbaden and reported in to my squadron commander the next day.
To me it was an eventful Airlift and I enjoyed my part of it and it was
wonderful to think we helped the people of Berlin and saved it from the
Communists.
Signed,
Joe C. Trent