The Berlin Airlift Ends
The Berlin Airlift was one of the most important events of the Cold War. On September 30, 1949 the last plane of the Berlin Airlift unloaded supplies in the city. Over the 15 months of the Airlift, 278,228 relief flights were made. 2,326,404 tons of cargo were delivered.
In 1948, Berlin was the divided capital of a divided country. That June, the Soviet Union established a blockade around Berlin. By sealing off the roads linking Berlin to western Germany, the Soviets hoped they could force the Americans, British, and French to leave their sectors of the city.
Berlin’s two and a half million inhabitants faced the prospect of privation and even starvation as their food and other supplies ran out. President Truman’s choice was a stark one: either abandon the city to the Soviets or risk a military confrontation that could lead to World War III.
It seemed like an impossible task to keep the entire city functioning but the United States, Britain, and France worked together to airlift all necessary supplies into the city. Food, coal, and industrial supplies were flown into the city on a round-the-clock basis. Soldiers even parachuted chocolate bars into the city for Berlin children.
A photo of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Forces, speaking to his second cousin, Sgt. George C. Etherington of Abilene, Kansas. Etherington served with the Chemical Warfare Section of the 2nd Infantry Division in France. July, 1944.
-from the Eisenhower Library
Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day, which is observed on the third Friday in September in honor of prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
In this photo from 1973, these American servicemen, former prisoners of war, are cheering as their aircraft takes off from an airfield near Hanoi, Vietnam, as part of Operation Homecoming. This Operation made possible the return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam, some of whom had been held for up to 8 years.
Today, more than 83,000 Americans are still missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the 1991 Gulf War. The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office continues to try to locate the missing, sometimes doing research at the National Archives at St. Louis, where military service records are held.
Today in history, September 16, 1940, FDR signed the Selective Training and Service Act. It authorized the first peacetime military draft in American history.
Selective Service Signing Pen
“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show were we at war.”
- Franklin Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, December 29, 1940
In the spring of 1940 German armies swept across Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, and Belgium. In June, France collapsed. Suddenly, Britain stood alone. FDR responded by increasing military spending and supporting a peacetime draft.
FDR used this pen to sign the Selective Training and Service Act on September 16, 1940. It authorized the first peacetime military draft in American history. The photo, taken on October 29, 1940, depicts the first drawing of the Selective Service.
On the Trail of John Ford’s D-Day Documentary
“When I came across the four reels prepared by SHAEF Public Relations, the lack of sound other than narration suggested the film was a rushed effort, completed perhaps days after the assault. My suspicions were aroused… How was this important production forgotten?”
Images from "D-Day to D plus 3" film reels created by the Depart of Defense, Department of the Army, Office of the Chief Signal Officer. June 6-9, 1944.
Today in 1782, George Washington created the Purple Heart
The Purple Heart is the badge for meritorious action. It is our oldest military award.
Day 69: FDR Rides a Dirigible, 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.
FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!
During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.
Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.
FDR writes about the flying experience in his log of the trip saying:
I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.
"Shacks, put up by the Bonus Army on the Anacostia flats, Washington, D.C., burning after the battle with the military. The Capitol in the background. 1932."
In the summer of 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, World War I veterans seeking early payment of a bonus scheduled for 1945 assembled in Washington to pressure Congress and the White House. After the Senate rejected the bonus, most of the protesters went home, but a core of ten thousand members of the “Bonus Army” remained behind, many with their families. On the morning of July 28, violence erupted between the protesters and police, and President Hoover reluctantly sent in federal troops under Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Ignoring the President’s order for restraint, the flamboyant general drove the tattered protesters from the city and violently cleared their Anacostia campsite.
We need your help to identify this man in uniform!
The JFK Library is using Flickr to identify unknown individuals in their photo collections. This photo was taken on June 6, 1961 en route to the Commencement Ceremony at the US Naval Academy. If you have any ideas of who this man is, please let us know here.
You can help us ID even more unknown photos by visiting the JFK Library’s Flickr Collection.