WASHINGTON — Raymond Roberts still remembers vividly the sight of that Soviet MiG jet teasing the cargo plane he was in as a crew member ferrying supplies 70 years ago to a besieged Berlin.
“We were helpless,” Roberts, who lives in Denton, Texas, said in an interview. “We were just flying in a small (air) corridor that we didn’t dare get out of. He was ready to shoot.”
The Soviets never did shoot down or divert any U.S. aircraft bringing coal, consumables and candy to those living in Berlin — an 11-month operation from June 1948 to May 1949 that defeated Moscow’s attempt to squeeze the U.S., Britain and France out of Berlin.
The airlift also stamped the newly minted U.S. Air Force as a service branch with a distinct mission that resonates today — silencing skeptics in the 1940s who thought it should remain part of the Army.
“It absolutely proved we [the Air Force] could be a viable service on our own,” said Ellery Wallwork, the command historian for the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command. “It proved the value not just in [service] terms but also in humanitarian and international affairs.”
To read the entire story please go here