Chapter section from:
Airbridge to Berlin --- The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath
By D.M. Giangreco and Robert E. Griffin
(Used with permission)
Just three years earlier many airlift pilots had been bombing the then-capital of Nazi Germany and the citizens of Berlin had run for their air raid shelters and cellars when the drone of airplane motors was heard. Now these same pilots were risking their lives to feed and supply Berlin and the Berliners welcomed the noise of the airplanes roaring over their city day and night to preserve their freedom.
In 1948, the Berliners did not have much in material goods to offer, but to show their gratitude they offered what little they had. Captain Earl Overholser, a native of Washington state, had been stationed at Tempelhof for more than two years before the airlift began. Because of a shortage of ground officers, he held nine different duties, including Public Information Officer, during the early months of the airlift. Overholser recounted at the time, "One of my jobs. . . is to handle all the grateful Berlin citizens who show up. Seems to me I've met every German in Berlin. They come down here, clutching extremely valuable heirlooms against their breasts, and want to make a little ceremony of giving the stuff to the pilots. Or some child will show up with flowers or a valued picture book. It's no act either. An old man so thin you could see through him showed up a few days ago with a watch that would have fed him for months on the black market. He insisted on giving it to an American. He called it 'a little token from an old and grateful heart'."
The gifts were not all valuable heirlooms. They knitted scarfs and sweaters. One lady presented two young boxer puppies to pilot Captain Robert C. Livesay. A particularly thoughtful gift was received by Overholser in a cardboard box addressed to "Lt Keller, Greenfield, Iowa" in early August 1948. The sender had read a story about Keller in the previous Sunday edition of Der Tagespiegel, a Berlin newspaper, which had mentioned Keller had two small children back in Iowa. The box contained two homemade rag dolls for Keller's children.