Continued from page 1

Lawsuits await, and so, perhaps, does a criminal investigation into what happened at the $3.2 billion facility.

Airports have been crucial to the city’s history. Berlin has three, perhaps a lot for a relatively small capital of 3.3 million.

Tempelhof, which means “Templar courtyard,” was the first, and destined to become the most famous, built on the site of Knights Templar land in medieval Berlin. Orville Wright made a demonstration flight there in 1909.

Tempelhof was opened in 1923, and a decade later the Nazis replaced the first terminal. Adolf Hitler had dreams of Tempelhof as the gateway to Europe and a symbol of “Germania,” as der. Fuehrer intended to call his capital.

Close to the city center, it became one of the world’s most convenient and busiest airports.

At the end of World War II, Tempelhof was turned over to the U.S. in accordance with the Yalta agreements, and the Army assumed control and operation.

The airlift and ‘raisin bombs’

In June 1948, the Cold War blossomed, and the Soviets halted all land access to West Berlin, leaving only three 20 mile-wide air corridors connecting the American, British and French sectors to the outside world. The Soviets clearly intended to starve the West into submission.

President Harry S. Truman ordered the Berlin Airlift, informally called “Operation Vittles.”

From June 26 to Sept. 30, 1949, when the Soviets reopened land access, 4,700 tons of food and fuel were delivered daily to the city. The Allies flew more than 200,000 flights in one year. The airlift pulled various transports from retirement, giving the Douglas DC-3, the first airliner and the workhorse of the war, one last burst of activity.

American pilots dropped candy to the children living near Tempelhof, immortalizing themselves as the “candy bombers.” American candy-makers contributed tons of chocolate and other sweets. The Germans called the candy “rosienen bomben,” or raisin bombs.

Tempelhof remained Berlin’s major airport until October 2008, when it was closed with a festive “goodbye gala.” Since then, the airport, now a public park, has been used to host fairs and events. A two-hour tour of the airport, with several remaining buildings and artifacts of its celebrated history, is available daily.

Tempelhof was replaced by Tegel Airport, built on land that was once Prussian hunting grounds. Wernher von Braun experimented with rockets at Tegel.

The airport was scheduled to be closed the day the new airport opened, but it now has a stay of execution.

Schoenefeld, Berlin’s third airport and the site of the new Willy Brandt airport, located about 11 miles south of the city, was built in 1934 to accommodate the Henschel aircraft plant. During the Cold War, it served as the main airport of East Germany.

Story Continues →