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        #201: How the Berlin Airlift Got Off the Ground

        作者:Steve Ember 發布日期:8-31-2013

        West Berlin children at Tempelhof airport watch of American airplanes bringing in supplies in this undated photo
        West Berlin children at Tempelhof airport watch of American airplanes bringing in supplies in this undated photo

        STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION - American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember

        (MUSIC)

        The Second World War ended with the surrender of Japan in August nineteen forty-five. Americans looked to their new president, Harry Truman, to lead them into a new time of peace.

        Truman was vice president until President Franklin Roosevelt died suddenly in the closing months of the war.

        Almost no one expected President Truman to be as strong a leader as Roosevelt had been. And, at first, they were right. Truman had one problem after another during his first months in the White House.

        Truman's first big problem was the economy. Almost two million Americans lost their jobs as factories ended wartime production. Americans everywhere worried about what would happen next. Only a few years before, the nation had suffered through the worst economic crisis in its history. No one wanted to return to the closed banks, hungry children and other sad memories of the Great Depression.

        In some ways, the economy did better after the war than many experts had predicted. Many Americans still had money that they saved during the war. And Congress passed a law designed to help people keep their jobs. The situation could have been much worse than it was.

        However, the economy could also have been better. Much better. Almost overnight, the price of almost everything began to rise.

        President Truman tried to stop the increases through a special price control agency that had been created during the war. However, thousands of business people refused to follow the government price control rules. Instead, they set their own prices for goods.

        Store owners would tell government officials that they were obeying the price controls. But often they charged whatever they wanted for the goods they sold.

        Businesses were not the only ones who were refusing to obey government price controls. Organized labor did the same thing.

        President Truman had always been a friend of labor unions. But during the first months of his administration, he became involved in a fierce struggle with coal miners and railroad workers.

        The first sign of trouble came in September nineteen forty-five. A group of auto workers closed down factories at the Ford Motor Company. Then, workers at General Motors went on strike. Soon there were strikes everywhere -- ?the oil industry, the clothing industry, the electrical industry and more.

        The strikes made Truman angry. He believed the striking workers were threatening the economy and security of the United States. He became even angrier when union representatives came to the White House and refused to accept a compromise wage offer.

        Truman ordered the Army to take over the railroads and the coal mines. Within a short time, the striking coal miners returned to work. However, the president had less success with the railroad workers. He became so angry with the unions representing them that he asked Congress to give him the power to draft all striking railroad workers into the armed forces.

        The rail strike finally ended. But millions of Americans lost faith in Truman's ability to lead the country and to bring people together.

        By late nineteen forty-six, most Americans believed that the man in the White House did not know what he was doing. Truman seemed weak and unable to control events.

        Union members disliked him because of his strong opposition to the coal and rail strikes. Farmers opposed Truman because of the administration's effort to keep meat prices low. Conservatives did not trust the reforms that Truman promised in his speeches. And liberal Democrats watched with concern as many of Franklin Roosevelt's old advisers left the government because they could not work with Truman.

        In November of nineteen forty-six, the people voted in congressional and state elections. The results showed they were not satisfied with Truman and his Democratic Party. Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in eighteen years. And Republicans were elected governor in twenty-five states.

        The election was a serious defeat for the Democrats -- but a disaster for Truman. Some members of his party even called on him to resign. Few people gave Truman much chance of winning the next presidential election in nineteen forty-eight.

        However, Harry Truman began to change in the months that followed the nineteen forty-six congressional elections. He became a stronger speaker. He showed more understanding of the powers of the presidency. And in matters of foreign policy, he began to act more presidential. This was especially so in Truman's reaction to Soviet aggression in Germany.

        Truman wanted to rebuild Germany, as well as the other war-torn countries of Western Europe. As we heard last week, his administration worked closely with western European leaders to rescue their broken economies through the Marshall Plan.

        But the Soviets did not want to see Germany rebuild, at least not so quickly. At first, they flooded Germany with extra German currency in an effort to destroy its value. They walked out of economic conferences. And, finally, in early nineteen forty-eight, they blocked all the roads to West Berlin. West Berlin was in communist East Germany, but not under communist control as was East Berlin.

        After the war, the Allies had divided Germany in half. West Germany had a democratic government. East Germany was communist, under Soviet control.

        The Soviet actions in Berlin were a direct threat to the west. Truman had three difficult choices. If he did nothing, the world would think the United States was weak and unable to stop Soviet aggression. If he fought the blockade with force, he might start a third world war.

        But there was another choice.

        The Allies proposed the idea of flying tons of food, fuel and other supplies into West Berlin. Not just once, but every day, as long as the Russians continued their blockade.

        It would be a difficult job. West Berlin was home to two and a half million people. No one had ever before tried to supply so large a city by air. Planes would have to take off every three and a half minutes, day and night, to supply the people with enough food, medicine, clothing, and badly needed coal.

        C-47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin
        C-47s unloading at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin

        The operation involved American C-47 and larger C-54 transport planes, along with British Lancaster, York, and Hastings aircraft.

        On June twenty-sixth, the first C-47s landed at Tempelhof Airport - the beginning of the great operation that was to come.? Plans called for the operation to last just a few weeks.

        The planes landed in the blockaded city and local volunteers provided support on the ground. Former mechanics of the Luftwaffe, the German air force, joined Americans in servicing the aircraft. More than twenty thousand Berliners worked day and night to build an additional landing field for the American and British planes. It became Tegel, now Berlin's major airport. As part of the supply effort, the British Royal Air Force even landed Sunderland Flying Boats on a Berlin lake.

        Brigadier General Joseph Smith was appointed task force commander of the American part of the airlift. General Smith called the mission "Operation Vittles," using an American slang term for food.

        "Operation Vittles" also led to "Operation Little Vittles" for the dropping of chocolates and other treats to children. The pilots who did this became known as "Candy Bombers." Appreciative German children called them "Die Schokoladen Flieger" - the chocolate pilots.

        Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, nicknamed
        Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, nicknamed "Uncle Wiggly Wings," came up with idea for the candy drop to Berlin children.

        GAIL HALVORSEN: "They wanted to know which airplane I was in. I said, 'you can tell my airplane - I'll wiggle the wings and you'll know it's me - Watch just that airplane.' They said 'That's good.? Wunderbar [wonderful].'

        "I came back the next day and I put little parachutes for the Kaugummi [chewing gum] and the Schokoladen [chocolates], so they could see it and so it wouldn't hit them hard in the head, slow it down. And so I wiggled the wings and they waved their hands, and I pushed it out of the airplane. And that's how it started."

        (Sound courtesy of Ralf Gruender)

        It was the idea of Gail Halvorsen, a pilot in the United States Air Force. Lieutenant Halvorsen became known as "Mister Wiggly Wings." From his plane, he would drop chewing gum and chocolates attached to tiny parachutes made from handkerchiefs.

        Soon, many of the Airlift pilots were dropping candy from their planes, including into Soviet-controlled areas that they flew over. Americans back home supplied the handkerchiefs and the US chocolate industry supplied the treats.

        Years later, in Berlin, Gail Halvorsen told German interviewer Ralf Gruender how he got the idea.

        GAIL HALVORSEN: "I dropped chocolate because of gratitude. I met thirty children at the fence at Tempelhof, and not one put out their hand and said give me more than flour, give me more than coal, give me chocolate. They had no chocolate.? They had no gum. But they would not be a beggar. They were so grateful for flour and I said wow, they were thankful. And when people are thankful, good things happen."

        It soon became clear to the Soviets that the Berlin Airlift would succeed. In May of nineteen forty-nine, almost one year after they had started their blockade, they ended it.

        The crisis in Berlin changed the way many Americans saw their president. Harry Truman no longer seemed so weak or unsure of himself. Instead, he was acting as a leader who could take an active part in world affairs.

        Truman's popularity increased. However, most Americans did not expect him to win the election in nineteen forty-eight. Almost everyone believed that the Republican candidate, New York Governor Thomas Dewey, would capture the office.

        The election campaign that year turned out to be one of the most exciting and surprising in the history of the nation. That will be our story next week.

        You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.squishedblueberries.com. And you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

        ___

        Contributing: David Jarmul

        This was program #201. For earlier programs, type "Making of a Nation" in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

        1945年8月日本投降,宣告第二次世界大戰結束。美國人期待著他們的新總統杜魯門,帶領他們向和平過渡。

        二戰結束前富蘭克林.羅斯??偨y突然逝世時,杜魯門是副總統,大家都覺得,杜魯門不像羅斯福那樣有魄力。開始的時候也確實如此,杜魯門上任之初,遇到了一個又一個棘手的問題。

        杜魯門遇到的第一個重大問題是經濟。戰備物資的停產,讓將近200萬美國人失去了工作,全國各地的美國人都不知道接下來會是什么樣子。不久之前的經濟危機還歷歷在目,沒有人愿意回到大蕭條時那種銀行關門、孩子挨餓的悲慘狀況。

        從某些方面看,戰后的經濟狀況比很多專家預計的情況要好。很多美國人戰爭期間存的錢還在,國會也通過了一項法律,幫助人們保住工作,情況并不是特別糟。

        但是,經濟也存在很多嚴重問題,一夜之間,物價開始全面上漲。杜魯門總統試圖通過戰時成立的一個特別物價控制機構讓物價漲勢停下來,然而,數以千計的商店老板不聽政府的指令,擅自定價。

        商店老板陽奉陰違,一面告訴政府官員他們遵守了政府的價格監控,轉過頭來,出售商品時卻是想要多少錢就要多少錢。

        拒絕遵守政府價格監管的不光是這些商店老板,工會成員也是一樣。杜魯門總統向來是工會的堅定支持者,但是他入主白宮后的頭幾個月里,就卷進了跟煤礦工人和鐵路工人的一場激烈斗爭。

        麻煩是1945年9月開始的。福特公司的一些汽車工人率先罷工,通用汽車公司的工人馬上跟進,這股罷工浪潮迅速蔓延開來,沒用多久,石油工業、制衣行業、電子工業等很多行業的工人都開始罷工。

        杜魯門很氣憤,他覺得這些罷工工人對經濟和國家安全構成了威脅。工會代表來白宮談判,拒絕接受新的工資標準、停止罷工,更是讓杜魯門火冒三丈。

        杜魯門下令部隊接管鐵路和煤礦。很快,礦工們就恢復了工作,但是鐵路工人卻不肯輕易屈服。杜魯門對鐵路工人工會氣憤之極,要求國會給他權力,把所有罷工的鐵路工人強行應征入伍。

        鐵路罷工終于結束了,但是數百萬美國人也對杜魯門領導國家、團結民眾的能力失去了信心。到1946年年底時,大多數美國人都覺得,杜魯門根本不知道自己在做些什么,他軟弱無能,無力控制局面。

        工會成員不喜歡杜魯門是因為他對煤礦和鐵路工人罷工的強烈反對。農民對杜魯門不滿意是因為政府一再壓低肉類產品價格。保守派不信任杜魯門能落實他提出的各種改革。自由派民主黨人看到以前羅斯福的很多助手都因為跟杜魯門合不來而離開政府,也感到憂心忡忡。

        1946年11月,美國舉行國會和州選舉。選舉結果顯示出了選民對杜魯門政府和他所屬的民主黨的不滿。18年來,共和黨人首次在國會參眾兩院占據多數席位,共和黨候選人還當選了25個州的州長。

        這次選舉結果是民主黨人的一次嚴重挫敗,對杜魯門來說,則是一場災難。民主黨內一些人甚至要他辭職,幾乎沒有人相信杜魯門能在1948年的總統大選中連任。

        1946年美國國會中期選舉讓杜魯門和他所在的民主黨深受打擊。然而,國會中期選舉后,杜魯門馬上開始作出改變,發表講話更有力,對總統權力的理解更充分,在外交政策上,也進一步展現出總統風范,尤其體現在他對蘇聯的態度上。

        杜魯門主張重建德國,也希望重建被戰爭摧殘得支離破碎的西歐各國。美國政府跟西歐各國領導人密切合作,通過馬歇爾計劃挽救西歐破碎的經濟。

        然而,蘇聯不愿看到德國重建,尤其是重建速度不要這么快。蘇聯采取了很多手段,包括讓大量過剩的德國馬克充斥德國市場,借此摧毀馬克幣值;蘇聯還中途退出經濟會議,并最終在1948年初封鎖了所有進入西柏林的道路。西柏林位于共產黨控制的東德區內,但不像東柏林那樣歸共產黨控制。

        二戰結束后,同盟國將戰敗國德國一分為二,西德是民主政府,東德實行共產體制,歸蘇聯控制。蘇聯在柏林采取的行動是對西方國家的直接威脅。杜魯門面臨三種艱難的選擇,如果他不采取行動,國際社會會覺得美國軟弱無能,阻止不了蘇聯的侵略行動;如果他以武力對抗蘇聯對西柏林的封鎖,則可能引發第三次世界大戰。除此之外,他還有第三種選擇。

        盟國提出,可以向西柏林空運食物、燃料和其他供給,不是一次,而是每天,只要蘇聯不解除封鎖,就一直繼續下去。

        這項工作十分艱巨。西柏林有250萬人口,要想用空運的方式為這么多人提供足夠的食物、藥品、衣服和急需的煤炭,每三分半鐘就要有一架飛機起飛,24小時不間斷。

        參加空運行動的包括美軍C-47和更大型的C-54運輸機,還有英國的蘭開斯特、約克和黑斯廷斯飛機。1948年6月26日,第一批C-47在滕珀爾霍夫機場降落,預示著空運行動的開始,這次行動原本只計劃持續幾個星期。

        當地志愿者提供地面支持,德國空軍以前的機械師也趕來幫忙維修飛機,兩萬多名柏林居民沒日沒夜地干,為美國和英國飛機額外修建停機場,這就是如今柏林最主要的機場泰格爾機場。

        約瑟夫.史密斯準將是美軍行動總指揮官,他稱這次行動為"空運行動",后來又有了"小空運行動"之說,專指為小孩子投放巧克力和其他零食,執行行動的飛機被稱為"糖果轟炸機",高興的德國孩子管這些飛行員叫"巧克力飛行員"。

        空投巧克力是美國飛行員加伊.霍爾沃森的主意,他從飛機上空投口香糖和巧克力,上面還系著用手帕做的小降落傘。沒過多久,很多飛行員都開始空投糖果,美國人民捐贈手帕,巧克力生產商提供巧克力。很多年后,加伊.霍爾沃森在柏林接受采訪時,談到了他是怎么想到這個主意的。

        他說:"我空投巧克力是出于感動,因為我在滕珀爾霍夫機場的圍欄附近遇到過30個孩子,沒有一個孩子伸手向我要白面、煤炭以外的東西,他們沒有巧克力,沒有口香糖,但他們沒人管我要巧克力,他們不要做乞丐,他們得到白面就很知足了。我當時想,天啊,他們真是心存感激。你如果有感恩之心,好事兒就會降臨。"

        蘇聯很快看出,柏林空運行動一定會成功。1949年5月,蘇聯停止了對西柏林的封鎖,這次封鎖持續了將近一年。柏林的這場危機改變了很多美國人對杜魯門總統的看法。在他們眼里,杜魯門不再那么優柔寡斷,而是成了一位積極參與國際事務的領導人。

        杜魯門的民眾支持率高漲。然而,大多數美國人還是不相信他能在1948年的總統大選中當選連任。幾乎所有人都覺得,共和黨總統候選人、紐約州州長托馬斯.杜威會當選。這次選戰是美國歷史上最激動人心、結果也是最出人意料的選戰之一。

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