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Looking back on “The Spirit of Berlin” C-17 Globemaster III

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tom Brading
  • 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 315th Airlift Wing is representing Team Charleston during this year’s Berlin Air Show. To kick off this celebration, let’s take a look back on the famed C-17 that is currently on display in Berlin, Germany.

Every two years, the Berlin Air Show captivates hundreds of thousands of people, while representing a unique opportunity for the United States Air Force, along with its military allies, to showcase their leadership in aerospace technologies.

When the time came for Joint Base Charleston to display the C-17 Globemaster III, one special aircraft in the inventory stood out: The Spirit of Berlin.

During the summer of 1998, President Bill Clinton dedicated the “Spirit of Berlin” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Then German Chancellor Helmet Kohl was by Clinton’s side during the early morning ceremony in Templehof airfield in Berlin, Germany.

The Berlin airlift was the first large-scale, peacetime use of mobility airlift used while executing national policy. In June 1948, the first missions were flown airlifting more than 80 tons of milk, flour, medicine and other cargo (the payload was equal to the full capacity of one C-17 Globemaster III.)

During this time, World War II was over and its aftermath had left the German city of Berlin in ruins. Allied bombings had reduced the city's once historical buildings to large piles of rubble. The streets, once filled with busy urban life, were left littered with debris. Its people, many were children and they were scared, homeless and hungry.

Suddenly, through the darkness of clouds and smoke, a tiny parachute attached to a candy bar falls to the ground. The candy bar symbolizes hope and that somebody cared. That somebody was then, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, forever referred to as "The Candy Bomber" in Germany for his actions during the 1948 Berlin Airlift, known as "Operation Vittles." Halvorsen was also present during Clinton’s dedication in 1998.

In 2012, Joint Base Charleston named the formerly known C-17 Aircrew Training Building to the Halvorsen Training Building, after the famed Candy Bomber. Along with the Spirit of Berlin, Team Charleston has a deep appreciation of Berlin.

On June 1, 2016, the 315th Airlift Wing returned to Germany for the Berlin Air Show, where they’re displaying The Spirit of Berlin and reinforcing a U.S. and European partnership built on a foundation of shared values, experiences and vision.