Berlin Airlift veteran provides firsthand account on 75th anniversary

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Base officials met today with a Berlin Airlift veteran to express their gratitude for his service and sacrifice on the 75th anniversary of the start of that post-World War II military operation.

Col. Taona Enriquez, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., installation commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Desaulniers, acting as the installation command chief, traveled to Nashua, New Hampshire, to meet with Ralph Dionne, who participated in more than 60 supply missions during the airlift.

“Meeting with Sergeant Dionne on the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift serves as an important reminder of the unwavering dedication and sacrifice of those who came before us,” said Enriquez.

Dionne, who serves as the national president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association, discussed the impact the operation had on his life.

“It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest accomplishments of the U.S. Air Force.”

The Berlin Airlift, which lasted from June 1948 to September 1949, was an international effort to provide essential supplies to the people of West Berlin during the Soviet Union's blockade of the city. It was a massive logistical undertaking that showcased the resolve and unity of the Allied forces. 

As an aircraft mechanic during the operation, Dionne played an integral role in keeping the airlift mission airborne.

Enriquez and Desaulniers spoke with Dionne about the impact of the Berlin Airlift and its role in shaping the history of global relations.

During their one-hour conversation, Dionne shared his experiences and memories of the operation, offering firsthand accounts during those critical months.

“It was an honor to meet him and express our profound gratitude for his invaluable contributions to our nation and the world,” said Desaulniers.

Enriquez took the opportunity to honor Dionne's contributions and presented him with a coin, recognizing his commitment to duty and his part in the successful outcome of the Berlin Airlift.

“Meeting with Sergeant Dionne allowed us to gain valuable insights and perspective from someone who had experienced the challenges and triumphs associated with a critical military operation,” she said.

During the entire airlift, the U.S. and U.K. delivered more than 2.3 million tons of food, fuel, and supplies to West Berlin via more than 278,000 airdrops. American aircrews made more than 189,000 flights, totaling nearly 600,000 flying hours and exceeding 92 million miles.

“The legacy of the Berlin Airlift lives on, not only in the annals of history but also in the hearts of those who recognize the sacrifices made by individuals like Ralph Dionne,” said Desaulniers.

Officials invited Dionne and other local Berlin Airlift veterans to Hanscom AFB to meet and speak with members of the community later this year.