West Berlin’s lifeline

WAR HERO Chuck Childs is shown holding one of two books he wrote about his World War II missions.

A decorated World War II hero, pilot Chuck Childs went from bombing
the Germans during the war to risking his life to help them after it.

Chuck Childs as a cadet.

By Per Peterson

“Danke Schön.”
That’s all Chuck Childs needed to hear.
Amidst a post-World War II blockade in West Berlin in June 1948, Childs was one of a number of pilots charged with delivering life-saving supplies to Germans in war-torn Berlin. Russia’s Joseph Stalin, Childs said, planned to starve the Germans by cutting off all access — both land and water — to West Berlin. One result of that blockade was the two-year humanitarian Airlift mission that played a part in defeating Russia’s plan to rule Europe. The mission included 275,000 flights in 11 months and delivered more than 2 million tons of of supplies.
“The first time we landed, this great big German came up to me — just covered with coal dust — and he put his hand out and he said, ‘Danke Schön,’ Danke Schön,’ and he was just in tears,” Childs said in a recent interview in his apartment at O’Brien Court. “I knew then what I was doing there. They got to be pretty good friends with me. We all got cigarettes, and since I didn’t smoke, I’d give each one a package of cigarettes. That was gold to them.”
The irony of helping the Germans during that time in history is not lost on Childs, who flew a B-17 bomber in combat against the Nazis.
“Three years after I bombed Germany, I’m flying for the Germans against the Russians,” he said. “The (Germans) were our enemies, but all of a sudden I was helping them. But they were starving to death and freezing to death.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.