Ralph Dionne, an C-54 aircraft mechanic, said he and his fellow Airmen and soldiers didn’t realize they were making history.
“No,” Dionne said. “I was doing a job. That’s all. I didn’t brag about it. My boys, my children, they didn’t know about the Berlin (Airlift) until later years.”
After three months of working as a mechanic, he said his superiors approached him and asked him if he wanted to be a flight engineer.
“I said, ‘Yes, I would,’” Dionne recalled “‘What do I do, sir?’”
His officer told him: “You just do what the pilot tells you to do. That’s your job. Get on that airplane right over there.”
What followed were 300 flight hours, between England and Germany. “It kept us busy,” Dionne said. “I’ll never forget it.”
The effort “changed the whole complex of Europe, and kept them from all speaking Russian,” he added.
Veteran William DeWalt said he served as an airplane mechanic at Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico supporting the airlift.
“We worked 24 hours a day,” DeWalt said. “I don’t consider myself actually a veteran of the Airlift, but I did my share, my contribution.”
Cathy Young, wife of Dan Young, Young Dairy’s chief executive, is the daughter of an pilot who flew in the Airlift, Larry Baldwin, who left the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel.
“He was very proud, and I was very proud of him, for the service that he did,” Cathy Young said.
In 2003, she and her family visited Germany with her father. She recalled that her father visited an Allied museum, where the docent hugged him out of gratitude.
The docent “was crying,” she said. “He said, ‘We would not have survived if it had not been for you people.’ That’s just what my father wanted to hear — it was appreciated.”
Greene County Commissioner and former Air Force officer Rick Perales spoke to some of the veterans Wednesday evening at the Hope Hotel at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. “Amazing folks and achievements,” he said.
Eddie Ide, reunion chairman for the Berlin Airlift Veterans Alliance, said the average age of members is “like 92, 93 years old.” The alliance includes groups of pilots, maintainers, Americans, British and Germans who benefitted from the Allied efforts.