Every month, members of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott campus and the greater Prescott community gather in the DLC Auditorium to learn about a piece of aviation history. Oftentimes, the subjects of these Aviation History Program Presentations cover a lesser known or very specific topics in the relatively short , but nuanced history of flight and aeronautics. In the month of April, the presentation was no exception. Retired Air Force Mobility Command Historian Tom Cossaboom presented a documentary called The Sound of Freedom: The Berlin Airlift and the General Who Changed History. As the Executive Producer for the documentary, Cossaboom conducted much of the historical research, as well as all of the interviews in the film. Following the documentary, he answered questions about this fascinating topic.
The Sound of Freedom focused on the Berlin Airlift from the perspective of those directly involved, especially of General William H. Tunner, the logistics mastermind responsible for this entire, unprecedented operation. The Berlin Airlift began in June 1948, following the end of World War II and the divvying up of Germany between the Allies. When Russia sealed off Berlin from western supplies, the United States, England, and France stepped up and began one of the largest organized airlifts in all of history to ensure the Berliners had the supplies they needed. Thanks to the brilliant leadership of General Tunner and his team of military planners, the Berlin Airlift delivered over two million tons of supplies over the course of 750,000 missions in a little over a year.
This documentary approached history in one of the most authentic ways possible—through firsthand accounts. Cossaboom and his production team tracked down numerous former pilots, maintainers, and others involved in the airlift to hear their stories of this monumental historic event. Not only did the film present the factual side of the airlift, but also lent a bit of humanity to the subject. Cossaboom included interviews with men who fondly remembered the attractive young German girls who sold snacks to the American pilots during their brief stops in Berlin, and with a woman who recounted her childhood memories of “Operation Little Vittles,” when American crews dropped small bags of candy attached to parachutes from their aircraft, much to the delight of the local kids. The Sound of Freedom showed that much more than organization and logistical planning went into the Berlin Airlift, but also a sense of humanity and compassion.
This showing of The Sound of Freedom: The Berlin Airlift and the General Who Changed History marked the last Aviation History Program Presentation of the semester. However, the program will return to educate and entertain in August 2013, with the start of the fall semester.