Three years earlier, World War II was raging in Europe. Chuck Childs, a young Army Air Corps pilot, flew B-17 bombing mission after bombing mission over Germany. Three years later, they were on the same side. Germany was no longer the enemy.
Childs flew day and night, night and day as a pilot in the Berlin Airlift, delivering load upon load of the supplies West Berliners desperately needed to survive. “We saved 2.5 million people from starving to death over there,” Childs said. “That was a humbling thing,” the 89-year-old Air Force veteran said. “I think, ‘Did I really do that? Did I really fly that?’”
Tuesday, May 12, marked the 60th anniversary of the Russians lifting the blockade that strangled the German capital for 11 months and triggered the airlift. In honor of the airlift, the city of Berlin hosted a grand celebration and invited 2,000 guests, including Childs, who returned to Germany this week for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It will be an experience much different from his first days on the airlift. The Russians had blockaded the city, located in the heart of Soviet East Germany, by rail and road in June 1948. The iron curtain of the Cold War was pulling closed. When Childs got to Wiesbaden, in the American zone of West Germany, in September 1948, he was shocked. Pilots were being put up in the old German barracks — with their open bathrooms and iron cots. “I was a pilot,” Childs said. “We were doing all the flying. We were treated like nobody.”
But soon they started flying two to three missions a day to Berlin. Every three minutes, another fully loaded C-54 transport plane landed at Templehof in Berlin. That didn’t leave much time for anything but flying and sleeping. “You wouldn’t get much sleep,” Childs said. “We flew, slept, flew and slept, because we had to get that food into those people.”
The Soviets did everything they could to harass the pilots as they flew over East Germany – flying at them, shooting flak, interfering with radio frequencies, shining spotlights. The descent into Templehof wasn’t easy, either. The airstrip was in the middle of Berlin, and as pilots approached the runway, they had a steep drop over tall buildings. Once on the ground, crews would start unloading the minute the cargo doors opened.
On many of his flights, Childs carried loads of dark, dirty coal. Other times, he’d drop candy to the children below. He’d step outside the cockpit, in his clean flight suit, to get a weather briefing, a maintenance checkup, a coffee and a doughnut. Without fail, a sooty German would give him a hug or rub up against him. He never got back to Wiesbaden in a clean suit. All said, landing, unloading and taking off took about 15 minutes, Childs said.
Stalin had hoped the blockade would force the Americans, British and French out of Berlin. But on May 12, 1949, 11 months into the airlift, Stalin gave up and lifted the blockade. The airlift continued to stockpile supplies in case the Soviets changed their minds. Childs ended his tour in June 1949.
By September 1949, when the airlifted ended, U.S. and British pilots had delivered in 15 months more than 2.3 million tons of supplies in 277,569 flights to Berlin, according to the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation. Thirty-one Americans died.  
Locally, Childs has taken an active role in making sure the airlift is never forgotten. Tech. Sgt. Steven Wilson, director of the South Dakota Air and Space Museum at Ellsworth Air Force Base, met Childs last year when he asked for help in organizing a local reunion to mark the airlift’s 60th anniversary. “He said his biggest fear was that he and his fellow veterans would be forgotten,” Wilson said. “I promised him he’d never be forgotten. Not ever.” The Ellsworth Heritage Foundation and Wilson decided to create an exhibit at the museum honoring the 15-month humanitarian effort. Childs didn’t want a lot of fanfare, Wilson said, but they dedicated the exhibit to Rapid City’s airlift veteran. “That exhibit will ensure he will never be forgotten,” Wilson said.
Childs also wrote a 22-page book, “Flying on the Berlin Airlift: The Salvation of a City,” for his children, recounting his experience as an airlift pilot. “For many Americans, the Berlin Airlift is a faded memory, a distant skirmish in a conflict known as ‘The Cold War,’” Childs wrote. 
“But for the veterans who took part in the greatest humanitarian airlift in history, the lift is as fresh as yesterday. … I am very proud of having been a pilot on the Berlin Airlift and to have taken part in defeating Russia’s plan to rule Europe.”

by Emilie Rusch, Rapid City Journal, 5-13-09

Lt Col Chuck Childs Organized US-British Berlin Airlift Reunion Response

May 22, 2014

berlin childsDuring the Great Depression, 14-year-old Chuck Childs had to leave his Dakota farm to ride the rails when he thought his family just didn’t have enough food to go around.  When the war broke out after Pearl Harbor, Childs worked his way up to become a B-17 pilot in the European theater, flying 37 combat missions against the Third Reich.

No sooner was the war over, when Childs found himself in the Cold War.  He donned his uniform once again, this time to protect the Germans during the Berlin Airlift in the later 1940s.  He has written books about all of these experiences.  He and wife Grace regularly share their lifetime experiences with the Black Hills Veterans Writing Group.

As the current president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association, Childs found that the Internet and telephone made it possible to organize a massive airlift of veterans from both America and Britain who had served in the Berlin Airlift.   He just returned this week:

What a wonderful experience we had in Berlin.  I brought 53 Berlin Airlift Veterans and their wives plus 35 British Airlift veterans and their wives to Berlin for the 65th Anniversary of Stalin ending the blockade.  We had 5 full days of red carpet.  Since I am the President of BAVA I was asked to speak at several occasions to include the US Embassy.  The pictures are

1. The Ceremony at the Memorial, where all 71 aircrew members who where killed on the Lift have their names engraved on the Memorial.

2. Myself after laying the USA wreath.

3. The Mayor talking to me and a British Airmen.

4. I am addressing the US Embassy and the US Ambassador is standing next to me.  We also had lunch with the Mayor and I sat at his table with Ambassadors from the US, England, France and Canada.  This was a trip that I will never forget.

As President of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association, LTC Chuck Childs recently returned from a reunion in Germany and was interviewed by AFN Stuttgart, where Alan Herbert of Belle Fourche served as a US Army announcer right after WWII.More

Chuck Childs on 3-25-14: "As the President of the National Berlin Airlift Association, I have been working hard on my taking  54 Berlin Airlift veterans to Berlin in May.  It is now completed and a great program is waiting for them.  Reception by the Mayor of Berlin, reception at the US Embassy, etc.  A strange thing is that they were wanting me , a WWII Bomber Pilot, to meet a WWII Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot.  They have not found one yet.  When I said that America knows where all are veterans are there answer was, 'You won the war.'"