The origin of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association (BAVA) was in 1989 at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Big Lift. It was hosted by the Luftbrucke Chapter of the Air Tanker Association at Rhein-Main AB. in Germany. With approximately 400 airlift veterans and dependents attending it was recommended to organize and hold an annual reunion.
Galaxy Tours of Valley Forge PA had handeled most of the logistics for the chapter and offered to register the group as a non-profit educational association at no cost to them if they would use Galaxy to organize future reunions. They agreed to do so and elected Ken Herman to lead the organizing of the new association before they left Germany.
They held the first BAVA reunion and organizational meeting the following year 1990, at Nellis AFB and Las Vegas at the invite of Col. Tom Hanson who had been the President of the Luftbrucke Chapter at Rhein-MaIn AB. During the event they adapted a constitution, a set of by-laws and elected the following officers; Ken Herman as Preident; Billy Mills Vice President and Bill Gross as Secretary Treasurer. Gail Halvosen and Tom Hansen were elected as Directors at Large and still serve in those positions.
One of the goals was to have an annual re-union in the U.S. and every fifth year have a reunion in Berlin. In 1999 after the 50th Anniversary of the Airlift they terminated the relationship with Galazy Tours as it was sold to anothe tour operator. The purposes of our association is to commemorate the service rendered by the participants of the Berlin Airlift, both military and civilian. To perpetuate the history and significance of this major airlift operation, and to honor those who gave their lives to make it a such a historic success. Finally, to establish programs that will enhance education, friendship and understanding between the German people and the participating allied nations.
Our membership is open to all military service and civilian individuals who participated in carrying out the airlift operation that became the keystone to halting Soviet European incursions, the establishment of NATO, and the Cold War. The aviation procedures developed during this operation became the basis of future air traffic control, to include precision ground controlled approaches (GCAs) in extreme weather conditions. Currently, BAVA’s membership is about 450, but it decreasing rapidly as the youngest participant is 84 years old. Based on this, we have opened our membership to family members and others who have shown their appreciation for what the airlift has historically achieved. Realistically, while there are some Navy and Army members, the majority of members represent the Air Force, including Col (R) Gail Halverson, the famed candy bomber of the Berlin Airlift. Today’s airlifters often include candy in the humanitarian missions they operate around the world. BAVA was presented the Air ForceA Associatio Life Achievement Award in 2012, as well as several key recognitions over the years by the cities of Berlin, Frankfurt and the German government.
BAVA has held yearly reunions across the United States since 1990, usually including memorial plaques or stones commemorating the Big Lift where appropriate at the various locations. Additionally, we have returned to Berlin and other German base locations every 5 years to participate in celebrations honoring the success of saving Berlin. During these reunions in the US or Germany, we make presentations at some of the local schools. We are able to erect smaller scale model of the Berlin Airlift Memorials, currently located at Templehof Airfield in Berlin and Frankfurt Airport. In 2012 we dedicated a blue stone marble replica memorial in the Memorial Grove of the Museum of the United States Air Force located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton Ohio . Over the years BAVA has supported a significant number of individual student history projects by providing data and, in some cases interviews, that have resulted in State and National recognition for the students involved.
Additionally, individual members are often asked to make presentations at local organizations, where they not only discuss Berlin Airlift operations, but stress the need for a well trained and equipped mobility force. Finally, BAVA also produces a quarterly newsletter called “The Legacy” for its members, which has information on the next reunion and usually includes stories from BAVA members about what they did and/or observed during the operation.
BAVA recognizes that our organization will eventually be dissolved due to the age of our primary membership, and is looking to keep alive our heritage and the historical significance of the Airlift. We provide financial support to the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, who operates a C-54E named the “Spirit of Freedom”. The arcraft is a flying Berlin Airlift Museum. We have established a BAVA Scholarship with Embry-Riddle University, and are working with the Air Force Associaation on an annual Humanitarian Mission of the Year Award.
Berlin Airlift Veterans Association OFFICERS
- President, Chuck Childs, Rapid City SD.
- Vice President, Tom Hansen Steilacoom WA.
- Secretary, W.C. “Dub” Southers Duncanville TX.
- Treasurer, Fred Hall Carney MD.
- Director at Large, Gail Halvorsen, Amando AZ.
- USAF Rep. Bryce Winnett, Lillian AL.
- Navy Rep. Tom Flowers, San Jose CA.
- Civilian Rep. Tim Chopp, Toms River NJ.
- Director of Membership, Joe Studak, Austin TX.
- Director of Public Relations, Eddie Ide, Newton NC.
- Programs and Reunions, Fred Hall, Carney MD.