“They have done a splendid job in making the USAF visitors feel right at home,” said one of the American generals at the time. However, Gunderson does not include any personal anecdotes detailing his experiences with his British hosts hospitality, or any of the fear, excitement, anticipation, or patriotism he may have felt during his experiences. In making such an addition, his article would have benefited in terms of raising the readers interest level, and also conveying the emotional mood amongst the airmen during this period of history.
The missions objective was to ensure that the B-29s were to be flying as frequently as possible at low altitude over the United Kingdom and across continental Europe to make the Soviets constantly aware of the American air presence. From the beginning, psychological intimidation of the Soviets was just as important part of the mission as the military objectives of the airlifts. Practice bombing had a similar objective of intimidation, as well as being an essential component training the men for their eventual flights for the airlift. Maintaining the security of the B-29s on the ground day and night, often with guards keeping watch 24 hours a day, fortified by coffee and little else was required. The men road second-hand bicycles from their accommodations to go to work on the aircrafts. Despite the British hospitality, utter dedication was demanded of the fighters, and the flight crews and their support had almost no opportunities to take any leave, although Gunderson does note that those airman stationed in Scampton were able to visit the city in the evenings: “the pubs and dance halls were usually full and many new friendships were made” between the British and the Americans.
After January 1949, the tensions in Berlin Airlift had eased, so the men prepared for their mission home. This was, according to Gunderson, almost as perilous as the actual work on the airlift because the east winds across the Atlantic were so strong.
Gunderson notes the long hours of the daylight flight — “The return trip took 24 hours and 45 minutes versus 18 hours on the flight to England in July.” But unfortunately, he includes little of what it was like to participate in the actual airlift, or what he and his fellow soldiers felt about Great Britain, the Cold War, or the Soviet Union.
Gundersons article is valuable in its detail, but it adds little real insight or understanding to the nature of what it was like to have been in the airlift, and to have been a part of the U.S. military at this time, when tensions between the U.S. And the Soviets were beginning to escalate. The pronoun I is absent from his article. This seems like a pity, given the insight he might potentially be expected to give, because of his personal experiences. His article contains a great deal of factual detail, and often points to potential controversies surrounding certain aspects of the deployment, but throughout the article he seems more intent upon emphasizing the harmony that existed between the allies, rather than upon dealing with the tensions of the period. The need for the airlift is understandably taken for granted, but more engagement with historians after the fact, and the long-standing impact of the airlift upon English-American relations and the rest of the Cold War would have been welcome. The question of the significance of the airlift also raises potent questions about Americas role regarding Europe in the future, given its past military dominance of NATO that go unanswered..