Tempelhof Central Airport

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Tempelhof Central Airport

United States Air Forces in Europe.png
Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) R-95

Located in West Berlin, Germany
Templehofplanemap.png
Location of Tempelhof Central Airport
in Occupied Berlin 1945-1990
Coordinates 52°28′23″N 13°24′14″E / 52.47306°N 13.40389°E / 52.47306; 13.40389
Type Military airfield
Site information
Controlled by United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1923
In use 1945-1994
Garrison information
Garrison 7350th Air Base Group
Emblem of the USAF 7350th Air Base Group.
For the civil airport use of this facility, see Tempelhof International Airport

Tempelhof Central Airport (TCA) was a United States Military airfield in West Berlin, Germany between 1945 and 1994.

During its operational life, it was garrisoned by the United States Air Force, with units of the United States Army Berlin Brigade located within the facility. TCA was located in the northern part of the Tempelhof district of Berlin, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from the center of the city. It was bounded on the east by Oderstraße, on the north by Columbiadamm, on the west by Tempelhofer Damm, and on the south by the Tempelhof Freight Terminal, in the American Sector of West Berlin.

History[edit]

The facility was named after the historic Tempelhof parade ground in the Berlin district of Tempelhof.

Origins[edit]

Prior to World War II, TCA was acquired for use as a Royal Prussian parade and exercise ground by King Fredrick William I in 1721. Tempelhof remained a parade ground until 1918. From 1895-1918 field served also as a demonstration area for balloons, airships, and aircraft, including flights in 1908 by Orville Wright and his Wright Flyer.[1][2]

A German commercial airport was erected on the site in 1922 and a modern European international airport was established in 1934. Ernst Sagebiel designed Tempelhof's futuristic airfield facilities and terminal 1934-1936, and converted it into a major European and international airport. Tempelhof Airport officially opened in 1936, with peak passenger traffic attained in 1938-1939.[1]

Cold War[edit]

Tempelhof Air Base - 1945
C-47s unloading at Tempelhof during the Berlin Airlift

Germany did not use Tempelhof as a military airfield during World War II, except for occasional emergency landings by fighter aircraft. The airfield was seized by the Soviet Union Red Army in April, 1945 and turned over to the United States in July 1945 with the division of Berlin into occupation zones.

TCA was established as an aerial port on 2 July 1945, being designated Tempelhof Airdrome (Code Number R-95). The first USAAF unit assigned to Templehof was the 715th Air Service Squadron, being transferred to the airfield on 2 July 1945 from Halle, Germany. This was quickly followed by the 473d Air Service Group, establishing headquarters on 5 July and assuming host duties.[1][2][3]

Reconstruction of the facility began on 3 July 1945. The 852nd Engineer Aviation Battalion arrived at Tempelhof on 10 July 1945 and conducted the original repairs. The first USAAF flying unit assigned was the 301st Troop Carrier Squadron, with its ground echelon arriving on 4 July 1945 and beginning operational use in August.

In September, Tempelhof began routine military passenger service as the Berlin center for the European Air Transport Service (EATS) until March 1948. The first major Allied use of the airfield was for the Potsdam Conference, being held from July 16 to August 2, 1945.[2][3]

On 9 September 1946 it was renamed Tempelhof Army Air Base, and it supported the mission of the Office of the High Commissioner of Germany (HICOG). It was redesignated Tempelhof Air Base on 9 November. The base also housed an air-sea rescue operations center when USAFE assumed the direct responsibilities of EATS on 20 December 1947.[1][2]

With the formation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Tempelhof became a USAF base. The United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) renamed the facility Tempelhof Air Force Base on 1 July 1948 (the designation reverted to Tempelhof Air Base on 1 May 1950).[2]

Soviet troops closed off all surface routes into West Berlin on 20 June 1948, compelling the Western Allies to establish the greatest military airlift in history, the Berlin Airlift, flying millions of tons of fuel, clothing, and food into Tempelhof for the beleaguered West Berliners. Engineers constructed a new 6,000-ft runway between July and September 1948 and another between September and October 1948 to accommodate the expanding requirements of the airlift. The last airlift transport touched down at Tempelhof on 30 September 1949. In 1971 one of the pilots during the Berlin Airlift, and the original Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen, returned to Berlin as the commander of Tempelhof Central Airport.[1]

A civil aviation agreement allowed the major airlines to use the airport beginning on 22 May 1950, and U.S. authorities turned over the north-east corner of the airport to the City of Berlin for recreational purposes in 1950.[1] A typical weekday in January 1952 saw three Pan Am DC-4s and an Air France DC-4 to Frankfurt, a PA DC-4 and four BEA Dakotas to Hamburg, three BEA Dakotas to Hanover and one to Cologne, and 17 BEA flights a week to Düsseldorf. Air France had a DC-4 to Munich and three a week to Nuremberg. In January 1962, BEA had ten Viscounts a day to Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover and Munich, and Pan Am had 27 DC-6Bs a day to those cities and Nuremberg and Stuttgart. The first scheduled jets were Pan Am 727s in 1966.

USAFE renamed the facility Tempelhof Central Airport on 28 February 1958 and on 15 November 1959 administration of Tempelhof was transferred to Ramstein AB.[2]

On 1 September 1975, all civil air traffic was transferred to Berlin Tegel Airport. Tempelhof was then used solely as a military airport until 1985 when Tempelhof Airways, a US-registered commuter airline, resumed commercial operations with a pair of Nord 262 commuter turboprops to secondary and tertiary destinations in West Germany not served by any scheduled carrier from Tegel at that time.[2][4]

Tempelhof Airways also operated two Saab 340 turboprops out of TCA for passenger ops in the later years as well as a Learjet 25 and Learjet 35 for medivac flights. The medivac flights were done for the German Air Rescue in Stuttgart. Lastly the "Christop 31" medivac helicopter was based at TCA until the airbase closed down, at which time it was moved to a hospital location. This helo provided medivac coverage for the entire city of Berlin.

With the exception of Tempelhof Airways and the medivac aircraft, most of the civil traffic was then routed to Tegel, with TCA used mostly by U.S. military airlift traffic until the end of the Cold War.

Berlin For Lunch Bunch[edit]

Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules 62-1828. The Aircraft fitted with various sensors and used by the 7405th Operations Sqdn as spyplane operating from Frankfurt/Rhein-Main AB, West Germany. 1828 is shown landing at Tempelhof Cemtral Airport, West Berlin, on 14 April 1981. Note the fake MAC markings (the 7405th was subordinate to USAFE), probably designed to enable these C-130Es to blend in at the 7405th's Rhein-Main base.

During the Berlin Airlift, the United States began to use Templehof as a base for intelligence-gathering. As the Soviets modernised their units and increased their presence, it was vital to gain as much information on them as possible. C-47s, B-25s and other aircraft of the 7499th (later 7405th) Support Squadron were acquired and modified with cameras and electronic monitoring equipment. They occasionally flew as part of the airlift stream, diligently collecting photography and ELINT information. These flights continued after the end of the blockade, making daily flights to Templehof from USAF bases in West Germany. The 7405th had been openly tasked with the courier mission to West Berlin, meaning it was to conduct daily flights to and from Tempelhof carrying passengers and priority cargo. It was known as the "Berlin for Lunch Bunch". Under this cover the newer aircraft were to continue their collection using better sensors, including the first infrared imagery sensors.[5]

The 7405th's corridor/Control Zone collection missions, with their pivot at Tempelhof Central Airport, continued through the 1980s. It should be noted that Soviet Intelligence were well-aware of these flights, and would monitor the "Electronic Bird" or "Photo Bird" as they called them while the aircraft flew though the corridor airspace. Then came the 1989 collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the fall of the Berlin Wall; the 1990 German reunification, and the phase-out of Soviet armed forces from Eastern Europe. The 7405th helped monitor this until shortly before Germany was reunified. On 27 September 1990, the last intelligence collection mission was flown; then, on 3 October, the Berlin Air Corridors and Control Zone officially disappeared. From 1948 to 1990 the "Berlin for Lunch Bunch" had flown over 10,000 missions to West Berlin. Now it had flown its last, Germany and the city of Berlin were again unified, and the 7405th Operations Squadron faded into military aviation and intelligence history. Its mission was completed.[5]

Return to German control[edit]

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, the presence of American forces in Berlin ended. The USAF 7350th Air Base Group at Tempelhof was inactivated on 29 January 1993. In July 1994, with President Clinton in attendance, the British, French, and American air and land forces in Berlin were inactivated in a ceremony on the Four Ring Parade field at Tempelhof in accordance with the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany. The Western Allies returned a united city of Berlin to the unified German government.

The U.S. Army closed its Berlin Army Aviation Detachment at TCA in August 1994, ending a 49-year American military presence in Berlin.

Units[edit]

United States Air Force[edit]

The main USAF unit at Tempelhof was the 7350th Air Base Group under various designations:

  • 7350th Air Base Group 1 July 1948 - 29 January 1993
7350th Air Base Group (1948-1954)
7350th Air Base Squadron (1954-1958)
7350th Air Support Squadron (1958-1964)
7350th Support Group (1964-1973)
7350th Air Base Group (1973-1993)

Other Major USAFE units at Tempelhof AB were:

  • 473rd Air Service Group, 5 July 1945 - 1 December 1946
  • 788th Air Base Unit 10 September 1947 - 3 June 1948
  • 301st Troop Carrier Squadron 4 July 1945 - 15 February 1946
Part of 441st Troop Carrier Group
Part of 313th Troop Carrier Group
  • 12th Troop Carrier Squadron 5 May 1947 - 20 January 1948
  • 1946th AACS Squadron (later 1946th Communications Squadon)(1 November 1954 - 1992)

Tenant units included the 6912th Electronic Security Group,[6] part of the Electronic Security Command, an organization belonging directly to Air Force Intelligence.[7]

United States Army[edit]

  • 100th Base Complement Squadron (1945–1947)
  • Army Aviation Detachment Berlin (1951–1994)
  • US Army Courier Service, Detachment Berlin (1960–1990)[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

Further reading[edit]

  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.

External links[edit]