RHEIN-MAIN AIR BASE, Germany – One of the most touching symbols of Rhein-Main’s history will soon find a new home at Ramstein.
The base chapel’s stained-glass memorial window, commemorating the U.S. servicemembers who lost their lives during the Berlin Airlift, was removed Aug. 2.
“The window will hang in the Ramstein passenger terminal as a lasting tribute to the legacy of Rhein-Main and the sacrifices of men and women during the Berlin Airlift,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Dennis Kitterman, 469th Air Base Group chapel.
According to historical records, Tech. Sgt. C.G. Ricker first came up with the idea for a memorial window shortly after the base chapel’s construction in 1950.
The window, 8 feet in diameter and made of 1,500 individual hand-cut pieces of glass held together with 3,000 soldering points, was donated by the Rhein-Main Airmen’s Club. The memorial was designed by Karl Lutz and produced under the supervision of art glassmaster H. Weissenrieder from Offenbach, Germany.
From June 1948 to September 1949, pilots from Allied bases in Germany delivered more than 2 million tons of supplies to the starving city of Berlin. After more than 275,000 flights, the Allies were able to save the city and force the Soviets to lift the blockade.
The pattern of the window symbolizes the Berlin Airlift. The abstract man on the left panel represents the American people. Two figures on the right symbolize a woman and child for whom the Americans gave their lives. The design in the background looks like a wall representing the blockade. Birds were used to represent the airplanes, which supplied the cutoff city with necessities. Also, along the bottom of the memorial are the bodies of birds lying dead upon the altar of sacrifice.
Included in the memorial window is a Latin inscription: “Vita Nostra Fratribus Laborantibus,” or “Our Lives for Brothers in Distress,” the theme for the memorial window.
“I was a child from the Berlin Airlift,” said Celeste Warner-Heymann, a USO staff member and long-time church goer.
“I remember sacking potatoes for the Berliners to keep them alive.
“The memorial is not just the history of Rhein-Main, but in a way, it’s also my history,” she added. “It’s with deep sadness that Rhein-Main closes.”
The window will be taken to a specialist for preventative maintenance and to fix any damage the window may have received over the years.
The solder holding the glass in place will be replaced where needed and reinforced to strengthen the window for its new home in the Ramstein passenger terminal.