Today in history: JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech

In 1963, President Kennedy delivered one of the most famous addresses of his presidency

President John F. Kennedy delivers his speech "I am a Berliner" in front of the city hall in West Berlin.
(Image credit: AP Photo)

June 26

On this day. 1948: President Truman ordered the Berlin Airlift — a 24/7 delivery of supplies for West Berlin, after it was cut off by the Soviet Union. The U.S. Air Force and Britain's Royal Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing food, fuel, and supplies to West Berliners. By the spring of 1949, the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. The Soviets, embarrassed, gave up their blockade in May of that year — a major Cold War victory for the West. The lifting of the blockade resulted in the creation of two separate states: East Germany and West Germany.

On this day. 1963: In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most famous speeches of his presidency — his "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) address — to an audience of 450,000. Condemning the Berlin Wall, which he said showed the failure of the communist system, Kennedy made it clear that the United States would support West Germany, an enclave of freedom that was surrounded on all sides by communist-controlled East Germany. The Berlin Wall was built by Communist East Germany in 1961 to keep its citizens from fleeing to the West. It was guarded around the clock by heavily armed soldiers, who were trained to shoot anyone trying to escape. During the 28 years the wall stood, some 5,000 people attempted to escape, an estimated 600 were killed. The Berlin Wall was the most visible symbol of the Cold War and a hated symbol of communist oppression.

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Quote of the day

"There are many people in the world who really don't understand — or say they don't — what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin." -John F. Kennedy

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