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Rubble to Runway: The Triumph of Tegel

Tegel Airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Tegel Airfield. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Royal Air Force C-47s being unloaded in the beginning days of flight operations at Tegel. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Royal Air Force C-47s being unloaded in the beginning days of flight operations at Tegel. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force planners knew that the success of the Berlin Airlift depended upon rapidly expanding the capacity of Berlin airports. Potential at Tempelhof and Gatow for expansion was limited and difficult. A third, new airlift terminal facility was desperately needed. A site was selected at Tegel in the French Sector. Construction began Aug. 5, 1948, and was finished Nov. 5, 1948. This involved the construction of a 5,500-foot runway, 6,020 feet of taxiway, 4,400 feet of access road, 2,750 feet of access railroad and over one million square feet of apron area used for unloading operations and aircraft parking. 17,000 German civilians, mostly women, primarily using hand tools and working in three shifts, were responsible for this accomplishment. The greater part of the runway and taxiways were constructed using shattered brick debris from the destroyed buildings of Berlin, then paved over with asphalt ... asphalt, which had been flown into Berlin using 10,000 55-gallon drums!

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