The airfield, Fliegerhorst Gatow, was officially opened by Adolf Hitler in September 1935 and housed two of the most important Luftwaffe training academies. Throughout the Second World War it was in service with the Luftwaffe and used by Adolf Hitler personally to fly from Berlin to the Berghof – the Eagle’s Nest on the Obersalzberg.
After the Battle of Berlin the airfield was briefly in Russian hands from April 1945 before it came under British control. Even though the first British planes landed in July the same year, it was officially in British hands from 30 August 1945 and was renamed into Royal Air Force Gatow, or RAF Gatow.
The Berlin Blockade and the Berlin Airlift
The first major crisis of the cold war started after the Soviets blocked all roads, railroads and waterways into the Western sector of Berlin. The Deutches Mark, the German currency, was not accepted by the Soviets and was not accepted as payment. As response the Allied flew in food and recourses on a daily base from 26 June 1948 until 30 September May 1949 over a period of 15 months. They used the British RAF Gatow airfield, the United States airfield Tempelhof and the Airfield Tegel in the French sector, to drop food and fuel into Berlin. They had to feed and take care of 2,2 million civilians, 8000 Allied soldiers together with 22.000 family members.
The US Air Force had delivered the almost 1.800.000 short tons and the RAF 541,937 short tons. 2,334,374short tons in total on almost 280.000 flights to Berlin. In addition Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South African air crews assisted the RAF during the Berlin blockade. The French also supported but only to provide for their military garrison, they needed their airplanes in the Battle for Indochina.
When the Soviets noticed their blockade wasn’t useful, they dropped their blockade. The Allied kept on flying goods into Berlin to be sure the blockade wasn’t reinstalled after they stopped the drops. On 12 May 1949 the Soviets ceased the blockade, The last official day of the Berlin Airlift was on 30 September 1949.
The museum has a collection of more than 200,000 items, including 155 aero planes, 5.000 uniforms and 30.000 books. There are also displays on the history of the airfield when it was used by the RAF. There are long term restoration projects, like the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. Some exhibits are shortly removed for restoration, repainted or lend to other museums.
Check out the museum website for opening times. It takes 2 to 4 hours to enjoy the exhibits in this museum. Do check up front if the items you would like to see are on display when you visit, we missed some aircraft on our visit. Object could be stored in the depot and the museum is active in lend an lease to other museums or projects.