Danville Vice Mayor Mike Doyle leaves today for Germany where he will be among 35 U.S. veterans celebrating on May 12 the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, the American’s successful counter to Russia’s attempt to blockade European supply lines after World War II.
Doyle, who will turn 80 in August, was stationed for four years on Erding Air Base near Munich, where he was an assistant to the base’s two chaplains, one Protestant and one Catholic. (And no, it’s hard to believe that Doyle is 79 years old. We should wish to age as well as he has.)
“We had to figure out a way to keep the people of Berlin from starving and freezing to death,” Doyle said. “We were young and we were working 18 to 20 hours a day. It was a marvelous effort.”
Doyle participated in the 50th anniversary a decade ago but this trip is different on two fronts.
For one, only 35 members of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association will participate compared with more than 100 a decade ago. Advancing years has taken its toll on the veterans. Many can no longer travel or have passed on.
“The requirement to participate was that you had to be able to walk,” Doyle said. “Those trains in Europe leave on time and wait for no one.”
But on a happier note, Doyle and his wife, JoeAnne, will for the first time visit the German base where he was stationed. Erding Air Base was returned to the Germans after the war and Doyle was unable a decade ago during the 50th anniversary to gain access to its grounds.
This trip, Doyle says his congressman, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, made it happen.
“We are going to be guests of the German Air Force, stay on the base and have a chance to watch flight maneuvers,” Doyle said. “There is a German captain who speaks pretty good English! It will be my first chance to show JoeAnne around the place where I lived for four years.”
Doyle enlisted in the military in 1947 at age 17 after he graduated from high school in Mahanoi City, Penn. He was initially in the Army Air Force but the Air Force split from the Army later that year.
After his tour in Germany, the Air Force sent Doyle far from his home in Pennsylvania to Camp Parks near Dublin, where he would meet his future wife, JoeAnne. The two set up household in Danville, raised five children and as the saying goes, the rest is history.