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The Big Lift

The Big Lift(1950)

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In the spring of 1948, the U.S. and Britain mount an airlift of food and supplies to Berlin to counteract a Russian blockade intended to force the Allies out of the divided city. Danny MacCullough and Hank Kowalski, members of the 19th Troop Carrier Squadron based in Hawaii, are transferred to Germany to become part of the new 53rd Squadron that will ferry supplies into the beleaguered city. While Hank, who was reluctant to go to Germany, is sent to Berlin to work in ground control, Flight Engineer Danny is stationed at Rhein Main. As almost seventy percent of what they carry to Berlin is coal, several months after their arrival Danny's plane, which was named "The White Hibiscus" when it left Hawaii has been renamed "The Black Hibiscus." One day, the plane becomes the air lift's 100,000th flight to land at Tempelhof Airport and representatives of the city's people present gifts to the crew members. War widow Frederica Burkhardt, on behalf of the women of Berlin, makes the presentation to Danny. After the ceremony, Associated Press reporter Richard O'Malley tells Danny that he wants to do a story about him bringing a load of flour from Rhein Main into the hands of the Berliners. As flight personnel are not normally permitted to enter the city and because he would like to see Frederica again, Danny agrees. After he finishes his work with O'Malley, Danny agrees to meet Hank and his girl friend Gerda for dinner and goes looking for Frederica, whom he finds at work clearing a bomb site. When Danny's uniform accidentally becomes covered with poster paste, Frederica takes it to be cleaned. Later, when she returns for the uniform, the shop is closed as the owner's son has been arrested by the Russians. On a subway journey to the owner's home, Danny learns a little about how the Black Market operates throughout the city. The owner has gone into the Russian Sector in search of his son so Danny, still in civilian clothes, and Frederica go to meet Hank and Gerda at a club. Hank treats Gerda badly as she asks him to explain concepts of democracy and American government which he is ill-equipped to do. Frederica tells them that her father was a professor at Berlin University who spoke out against the Nazi regime and is still missing. A male patron has been watching the foursome in the club, and Hank feels he has seen him before. When the man leaves, Hank follows him after remembering that the man was one of his guards in a P.O.W. camp during the war. Danny and the others arrive just in time to prevent Hank from killing the man, but when the U.S. military police arrive, Danny, who has no identification papers runs off with Frederica into the Russian Sector. As they attempt to cross into the British Sector, the Russians try to stop them, but Frederica tells them that Danny is her husband, injured in the war and unable to speak. While the British argue over jurisdiction with the Russians, and an international incident almost arises, Danny and Frederica simply wander off in the confusion. Although Danny and Frederica are in love, Hank warns Danny that she is only looking for a way of getting to the U.S. Some days later, Hank has run a check on Frederica and learns that her husband was in the S.S. and her father was not a university professor. Danny shows her the information, and she admits that she has lied to him as she believes that being dependent on the generosity of others, one has to make oneself more pitiful and brave. Danny walks away from her but after walking through the city and seeing many people living in great privation, returns to her. He then applies to the squadron's major for the necessary permission to marry a German civilian and is told that, even if permission is granted, the marriage cannot take place until thirty days before his departure. Because a rotation of personnel has already started, however, Danny's return to the U.S. is soon scheduled, and he arranges to marry Frederica immediately, with Hank and Gerda as witnesses. Meanwhile, Frederica has received a letter from an Ernst Mirbach in St. Louis, Missouri. Stieber, a neighbor of Frederica who has also become friendly with Danny, sees her addressing an envelope to Mirbach and offers to mail it for her but opens it instead. He learns that Frederica is asking Ernst to find out how long she must stay with Danny before she can get a divorce, without being expelled from the U.S. At the burgermeister's office, where they are to be married, Danny shows Frederica the letter Steiner has given him and leaves. Later, Danny says goodbye to Gerda who, is going to remain in Berlin to try to help create a new Germany. At Tempelhof there is news that the Russians may have lifted the blockade, and as Hank sees Danny off for home, he says that he is staying on permanently to help the recovery effort.