Font Size

Notice body

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University, or OLLI at Auburn, will host a brown bag lunch on Wednesday, April 26, at the Clarion Inn and Suites at 1577 South College St. The brown bag will run from 12:30-1:30 p.m. led by guest speaker Paul Harris, a professor of Political Science and Associate Director of the Auburn University Honors College. His presentation entitled “To Save a City: General Lucius Clay and the Berlin Airlift” will highlight the extraordinary contributions made by the Marietta, Georgia, native who was
instrumental in saving Berlin after the Russians occupied the city and blocked access to its three Western-held sectors.

After his graduation from West Point in 1918, Clay returned to the south and took a job as a professor of Military Science at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University. He worked with the Corps of Engineers during the Great Depression, and when the Second World War broke out, he was assigned to the Office of War Mobilization. In November of 1944 General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent Clay to repair the port at Cherbourg, France, which was vital to incoming Allied armies.

From 1945 to 1949, following Germany’s surrender, General Clay became military governor of the U.S. Zone of Occupation. During this time, with a hostile Soviet government blocking access to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin, he led the daily operation of feeding, housing and clothing war survivors, including Holocaust victims. On June 24, 1948, the Berlin Airlift began, and by the time it concluded nearly a year later on May 12, 1949, over 278,000 flights ferried 2.3 million tons of food, coal for fuel, medicine and clothing into occupied Berlin.

Clay’s upbringing in the South following the Civil War and Reconstruction impressed upon him the humiliation of an occupying army which in later years influenced his philosophy of humane treatment toward the subjugated Germans. Among the changes that Clay sought in Allied policy was the rejection of French and Soviet plans to eliminate heavy industry and factories in Germany. Instead, he created political and economic reform which supported democratic values and the adoption of free-market principles. Clay’s leadership in supporting reconstruction in Germany fortified the country against Russian aggression, and led to a legacy of accord between Germany and the United States which exists today.

Clay’s foresight and leadership during the Berlin crisis was critical in fortifying German reconstruction in the early days of the Cold War. His graveside memorial aptly bears the words “defender of freedom,” a lasting tribute to a remarkable military general.

Everyone is invited to attend the Brown Bag. OLLI members, friends and guests may bring their own lunch. Coffee and water are provided.

Visit OLLI at Auburn’s website, email or call Linda Shook, OLLI Director, at 844-3105 for more information.