Before it was used to refer to the day after Thanksgiving, the term “Black Friday” was given to Friday, August 13th, 1948.
That was a day in which poor weather and inefficient scheduling of planes threatened to bring down the Luftbrücke (air bridge) between Western Germany and the city of West Berlin, which had been cut completely off by a Soviet Blockade. The flights of supplies were needed for the people living within West Berlin to survive.
After that Friday, Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner reorganized the planes and the air bridge was successful. The Soviet blockade ended on May 12th, 1949 after an astounding effort on the part of Tunner, who orchestrated a twenty-four hour period over Easter Sunday, April 16th and 17th, when planes took off every thirty-six seconds and over 12,000 tons of supplies were delivered.
In “Operation Vittles” as it was known, planes flew twenty-four hours a day to provide the thousands of tons of food and coal needed. All this was done in order to adhere to Truman’s resolve that abandoning Berlin to the Soviets was not an option. As the mayor of Berlin at the time, Ernst Reuter, said: “You cannot abandon this city and its people. You should not abandon it.”
Strange that the name associated with a time of true depravation ended up referring to a day of over-consumption, but there it is.
Happy Black Friday. -LH