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Berlin Blockade

Berlin Blockade
The success of the Airlift was humiliating to the Soviets, who had repeatedly claimed it could never possibly work. When it became clear that it did work, the blockade was lifted in May. One lasting legacy of the Airlift is the three airports in the former western zones of the city, which served as the primary gateways to Berlin for another fifty years.

Postwar division of Germany

Berliners watching a C-54 land at Tempelhof Airport (1948) The Berlin Blockade, also known as the "German hold-up" (24 June 1948 – 11 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first cold war international crisis that resulted in a casualty. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western force’s railway and road access to the western sectors of Berlin that they had been controlling. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Sovietcontrolled regions to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving them practical control over the entire city. In response, the Western Allies formed the Berlin Airlift to bring supplies to the people of Berlin. The airlift to supply the German 6th Army at the battle of Stalingrad required 300 tons of food per day and rarely came even close to delivering this; the Berlin effort would require at least 4,000 tons a day, well over ten times as much. The United States Air Force, Royal Air Force, and other Commonwealth nations flew over 200,000 flights that provided 13,000 tons of food daily, for the next year.[1] By the spring of 1949, the effort was clearly succeeding, and by April the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously flowed into the city via rail.

The red area of Germany (above) is Soviet controlled East Germany. German territory east of the Oder-Neisse line (light beige) was ceded to Poland, while a portion of the easternmost section of Germany East Prussia, Königsberg, was annexed by the USSR. When World War II ended in Europe on 8 May 1945, Soviet and Western troops were stretched across Germany on a line running roughly along the Elbe, although branching off in several locations. Units of the (re-forming) French army were also present in southwest Germany. From 17 July to 2 August 1945, the victorious Allied Powers reached the Potsdam Agreement on the fate of postwar Europe, calling for the division of the defeated Germany into four temporary occupation zones (thus re-affirming principles laid out earlier by the Yalta Conference), roughly located around their respective armies’ existing


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locations.[2] Additionally, the German capital of Berlin would be divided into four zones.[2] Berlin was located 100 miles inside the Soviet occupation zone.[2] The Soviet zone produced much of Germany’s food supply, while the British and American zones had to rely on food imports even before the war.[2] In addition, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin ordered the incorporation of part of eastern Poland into the Soviet Union, while compensating what remained of Poland by ceding to it a large portion of Germany that lay east of the Oder-Neisse line and contained much of Germany’s fertile land.[3] Administration of occupied Germany was coordinated by the Four Power Allied Control Council (ACC).[4]

Berlin Blockade

Sectors of divided Berlin

Morgenthau Plan
Part of the overall agreement at Yalta was encoded in the Morgenthau Plan, which was based on the basic concept that Germany’s economy under the "level of industry" plans would be reduced to 50% of its 1938 capacity, so that a militarized Germany could not re-emerge in the future. The Soviets and French were in favor of the plans, while the British - who were occupying the region least capable of providing food for its population were opposed. United States Joint Chiefs of Staff ("JCS") directive 1067 embodied the Morgenthau Plan’s goals, but proved impractical because it prohibited actions necessary for the occupation to function, banning personal interactions between Germans and Americans.[5] Former U.S. President Herbert Hoover in one of his reports from Germany, argued for a change in occupation policy, amongst other things stating::"There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ’pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it."[6]

The only three permissible air corridors to Berlin. not have a Marxist-Leninist or Soviet orientation.[8] SED leaders then called for the "establishment of an anti-fascist. democratic regime, a parliamentary democratic republic" while the Soviet Military Administration suppressed all other political activities.[9] Factories, equipment, technicians, managers and skilled personnel were forcibly transferred to the Soviet Union.[10] In a June 1945 meeting, Stalin told German communist leaders that he expected to slowly undermine the British position within their occupation zone, that the United States would withdraw within a year or two and that nothing then would stand in the way of a united Germany under communist control within the Soviet orbit.[11] Stalin and other leaders told visiting

The Soviet zone and Berlin access rights
In the Soviet-controlled eastern German zone, the major task of the ruling communist party in Germany was to channel Soviet orders down to both the administrative apparatus and the other bloc parties pretending that these were initiatives of its own.[7] Soviet authorities forcibly unified the Communist Party of Germany and Social Democratic Party in the Socialist Unity Party ("SED"), claiming at the time that it would


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Bulgarian and Yugoslavian delegations in early 1946 that Germany must be both Soviet and communist.[11] In addition, no formal agreement guaranteeing rail and road access to Berlin through the Soviet zone had been created, with western leaders relying at the time on Soviet goodwill to preserve a tacit right to such access.[12] At the end of the war, the western allies assumed that the Soviets’ refusal to grant any cargo access other than one rail line, limited to ten trains per day, was temporary, but the Soviet refused expansion to the several routes proposed by those allies.[13] The Soviets also only granted three limited air corridors of access to Berlin from Hamburg, Bückeburg and Frankfurt.[13] In 1946 the Soviets stopped delivering agricultural goods from their zone in eastern Germany, and Clay responded by stopping shipments of dismantled industries from western Germany. As a result, the Soviets started a public relations campaign against American policy, and began to obstruct the administrative work of all four zones of occupation.

Berlin Blockade

The Marshall Plan

Berlin focus and 1946 elections
Berlin quickly became the focal point of both U.S. and Soviet efforts to re-align Europe in their respective visions. As Molotov noted, "What happens to Berlin, happens to Germany; what happens to Germany, happens to Europe."[14] Berlin had suffered enormous damage, its prewar population of 4.6 million people was reduced to 2.8 million, and the city could only produce 2% of its food needs.[12] Western allies were not permitted to enter the city for two months after Germany’s surrender, during which time the local populace had suffered brutal treatment at the hands of the Soviet army.[12] After brutal treatment, forced immigration, political repression and a particularly harsh winter in 1945-1946, Germans in the Soviet-controlled zone were hostile to Soviet endeavors.[11] Local elections in mid-1946 resulted in a massive anti-communist protest vote, especially in the Soviet sector of Berlin.[11] Berlin’s citizens overwhelmingly elected democratic members to its city council (with an 86% majority) — strongly rejecting the election’s Communist candidates. The Eastern Bloc created during and after World War II. The newly annexed or expanded Soviet Socialist Republics are in light red. Soviet Satellite states are in pink. Further information: Marshall Plan and Eastern bloc Comporting with the view of United States occupation zone commander General Lucius D. Clay, the Joint Chiefs declared that the "complete revival of Germany industry, particularly coal mining" was now of "primary importance" to American security.[15] In January 1947, Truman appointed General George Marshall as Secretary of State, scrapped JCS 1067 and supplanted it with JCS 1779, which decreed that an orderly and prosperous Europe requires the economic contributions of a stable and productive Germany."[15] Administration officials met with Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov and others to press for an economically selfsufficient Germany, including a detailed accounting of the industrial plants, goods and infrastructure already removed by the Soviets. [16] After six weeks of negotiations, Molotov refused the demands and the talks were

Political division

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adjourned.[16] Marshall was particularly discouraged after personally meeting with Stalin, who expressed little interest in a solution to German economic problems.[16] The United States concluded that, for Europe’s sake, a solution could not wait any longer.[16] In a June 5, 1947 speech,[17] Marshall announced a comprehensive program of American assistance to all European countries wanting to participate, including the Soviet Union and those of Eastern Europe, called the Marshall Plan.[16] Stalin opposed the Marshall Plan. He had built up a protective belt of Soviet controlled nations on his Western border, the Eastern bloc, that included Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.[18] Stalin wanted to maintain this buffer zone of states combined with a weakened Germany under Soviet control.[9] He felt that this U.S. aid would "buy" a proU.S. re-alignment of the new Europe. He stated "This is a ploy by Truman. It is nothing like Lend-Lease — a different situation. They don’t want to help us. What they want is to infiltrate European countries."[19] While Molotov was initially interested in the program and attended its early meetings, he later described it as "dollar imperialism". Fearing American political, cultural and economic penetration, Stalin eventually forbade Soviet Eastern bloc countries of the newly formed Cominform from accepting the aid.[16] In Czechoslovakia, that required a Sovietbacked Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948,[20] the brutality of which shocked Western powers more than any event so far and set in a motion a brief scare that war would occur and swept away the last vestiges of opposition to the Marshall Plan in the United States Congress.[21]

Berlin Blockade
and American trains to check the identity of all passengers.[24] As outlined in an announcement on 7 March 1948, all of the governments present approved extension of the Marshall Plan to Germany, finalized the economic merger of Germany and agreed upon the establishment of a federal system of government for western Germany.[22][23] After a March 9 meeting between Stalin and key military advisers, on March 12, 1948, a secret memorandum was written to Molotov outlining a plan to achieve Allied policy favorable to the Soviet Union by "regulating" access to Berlin.[21] The ACC met for the last time on 20 March 1948, where Vasily Sokolovsky demanded to know the outcome of the London Conference and after being told by negotiators that they had not yet heard about the final results from their government, Sokolovsky stated "I see no sense in continuing this meeting, and I declare it adjourned."[21] The entire Soviet delegation arose and walked out. Truman later noted "For most of Germany, this act merely formalized what had been an obvious fact for some time, namely, that the four-power control machinery had become unworkable. For the city of Berlin, however, this was the curtain-raiser for a major crisis."[20]

April Crisis and the Little Lift
On March 25, 1948, the Soviets issued orders restricting Western military and passenger traffic between the American, British and French occupation zones and Berlin sectors.[24] These new measures began on April 1 along with an announcement that no cargo could leave Berlin by rail without permission of the Soviet commander, while each train and truck was to be searched by Soviet authorities.[24] On April 2, General Clay ordered all military trains to stop making the trip and to deliver supplies to military garrison by airplane, in what was called the "Little Lift".[24] The Soviets eased their restrictions on Allied military trains on 10 April 1948, but continued to periodically interrupt rail and road traffic during the next 75 days while the United States continued supplying military forces with cargo aircraft during that time period.[25] Internal Soviet reports in April stated that "Our control and restrictive measures have dealt a strong blow at the prestige of the Americans and British in Germany" and that the Americans have "admitted" that

Western Germany beginnings
Meanwhile, because of differing economic characteristics of the British and United States occupation zones, the countries combined the two zones in what was referred to as "Bizonia".[11] (to be re-named the Trizone, when France would join it). Representatives of these three government and the Benelux nations -- Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemborg -- met twice in London in the first half of 1948, despite Soviet threats to ignore any decisions taken.[22][23] In response to the announcement of this meeting, in late January 1948, the Soviets began stopping British


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the idea of an airlift would be too expensive.[26] On April 9, Soviet officials demanded that American military personnel maintaining communication equipment in the Eastern zone must withdraw, which prevented the use of navigation beacons marking aircraft routes.[25] On April 20, the Soviets demanded that all barges secure clearance before entering the Soviet zone.[27]

Berlin Blockade
introduce a new currency in their zone, that was thereafter called the "Ostmark".[30] That same day, a Soviet representative told the other three occupying countries that "We are warning both you and the population of Berlin that we shall apply economic and administrative sanctions that will lead to circulation in Berlin exclusively of the currency of the Soviet occupation zone." [30] The Soviets launched a massive propaganda campaign condemning Britain, the United States and France by radio, newspaper and loudspeaker.[30] The Soviets conducted well-advertised military maneuvers just outside the city, rumors of the potential occupation using Mongolian troops spread quickly and German communists in the Soviet sector of Berlin demonstrated, rioted and attacked proWestern German leaders.[30] On June 24, the Soviets severed land and water communications between the nonSoviet zones and Berlin.[30] That same day, they halted all rail and barge traffic in and out of Berlin.[30] On June 25, the Soviets stopped supplying food to the civilian population in the non-Soviet sectors of Berlin.[30] Motor traffic from Berlin to the non-Soviet zones was permitted, but this required a 23 kilometer detour to a ferry crossing because of supposed "repairs" to a bridge.[30] They also cut off electricity delivered from generators in Soviet zones relied upon by Berlin.[29] Surface traffic from non-Soviet zones to Berlin was blockaded, leaving open only the air corridors.[30] The Soviets rejected arguments that the occupation rights in the nonSoviet sectors of Berlin, and the use of the supply routes during the previous three years, had given Britain, France and the United States a legal claim to use of the highways, tunnels, railroads, and canals. Relying on Soviet good will after the war, Britain, France and the United States had never negotiated a pact with the Soviets guaranteeing these ground passage rights to Berlin through the Soviet zone.[12] The Soviets refused to honor the currency, even in Berlin, but the Allies had already transported 250,000,000 Deutsche marks into the city; so, it quickly became the standard currency in all zones. This new currency, along with the Marshall Plan that backed it, appeared to be able to revitalize Germany against the wishes of the Soviets. Further, by introducing the currency into western Berlin,

The Currency Crisis
Creation of an economically-stable western Germany required reform of the unstable Reichsmark German currency introduced after the war. The Soviets had debased the Reichsmark by excessive printing, resulting in Germans using cigarettes as a de facto currency or for bartering.[28][29] The Soviets opposed such reforms.[28][29] In February 1948, the Americans and British had proposed to the ACC that a new German currency be created, replacing the over-circulated and de-valued Reichsmark. The Soviets refused to accept this proposal, hoping to continue the German recession in keeping with their policy of a weak Germany. Anticipating the introduction of new currency by the other countries in the non-Soviet zones, in May 1948, the Soviet Union directed its military to introduce its own new currency and to permit only the Soviet currency to be used in their occupied Berlin area if the other countries introduced a different currency.[28] On June 18, the United States, Britain and France announced that, on June 21, the Deutsche Mark would be used, but the Soviets refused to permit its use as legal tender in Berlin.[28]

Berlin Airlift start
Blockade beginnings
The day after the June 18 announcement of the new Deutsche Mark, Soviet guards halted all passenger trains and traffic on the autobahn, delayed Western and German freight shipments and required that all water transport secure special Soviet permission.[28] On June 21, the day the Deutsche Mark was introduced, the Soviets halted a United States military supply train to Berlin and turned it back to Western Germany.[28] On June 22, the Soviets announced that they would


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it threatened to create a bastion of economic resurgence deep within the Soviet zone. Stalin, considering this a provocation, now wanted the West completely out of Berlin. At the time, West Berlin had thirty-five days’ worth of food, and forty-five days’ worth of coal. Militarily, the Americans and British were greatly outnumbered due to the post-war scaling-back of their armies. The United States, like other western countries, had disbanded most of its troops and was largely inferior in the European theater, though it still possessed its nuclear deterrent.[31] The entire United States army had been reduced to 552,000 men by February 1948.[32] Military forces in non-Soviet Berlin sectors totaled only 8,973 Americans, 7,606 British and 6,100 French.[33] Soviet military forces in the Soviet sector that surrounded Berlin totaled one and a half million men.[34] The two United States regiments in Berlin would have provided little resistance against a Soviet attack.[35] General Lucius D. Clay, in charge of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany, summed up the reasons for not retreating in a cable to Washington, D.C., on 13 June 1948: "There is no practicability in maintaining our position in Berlin and it must not be evaluated on that basis... We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent."[36] Believing that Britain, France and the United States had little option other than to acquiesce, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany celebrated the beginning of the blockade.[37] General Clay felt that the Soviets were bluffing about Berlin since they would not want to be viewed as starting a Third World War. Stalin did not want a war, and Soviet actions were aimed at exerting military and political pressure on the West to obtain concessions, relying on the West’s prudence and unwillingness to provoke a war.[33]

Berlin Blockade
that cargo aircraft were some sort of military threat. In the face of unarmed aircraft refusing to turn around, the only way to enforce the blockade would have been to shoot them down. An airlift would force the Soviet Union into the position of either taking military action, in a morally reprehensible fashion, that would break their own agreements, or else to back down. Forcing this decision would require the airlift to actually work, however. If the supplies could not be flown in fast enough, Soviet help would eventually be needed in order to prevent starvation. Clay was told to take advice from General Curtis LeMay, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, to see if an airlift was possible. LeMay replied "We can haul anything."[38] When American forces consulted Britain’s Royal Air Force about a possible joint airlift, they learned the RAF was already running an airlift in support of British troops in Berlin. General Clay’s counterpart, General Sir Brian Robertson, was ready with some concrete numbers. During the Little Lift earlier that year, British Air Commodore Reginald Waite had calculated the resources required to support the entire city. His calculations indicated that they would need to supply seventeen hundred calories per person per day, giving a grand total of 646 tons of flour and wheat, 125 tons of cereal, 64 tons of fat, 109 tons of meat and fish, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes, 180 tons of sugar, 11 tons of coffee, 19 tons of powdered milk, five tons of whole milk for children, three tons of fresh yeast for baking, 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables, 38 tons of salt and ten tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over two million people alive.[38] Additionally, the city needed to be kept heated and powered, which would require another 3,475 tons of coal and gasoline.[39] Carrying all this in would not be easy. The post-war demobilization left the U.S. forces in Europe with only two squadrons of C-47 Skytrain aircraft, which could each carry about 3.5 tons of cargo. Clay estimated these would be able to haul about 300 tons of supplies a day. The RAF was somewhat better prepared, since they had already moved some aircraft into the German area, and they expected to be able to supply about 400 tons a day. This was not nearly enough to move the 5,000 tons a day that would be needed, but these numbers could be increased as new

Deciding on an airlift
Although the ground routes had never been negotiated, the same was not true of the air. On 30 November 1945, it had been agreed, in writing, that there would be three twentymile-wide air corridors providing free access to Berlin.[38] Additionally, unlike a force of tanks and trucks, the Soviets could not claim


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Berlin Blockade
occurred. He had been the commander of the U.S. China-Burma-India Theater in 1944–45 and he had a detailed knowledge of the World War II American airlift from India over The Hump of the Himalayas to China. He was in favor of the airlift option, giving it a major boost.[36] The British and Americans agreed to start a joint operation without delay; the U.S. action retained the name "Operation Vittles," while the British one was called "Operation Plainfare"

The Airlift begins
C-47 Skytrains unloading at Tempelhof Airport during Berlin Airlift. aircraft arrived from the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and Canada. The RAF would be relied on to increase its numbers quickly. It could fly additional aircraft in from Britain in a single hop, bringing the RAF fleet to about 150 C-47s and 40 of the larger Avro Yorks with a 10 ton payload. With this fleet the British contribution was expected to rise to 750 tons a day in the short term. For a longer-term operation, the U.S. would have to add additional aircraft as soon as possible, and those would have to be as large as possible while still able to fly into the Berlin airports. Only one such aircraft type was suitable, the new, four-engine C-54 Skymaster, and its U.S. Navy equivalent, the R5D. Given the feasibility assessment made by the British, the airlift concept appeared to be the best course of action. A remaining concern was the population of Berlin. Clay called in Ernst Reuter, the Mayor-elect of Berlin, who was accompanied by his aide, Willy Brandt. Clay told Reuter, "Look, I am ready to try an airlift. I can’t guarantee it will work. I am sure that even at its best, people are going to be cold and people are going to be hungry. And if the people of Berlin won’t stand that, it will fail. And I don’t want to go into this unless I have your assurance that the people will be heavily in approval." Reuter, although skeptical, assured Clay that Berlin would make all the necessary sacrifices and that the Berliners would support his actions.[36] General Albert Wedemeyer, the U.S. Army Chief of Plans and Operations, was in Europe on an inspection tour when the crisis

Loading milk on a West Berlin-bound aircraft On 24 June 1948, LeMay appointed Brigadier General Joseph Smith, commander of the Wiesbaden Military Post, as the Task Force Commander of the airlift. On 25 June 1948, Clay gave the order to launch Operation Vittles. The next day thirty-two C-47s lifted off for Berlin hauling 80 tons of cargo including milk, flour, and medicine. The first British aircraft flew on 28 June. At that time, the airlift was expected to last three weeks. On the 27th, Clay cabled William Draper with an estimate of the current situation: “ I have already arranged for our max- ” imum airlift to start on Monday [June 28]. For a sustained effort, we can use seventy Dakotas [C-47s]. The number which the British can make


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available is not yet known, although General Robertson is somewhat doubtful of their ability to make this number available. Our two Berlin airports can handle in the neighborhood of fifty additional airplanes per day. These would have to be C-47s, C-54s or planes with similar landing characteristics, as our airports cannot take larger planes. LeMay is urging two C-54 groups. With this airlift, we should be able to bring in 600 or 700 tons a day. While 2,000 tons a day is required in normal foods, 600 tons a day (utilizing dried foods to the maximum extent) will substantially increase the morale of the German people and will unquestionably seriously disturb the Soviet blockade. To accomplish this, it is urgent that we be given approximately 50 additional transport planes to arrive in Germany at the earliest practicable date, and each day’s delay will of course decrease our ability to sustain our position in Berlin. Crews would be needed to permit maximum operation of these planes. — Lucius D. Clay, June 1948, [36] By July 1 the system was starting to come into action. C-54s were starting to arrive in quantity, and the Rhein-Main Air Base was made exclusive C-54 depot, while Wiesbaden retained a mix of C-54s and C-47s. Aircraft flew east-northeast into Tempelhof Airport on one of the three air corridors, then returned due west flying out on a second. After reaching the British Zone, they turned south to return to their bases.

Berlin Blockade
The British ran a similar system, flying roughly south-southeast from a variety of airports in the Hamburg area into RAF Gatow in the British Sector, and then returning out on the same air corridor as the U.S., turning for home or landing at Hanover. On 6 July, the Yorks and Dakotas were joined by ten Short Sunderlands and, later, by some Short Hythe flying boats. Flying from Finkenwerder on the Elbe near Hamburg to the Havel river next to Gatow, their corrosion-resistant hulls lent them to the particular task of delivering baking salt and other salt into the city. Alongside the British and U.S. personnel were aircrews from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. In order to accommodate the large number of flights to Berlin, required maintenance schedules, and cargo loading times, General Joseph Smith developed a complex schedule and pattern for arranging flights. Aircraft were scheduled to take off every three minutes, flying 500 feet altitude higher than the previous flight. This pattern began at 5,000 feet and was repeated five times.[40] During the first week the airlift averaged only ninety tons a day, but by the second week it reached 1000 tons. This likely would have sufficed had the effort lasted only a few weeks, as originally believed. The Communist press in East Berlin, for its part, ridiculed the efforts. It derisively referred to "the futile attempts of the Americans to save face and to maintain their untenable position in Berlin."[41]

Black Friday
As it became clear the Soviets were not going to relent, more drastic measures were called for. On July 27, 1948, Lt. General William H. Tunner of the U.S.A.F. Military Air Transport Service (MATS) took over the operation. "Tonnage" Tunner had significant experience in commanding and organizing the airlift over the The Hump to China.[36] He took over command of the entire airlift operation, creating the Combined Airlift Task Force at the Tempelhof Air Base. General Tunner arrived to take command on 30 July 1948. Two weeks later he decided to fly to Berlin to grant an award to Lt. Paul O. Lykins, an airlift pilot who had made the most flights into Berlin up until that time.[42] Cloud cover over Berlin dropped to the height of the buildings, and heavy rain

Germans watching supply planes at Tempelhof


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showers made radar visibility poor. A C-54 crashed and burned at the end of the runway, and a second one landing behind it blew its tires trying to stop to avoid hitting it. A third aircraft ground looped on the auxiliary runway, closing the entire airport. General Tunner got on the radio and ordered all aircraft to return home immediately. This became known as "Black Friday". As a result of this experience, Tunner instituted a number of new rules; instrument flight rules (IFR) would be in effect at all times, regardless of actual visibility, and each sortie would have only one chance to land in Berlin, returning to its air base if it missed its chance. Accident rates and delays dropped immediately. Another decision came about due to the realization that it took just as long to unload a 3.5-ton C-47 than it did to unload a 10-ton C-54. One of the reasons for this was the C-47’s slanted floor made truck loading difficult, but the C-54 was level, and a truck could back up to it and cargo could be unloaded quickly. Tunner decided to remove all the C-47s from the Airlift. Having noticed there were long delays as the flight crews returned to their aircraft from the terminal when getting refreshments, Tunner ordered that the aircrew could not leave their aircraft for any reason while in Berlin. Instead, he equipped trucks as mobile snack bars, handing out refreshments to the pilots and other aircrew while they remained in the cockpit. Gail Halvorsen later noted, "he put some beautiful German Fräuleins in that snack bar. They knew we couldn’t date them, we had no time. So they were very friendly."[39] The Berliners themselves solved the other problem of a lack of manpower. Crews unloading and making airfield repairs at the Berlin airports were replaced almost entirely by local people, who were given additional rations in return. As the crews improved, the times for unloading continued to fall, with a record being set by unloading an entire 10-ton load of coal from a C-54 in ten minutes. This was later beaten when a twelve-man crew unloaded the same load in five minutes and 45 seconds. By the end of July, after only one month, the Airlift was succeeding; daily operations flew more than 1,500 flights a day and delivered more than 4,500 tons of cargo, enough to keep West Berlin supplied. All of the C-47s were withdrawn by the end of

Berlin Blockade
September, and 225 C-54s were devoted to the lift. Supplies improved to 5,000 tons a day.

Operation Little Vittles

U.S. Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen, who pioneered the idea of dropping candy bars and bubble gum with handmade miniature parachutes, which later became known as "Operation Little Vittles". Gail Halvorsen, one of the many Airlift pilots, decided to use his off time to fly into Berlin and make movies with his hand held camera. He arrived at Tempelhof on July 17 after hitching a ride on one of the C-54s, and walked over to a crowd of children who had gathered at the end of the runway to watch the aircraft coming in. He introduced himself and they started to ask him questions about the aircraft and their flights. As a goodwill gesture, he handed out his only two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum, and promised that if they did not fight over them, the next time he returned he would drop off more. The children quickly divided up the pieces as best they could. Before he left them, a child asked him how they would know it was him flying over, and he replied, "I’ll wiggle my wings."[38] The very next day, on approach to Berlin, he rocked the aircraft and dropped some chocolate bars attached to a handkerchief


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parachute to the children waiting below. Every day after that the number of children would increase and he made several more drops. Soon there was a stack of mail in Base Ops addressed to "Uncle Wiggly Wings", "The Chocolate Uncle" and "The Chocolate Flier". His commanding officer was upset when the story appeared in the news, but when Tunner heard about it he approved of the gesture and immediately expanded it into "Operation Little Vittles". Other pilots participated, and when news reached the U.S., children all over the country sent in their own candy to help out. Soon the major candy companies joined in as well. In the end, over three tons of candy were dropped on Berlin,[38] and the "operation" became a major propaganda success. The candy-dropping aircraft were quickly christened "raisin bombers" by the German children.

Berlin Blockade
on the aircraft. Additionally they set up a fake radio beacon on the same frequency as Tempelhof, in an effort to draw aircraft out of the airways. None of these measures proved to be very effective.

Soviet Berlin putsch
In the autumn of 1948, it became impossible for the non-Communist majority in Berlin city-wide assemblies elected two years earlier to attend sessions within the Soviet sector.[43] As SED-controlled policemen looked on passively, Communist-led mobs repeatedly invaded the city hall, interrupted the assembly’s sessions, and physically menaced its non-Communist members.[43] The Kremlin organized an attempted putsch for control of all of Berlin through a September 6 takeover of the city hall by SED operatives.[44] The elected city government was routed, with its democratic members being replaced by communists.[44] Democratic party representatives set up a city government in west Berlin headed by Ernst Reuter, who had earlier been elected in early 1946, but prevented from taking office by a Soviet veto.[44] Three days later RIAS Radio urged West Berliners to protest the East German actions. A crowd of 500,000 people gathered at the Brandenburg Gate, next to the Reichstag, still in ruins. The Airlift was working so far, but many West Berliners feared that the Allies would eventually abandon them to the Soviets. They needed reassurance that their sacrifices would not be for nothing. Mayor Reuter, who had been elected one year earlier, took to the microphone and pleaded for his city, "You peoples of the world. You people of America, of England, of France, look on this city, and recognize that this city, this people must not be abandoned — cannot be abandoned!" The crowd surged towards the East and someone ripped down the Red Flag from the Gate. Soviet military police responded, killing one.[39] Never before had so many Berliners gathered, the resonance worldwide was enormous, notably in the United States, where a strong feeling of solidarity with Berliners reinforced a determination not to leave them alone.[44]

Soviet responses
Initial responses
This turn of events was decidedly against the Soviets. As the tempo of the Airlift grew, it became apparent that the Western powers might be able to pull off the impossible: indefinitely supplying an entire city, by air alone. In response, starting August 1, the Soviets offered free food to anyone that would cross into East Berlin and sign over their ration cards. West Berliners overwhelmingly rejected those food offers.[43] Throughout the airlift, Soviet and German communists subjected the hard-pressed West Berliners to sustained psychological warfare.[43] In radio broadcasts, they relentlessly proclaimed that all Berlin came under Soviet authority and predicted the imminent abandonment of the city by the Western occupying powers.[43] The Soviet also harassed the democratically-elected city-wide administration, which had to conduct its business in the city hall located in the Soviet sector.[43] Starting on August 10, they started harassing aircraft in the Airlift, and after one year, 733 incidents had been reported. One of their favorite acts was for Soviet fighters to buzz the cargo aircraft, or to shoot into the air near them. After a Soviet fighter buzzed a British passenger aircraft too closely, both aircraft crashed with a loss of 35 lives. Balloons were released in the corridors, flak was fired randomly and searchlights were shone

December elections
The elections went ahead for December 5, and once again the East Berliners attempted to disrupt them. When it became clear that


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their efforts were failing, they withdrew from the process and elected an entire SED-led government of their own, under Friedrich Ebert. Free elections produced a turnout of 86.3% and an overwhelming victory for the non-Communist parties.[43] Reuter once again won the official elections, effectively dividing the city (and eventually, the nation) into East- and West- versions of its prior self. In the East, a communist system with house, street, and block wardens was quickly implemented.

Berlin Blockade
Another problem was the lack of runways in Berlin to land on: two at Tempelhof and one at Gatow — neither of which was intended to support the sorts of loads the C-54s were putting on them. All of the existing runways required hundreds of laborers, who ran onto them and dumped sand into the runway’s Marsden Matting (pierced steel planking) to soften the surface and help the planking survive. Since this system could not endure through the winter, between July and September 1948 a 6,000 ft.-long asphalt runway was constructed at Tempelhof. Far from ideal, with the approach being over Berlin’s apartment blocks, the runway was, nevertheless, a major upgrade to the airport’s capabilities. With it in place, the auxiliary runway was upgraded from Marsden Matting to asphalt between September and October 1948. A similar upgrade program was carried out by the British at Gatow during the same period, also adding a second runway, using concrete. By this time the French, who initially had refused to support the Berlin airlift efforts (considering the city a lost cause), also became interested in supporting the airlift. The French Air Force, meanwhile, had become involved in the First Indochina War, so it could only bring up some old Junkers Ju 52s to support its own troops. However, France agreed to build a complete, new and larger, airport in its sector, on the shores of Lake Tegel. French military engineers managing German construction crews were able to complete the construction in under 90 days. The airport was mostly built by hand, and mostly by thousands of female laborers who worked day and night. Heavy equipment was also needed to level the ground, equipment that was too large and heavy to fly in on any existing cargo aircraft. A solution was found by a Brazilian engineer who had perfected the technique of dismantling large machines for transport, and then re-assembling them. (The same technique had been used by Americans involved in flying "Over The Hump" from India to China in 1944.) He was flown in to advise the effort, and using the five largest American C-82 Packet transports, they were able to fly the machinery in to West Berlin. This served the double purpose of helping build the airfield, and also demonstrating that the Soviet blockade could not keep anything out of Berlin.

1948 Winter to 1949 Spring
Preparing for winter
Although the early estimates required about 4,000 to 5,000 tons would be needed to supply the city, this was made in the context of summer weather, when the airlift was only expected to last a few weeks. As the Airlift dragged on into the fall, the situation changed considerably. Although the food requirements would remain the same (around 1,500 tons), the need for additional coal to heat the city grew dramatically (an additional 6,000 tons a day). In order to maintain the Airlift given these requirements, the current system would have to be greatly expanded. Aircraft were available, and the British started adding their larger Handley Page Hastings in November, but maintaining the fleet proved to be a serious problem. Tunner looked to the Germans once again, hiring (plentiful) ex-Luftwaffe ground crews.

C-54s stand out against the snow at Wiesbaden Air Base during the Berlin Airlift in the Winter of 1948-49


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There was an obstacle in the approach to the Tegel airfield, however. A Soviet-controlled radio tower caused problems with its proximity to the airfield. Pleas to remove it went unheard, so on November 20, 1948, the French General Jean Ganeval made the decision to simply blow it up. The mission was carried out on December 16, much to the delight of Berliners, and provoking complaints from the Soviets. The Tegel airfield evolved after the blockade crisis into the Berlin-Tegel International Airport. In order to improve the air traffic control, which would be critical as the number of flights grew, the newly developed Ground Controlled Approach Radar system (GCA) was flown to Europe for installation at Tempelhof, with a second set installed at Fassberg (in the British Zone in West Germany). With the installation of GCA, all-weather airlift operations were assured. None of these efforts could fix the weather, though, which would be the largest problem. November and December 1948 proved to be the worst months of the airlift operation. One of the longest-lasting fogs ever experienced there blanketed the entire European continent for weeks. All too often, aircraft would make the entire flight and then be unable to land in Berlin. On November 20, 42 aircraft departed for Berlin, but only one landed there. At one point, the whole city had only a week’s supply of coal. Weather improved, however. More than 171,000 tons were delivered in January 1949, but that figure fell to 152,000 tons in February. In March, the tonnage finally rose to 196,223 tons.[41]

Berlin Blockade
without a single accident. A welcome side effect of the effort was that operations in general improved, and daily tonnage increased from 6,729 tons a day, to 8,893 tons per day thereafter. In total, the airlift delivered 234,476 tons in April.[41] On April 21, a point was reached at which the amount of supplies flown into the city exceeded that previously brought by rail. The Berlin Airlift had finally succeeded, and appeared able to operate indefinitely.

The Blockade ends

The Easter Parade
By April 1949, airlift operations were running smoothly, and Tunner wanted to break up the monotony. He liked the idea of a big event that would give everyone a morale boost. He decided that on Easter Sunday the airlift would break all records. To do this, maximum efficiency was needed. To simplify handling, the only cargo would be coal, and stockpiles were built up for the effort. Maintenance schedules were altered so that the maximum number of aircraft was available. From 12:00PM April 15, to 12:00PM April 16, 1949, crews worked around the clock. When it was over, 12,941 tons of coal had been delivered as a result of 1,383 flights,

Berlin Airlift Monument in Berlin-Tempelhof, displaying the names of the 39 British and 31 American pilots and aircrewmen who lost their lives during the operation. Similar monuments can be found at the military airfield Wietzenbruch near the former RAF Celle and at Rhein-Main Air Base. The continued success of the Airlift humiliated the Soviets, and the "Easter Parade" of 1949 was "the last straw." On 15 April 1949 the Russian news agency TASS reported a willingness by the Soviets to lift the blockade. The next day, the U.S. State Department stated the "way appears clear" for the blockade to end. Soon after, the four powers began serious negotiations, and a settlement


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Berlin Blockade
A total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Britons and 31 Americans[45], mostly due to crashes. Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation. The cost of the Airlift operations was approximately $224 million ($2 billion in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars).[47]

Berlin Airlift Monument in Berlin-Tempelhof with inscription "They gave their lives for the freedom of Berlin in service for the Berlin Airlift 1948/49". was made on Allied terms. On 4 May 1949, the Allies announced that an agreement to end the blockade, in eight days, had been reached. The Soviet blockade of Berlin was lifted at one minute after midnight, on 12 May 1949.[45] A British convoy immediately drove through to Berlin, and the first train from West Germany reached Berlin at 5:32 A.M.. Later that day, an enormous crowd celebrated the end of the blockade. General Clay, whose retirement had been announced by U.S. President Truman on May 3, was saluted by 11,000 U.S. soldiers and dozens of aircraft. Once home, Clay received a ticker-tape parade in New York City, got to address the U.S. Congress, and was honored with a medal from Truman. Flights continued for some time, though, to build a comfortable surplus. By 24 July 1949 a three-month surplus was built-up, ensuring that the airlift could be re-started with ease if needed. The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, after fifteen months. In total, the U.S.A. delivered 1,783,573 tons, while 541,937 tons were delivered by the RAF, totaling 2,326,406 tons of food and supplies on 278,228 total flights to Berlin. The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) delivered 7,968 tonnes of freight and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties. The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92 million miles in the process, nearly the same distance as the earth is from the sun.[46] At the height of the airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.[45] Operational control of the three allied airlift corridors was given to BARTCC (Berlin Air Route Traffic Control Center) air traffic control located at Tempelhof. Diplomatic approval authority was granted to a four-power organization called the Berlin Air Safety Center, also located in the American sector. Tegel was developed into West Berlin’s principal airport. In 2007, it was joined by a re-developed Berlin-Schönefeld International Airport in Brandenburg. As a result of the development of these two airports, Tempelhof was closed in October 2008[48], while Gatow is now home of the Museum of the German Luftwaffe and a housing development. During the 1970s and 1980s, Schoenefeld had its own crossing points through the Berlin Wall and communist fortifications for western citizens. The fact the Soviets’ blockade contradicted the six nation London Conference decisions and the Czechoslovak coup d’état of 1948 convinced Western leaders that they must take swift and decisive measures to strengthen the portions of Germany not occupied by the Soviets.[45] The blockade also helped to surmount any remaining difference between the French, British and Americans regarding West Germany, leading to a merger of all three countries’ occupation zones into "trizonia".[49] These countries also agreed to replace their military administrations in those zones with high commissioners operating within the terms of a three-power occupation statute.[49] The blockade also helped to unify German leaders, some of whom were at first fearful of the creation of a civilian west German government in the face of Soviet opposition, in supporting the creation of West German government.[49] The blockade also created an increasing perception among many in Europe that the Soviets posed a danger, helping to prompt the entry into NATO of Italy, Denmark, Norway, and the Benelux.[50]


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Animosities between Germans and western allies Britain, France and the United States were greatly reduced by the airlift, with each of the former opponents recognizing common interests, shared values and mutual respect.[4] The Soviets thereafter refused to return to the Allied Control Council in Berlin, rendering useless the four-power occupation authority foreseen at Potsdam.[4] It has also been argued that the events pertaining to the Berlin Blockade are proof to the fact that the Allies conducted their affairs within a rational framework, since they were keen to avoid war at all costs. See Lewkowicz, N., The German Question and the Origins of the Cold War (IPOC:Milan) (2008)

Berlin Blockade
enough transports, the British chartered many civilian aircraft. The British also utilized flying boats, particularly when transporting salt. Those aircraft started and landed on water and were designed to be corrosion resistant. In the wintertime, when ice covered the Berlin rivers and made the use of flying boats difficult, the British used substitute landplanes. • Avro Lancaster • Avro York • Avro Tudor • Avro Lancastrian • Boeing C-97 Stratofreighter • Bristol Type 170 Freighter • B-24 Liberator • PBY Catalina • Douglas C-54 Skymaster and Douglas DC-4 • Douglas C-74 Globemaster • Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Douglas DC-3 (UK: Dakota) • Fairchild C-82 Packet • Handley Page Hastings • Handley Page Halifax Halton • Ju 52/3m (operated briefly by France) • Short Sunderland • Vickers VC.1 Viking

Aircraft used in the Berlin Airlift

A British Short Sunderland flying boat

See also
• History of Germany • The Big Lift, a 1950 film about the experiences of some Americans during the airlift. • Medal for Humane Action American medal for the Airlift • Airlift Device for the Army of Occupation and Navy Occupation Service Medals

A British Avro York transport aircraft In the early days the Americans used their C-47 Skytrain or its civilian counterpart Douglas DC-3. These machines could carry a payload of up to 3 tons, but were replaced by C-54 Skymasters and Douglas DC-4s, which could carry up to 9 tons and also flew faster. These made up a total of 380 aircraft (of which 225 were American), which made them the most used types. Other American aircraft such as the C-82 Packet, and the C-97 Stratofreighter, with a payload of 31 tonnes - which was a gigantic load for that time - were only sparsely used. The British, however, utilized a considerable variety of aircraft types. Many aircraft were either former bombers, or civil British versions of bombers. In the absence of

[1] Nash, Gary B., Julie Roy Jeffrey, John R. Howe, Peter J. Frederick, Allen F. Davis, Allan M. Winkler, Charlene Mires, and Carla Gardina Pestana. The American People, Concise Edition Creating a Nation and a Society, Combined Volume (6th Edition). New York: Longman, 2007. [2] ^ Miller 2000, p. 4 [3] Miller 2000, p. 5 [4] ^ Turner 1987, p. 27 [5] Miller 2000, p. 8 [6] Reinert, Erik, Jomo KS The Marshall Plan at 60: The General’s Successful War On


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Poverty, UN Chronicle (accessed 2008-05-20) [7] Wettig 2008, p. 95-5 [8] Wettig 2008, p. 96-100 [9] ^ Miller 2000, p. 11 [10] Miller 2000, p. 12 [11] ^ Miller 2000, p. 13 [12] ^ Miller 2000, p. 6 [13] ^ Miller 2000, p. 7 [14] Airbridge to Berlin, "Background on Conflict" chapter [15] ^ Beschloss 2003, p. 277 [16] ^ Miller 2000, p. 16 [17] Marshall, George C, The Marshal Plan Speech, June 5, 1947 [18] Miller 2000, p. 10 [19] Why Stalin Rejected Marshall Aid [20] ^ Airbridge to Berlin, "Eye of the Storm" chapter [21] ^ Miller 2000, p. 19 [22] ^ Miller 2000, p. 18 [23] ^ Turner 1987, p. 23 [24] ^ Miller 2000, p. 20 [25] ^ Miller 2000, p. 26 [26] Miller 2000, p. 23 [27] Miller 2000, p. 27 [28] ^ Miller 2000, p. 31 [29] ^ Turner 1987, p. 24 [30] ^ Miller 2000, p. 32 [31] Wettig 2008, p. 168 [32] Miller 2000, p. 28 [33] ^ Miller 2000, p. 33 [34] Miller 2000, p. 30 [35] Miller 2000, p. 29 [36] ^ Airbridge to Berlin, Chapter 11 [37] Miller 2000, p. 35 [38] ^ The Berlin Airlift [39] ^ The Berlin Airlift [40] MAC and the Legacy of the Berlin Airlift [41] ^ Fifty years ago, a massive airlift into Berlin showed the Soviets that a postWW II blockade would not work, C.V. Glines [42] Miller 1998, p. 62-64 [43] ^ Turner 1987, p. 29 [44] ^ Wettig 2008, p. 173 [45] ^ Turner 1987, p. 27 [46] Berlin Airlift: Logistics, Humanitarian Aid, and Strategic Success, Major Gregory C. Tine, Army Logistician [47] "The Berlin Airlift". Retrieved on 2008-06-24. [48] Hebel, Christina (October 30, 2008). "An Era Ends with Closing of Berlin Airport". De Speigel (Speigel Online).

Berlin Blockade germany/0,1518,587535,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-10-31. [49] ^ Turner 1987, p. 28 [50] Wettig 2008, p. 174

• Beschloss, Michael R (2003), The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0743260856 • Cherny A. 2008. The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. ISBN 978-0-399-15496-6 • De Vos, Luc; Rooms, Etienne (2006) (in Dutch). Het Belgisch buitenlands beleid: Geschiedenis en actoren. Acco. ISBN 90-334-5973-6. • Giangreco, D. M.; Griffin, Robert E. (1988). Airbridge to Berlin : The Berlin Crisis of 1948, Its Origins and Aftermath. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-329-4. BERLIN_A/INDEX.HTM. • Launius, Roger D.; Cross, Coy F. (1989). MAC and the Legacy of the Berlin Airlift. Scott Air Force Base IL: Office of History, Military Airlift Command,. OCLC 21306003. • Miller, Roger G. (1998), To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949, US Government printing office, 1998-433-155/ 92107, < Publications/fulltext/To_Save_a_City.pdf> (132 pages) • Miller, Roger Gene (2000), To Save a City: The Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949, Texas A&M University Press, ISBN 0890969671 • Turner, Henry Ashby (1987), The Two Germanies Since 1945: East and West, Yale University Press, ISBN 0300038658 • Lewkowicz, N., The German Question and the Origins of the Cold War (IPOC:Milan) (2008) • Wettig, Gerhard (2008), Stalin and the Cold War in Europe, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0742555429

External links
• "The Berlin Airlift". American Experience.


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Retrieved on March 5 2007. - A PBS site on the context and history of the Berlin Airlift. Operation Plainfare Luftbruecke: Allied Culture in the Heart of Berlin Agreement to divide Berlin Memorandum for the President: The Situation in Germany, July 23, 1948 Berlin Airlift: Logistics, Humanitarian Aid, and Strategic Success

Berlin Blockade
• Royal Engineers Museum Royal Engineers and the Cold War (Berlin Airlift) • Berlin Airlift U.S. Department of Defense • "Berlin Airlift". details/berlin_airlift_TNA. Retrieved on October 22 2007. - A 1948 propaganda film about the airlift, told from the British point of view. • The Berlin Airlift: First Battle of the Cold War (1998) at the Internet Movie Database • The Berlin Airlift

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Retrieved from "" Categories: Non-combat military operations involving the United States, Non-combat military operations involving the United Kingdom, Non-combat military operations involving Australia, History of the Royal Air Force, Cold War, History of Berlin, Diplomatic incidents, Allied occupation of Germany, 1948, 1949, Germany–Soviet Union relations, Foreign relations of the Soviet Union, Blockades, Eastern bloc This page was last modified on 22 May 2009, at 05:47 (UTC). All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.) Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., a U.S. registered 501(c)(3) taxdeductible nonprofit charity. Privacy policy About Wikipedia Disclaimers


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