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Berlin Airlift
1948-1949
Background
There were many questions facing the
Allies following World War II
One of the biggest involved what should
be done with Germany
– Having suffered from German Aggression
twice in the first half of the 20th Century,
France and the USSR wanted a weakened
Germany
The Solution
Create occupation zones based on the way in
which the armies had entered the country
The Soviets received the agricultural areas in
the east, the British received the industrial areas
to the north, and the Americans received the
scenic areas to the south.
The French zone was later carved out of part of
the American zone.
Occupation Zones in Germany
Berlin
The city of Berlin was
to remain the capital,
and although it was
situated deep within
the Soviet zone, it
became a divided city,
with the western half
occupied by the
British, the United
States, and the
French
Although the western allies had territory in
Berlin, there was never an agreement with
the Soviets to allow surface access into
the city.
In the interest of safety, however, an
agreement was reached establishing air
corridors to and from the city.
The Allies wanted five
corridors, but the
Soviet Union only
agreed to three
Two were in the
British Zone, one in
the American
Each corridor was 20
miles wide
Two airbases existed
in West Berlin
Tempelhof in the
American Sector
Gatow in the British
Sector
What Caused the Blockade?
Europe was not recovering from the war
as quickly as hoped
The United States came up with the idea
of combining the three western zones into
“Trizonia” to help Germany recover
The Soviet Union, opposed Germany unity
and imposed a short, possible test,
blockade in April 1948, preventing supplies
from reaching Berlin
The Western zones decided to replace the
nearly worthless German currency with new
money, a move the Soviets ferociously opposed
In response, the Soviets imposed a total ground
blockade in July 1948.
The purpose was not to drive the western allies
out of Germany, but rather to force their hand.
Click below to hear Truman’s explanation of the
blockade.
What is a President to Do?
Truman’s advisors offered many solutions:
Lucius Clay, Military Governor of
Germany wanted to force a convoy
into Berlin, risking World War III,
but the British said no
The British suggested that the Allies use an
airlift to supply Berlin to buy time for
negotiations with the Soviets.
What began as a temporary measure,
grew into one of the greatest logistical
feats ever attempted.
Though the two airports in Berlin had only
one runway each, the allies began airlifting
supplies into Berlin
The Solution
Using the northern and
southern corridors to
enter Berlin and the
center corridor to exit, the
Allies began sending
planes into the ravaged
city
Before long the planes
were landing every three
minutes, each one
bringing ten tons of
needed supplies
Conditions in Berlin
People were living on as little as 1000
to 1500 calories per day even before
the blockade
The Allies determined they needed to
supply at least 1700 calories a day to
the 2.3 million people residing in West
Berlin
This video, made by Gail Halvorsen (the
Candy Bomber) illustrates the conditions
he observed as a pilot flying goods into
Berlin.
The End of the Blockade
In spite of the obstacles involved, the Berlin
Airlift was maintained and the Soviets
eventually gave up and removed the
blockade
Click here to hear President
Truman announce the end of
the blockade on May 12, 1949
Between the 25th of June 1948 and the 1st of August 1949, two
million two hundred thousand occupants of West Berlin were
supplied 2,223,000 short tons of supplies in 266.600 flights.
Mileposts
18th
February
1949
2nd July
1949
5th August
1949
First million short tons delivered.
Second million short tons delivered.
Two and a quarter million tons delivered
to Berlin.
Total Tonnage
by
US
Commodity:
British
Coal
1,421,730
164,800
Food
296,303
241,713
Military
Supplies
Miscellaneous
Wet Fuel
Total
---
18,239
65,540
25,202
---
92,282
1,783,573
Total Combined Tonnage
542,236
2,325,809 short tons
While the Statistics are impressive
The main things the airlift provided the
people of Berlin were:
HOPE and FREEDOM