The Berlin Blockade and Airlift – 1948-1949

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After the Second World War, Berlin was split between the UK, France, the US and the USSR as it was decided at Yalta and Potsdam. Soon afterwards the four zones merged into two, namely West and East Berlin. Berlin shortly afterwards became the front for the cold war between the USSR and the West. On June 25th, 1948, the USSR set up a blockade around Berlin to try and force the Allies to give up their rights to the western part of the city. Stalin halted all traffic into and out of the Russian sector of Berlin; he also cut off all electricity, claiming technical difficulties. With all roads blocked, the Allies had no way of keeping the 2.5 million citizens of West Berlin, who only had enough supplies to last 45 days, fed and warm. At the beginning of the Blockade, however, some left wing British labour parties suggested that the UK should withdraw but the idea was quickly dismissed by Bevin , who said: "We intend to stay in Berlin… The opinion of the whole world will condemn the ruthless attempt by the Soviet Government to create a state of siege in Berlin and so, by starving the helpless civilian population, secure political advantages at the expense of the other Allied Powers."
General Clay devised a way of supplying the people of West Berlin in way of an airlift but first had to convince his commanding officer, General LeMay . He agreed and the airlift started on the 24th of June 1948 under the codename "Operation Vittles".
At the same time, Clay pushed President Truman to reopen the closed roads, by force. Truman rightfully rejected the idea in fear that by using force would escalate the situation and upgrade the cold war into a full "hot war".
At the start of the airlift, the main aircraft used was the C-47 , but due to space restrictions soon had to be replaced with the C-54. General Clay was ever to meet his goal of 4,500 tons of supplies a day. A total of 72 C-54 bombers and 2,500 crewmembers were used in the airlift and by September 1948, the



Bibliography: Todd, Allan. Democracies And Dictatorships: Europe And The World 1919-1989. Cambridge University Press, 2001. Lowe, Norman. Mastering Modern World History. Palgrave, 1997. Arms, S. Thomas. "Berlin." Encyclopedia of the Cold War, 1994. Botting, Douglas. From the ruins of the Reich: Germany 1945-1949. New American Library, 1985.

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