The Berlin Airlift 1948 

Following the defeat of Germany in 1945 one would imagine that peace and stability would once again return to Europe. History has shown time and time again however that things are not this simple.

Germany’s partition between East and West acted as the kindling for a fire that at several points in the 20th century, could have became an inferno.

The post-war years had seen tensions rising between the Soviet Union and the United States. With the introduction of atomic weaponry, the ability for powers to utterly destroy each other became a reality, and fuelled paranoia on both sides of the ideological divide.

Tensions came to a head on this day in 1948 however when Berlin was blockaded under the orders of Josef Stalin.

The act drew widespread criticism from the international community, and President Truman was unwilling to concede defeat to America’s growing political rival.

With nearly two million Berliners left without food, water, or basic supplies, on the 26th of June General Lucius D. Clay – the US appointed governor of West Germany – utilised the might of allied air power and logistics by beginning the airlifting of supplies into West Berlin.

Flights from Allied controlled West Germany and mainland Britain were touching down in Berlin every four minutes, around the clock.

The logistical nightmare that this presented made the task both cost-consuming and extremely dangerous, as such regular flights put enormous pressure on pilots and aircraft.

By its end in September 1949, the Berlin airlift had allowed over 1.5 million tons of supplies to enter West Berlin at a cost of over $220 million. In today’s terms that number runs into the billions.

The political ploy of the Soviet Union had failed, as West Berlin remained out of the control of soviet hands; the United States, her allies, and in particular President Truman had won a stunning victory on the international stage.

Despite this being an obvious early victory for the west in the post-war era, the Berlin Airlift merely set the stage for decades of mistrust and paranoia.

Diplomatic crises such as these would in the coming years lead to the establishment of the Berlin Wall, and on several occasions take mankind to the brink of a conflict more devastating than anyone dare imagine.


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