What was the Berlin Airlift?
What was the Berlin Airlift?
Who was involved and why was the Berlin Airlift so significant?
- ElLv 610 years agoBest Answer
Berlin airlift - airlift in 1948 that supplied food and fuel to citizens of west Berlin when the Russians closed off land access to Berlin
June 27, 1948 to May 12, 1949
PRELUDE TO CONFLICT
At the end of WWII, a defeated Germany was divided amongst the victors, the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. The Soviet Union took control of the Eastern half of Germany, the Western half was divided amongst the US, Great Britain, and France. Like the rest of the country, the capital city of Berlin, sitting dead in the middle of the Soviet-controlled Eastern half, was also divided into four parts, one half being Soviet controlled, and the rest divided amongst the others. A four-power provisional government, called the Allied Control Council, was installed in Berlin. This union of governments was to control and rebuild the city of Berlin. By 1948, it became apparent that the Western Powers (Great Britain, France, and US) plan to rebuild Germany differed from the Soviet Union's plan. Currency, German Unification, Soviet War reparations, and mere ideology were among the many differences the two sides had. There would be no compromise. As a result, Stalin wanted them out of Berlin. In early 1948, tensions between the once former Allies climaxed. On April 9, 1948, Stalin ordered all American Military personnel maintaining communications equipment out of the Eastern Zone (Soviet controlled Berlin). Trains were halted on June 1and June10. On June 21, the Soviets halted a US Military Supply Train and refused it passage to Berlin. On the 22nd, they placed armed guards aboard, attached a Soviet engine and hauled it back to Western Germany. In a final move to spurn the Americans, British, and French out, on June 24, 1948, all land and water access to West Berlin was cut off by the Soviets. There were to be no more supplies from the West. What was going to happen? Where were the necessary supplies going to come from for the Occupation Forces? For that matter, where were the supplies for the 2,008,943 Berliners going to come from? It was a grave situation. The Allies were certainly not going to stand for this. Diplomacy failed, Ground invasions were planned, and World War 3 was on the brink of existence. US Military Commander Lucius Clay had developed a plan by which an armed convoy through Soviet Controlled Germany would break the blockade. This action would certainly create a war. However, British Commander Sir Brian Robertson offered an alternative: supply the city by air. A daunting task. Supplying the Occupation forces of 2,2679 was easy, but the entire population? The only aircraft the Americans had available for the task were 5 year old Douglas C-47 Skytrains, which would only hold 3.5 tons each. After some consultation, the decision was made: it was worth a try. Earlier in April, US Forces airlifted in supplies to replace the ones being delayed by the Soviets. This was what became known as the "Little Lift". West Berlin had two airports, Tempelhof, which was Berlin's main airport and located in the American Sector, and Gatow, in the British Sector. Supplies could be airlifted in by C-47 and there was nothing the Soviet Union could do about because, in 1945, someone had foresight. On November 30, 1945, it was agreed, in writing, that there would be three 20-mile wide air corridors providing access to the city. These were unarguable. When the blockade began, the Soviets rejoiced, because they believed the Western powers had only one option, to leave Berlin. But they underestimated the West airlift supplies. Gen. Clay called upon General Curtis E. LeMay, commander of USAFE and asked him if he could haul supplies to Berlin. LeMay responded, "We can haul anything". Two days later Gen. LeMay called upon Brig. Gen. Joseph Smith, Commander of the Wiesbaden Military Post, and appointed him Task Force Commander of an airlift operation estimated to last a few weeks. The only US aircraft initially available were 102 C-47's and 2 C-54 Skymasters. On June 26, the first C-47's landed at Tempelhof Airfield, foreshadowing the great operation that was to come. Smith dubbed the mission
"Operation Vittles", because he said "We're haulin' grub." The British called their part "Operation Plane Fare". It was determined that the city's daily food ration would be 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; 5 tons of whole milk for children; 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking; 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables; 38 tons of salt; and 10 tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over 2 million people alive. That's not including other necessities, like coal and fuel. In fact, the largest quantity of anything required was coal. It wasn't needed to heat homes as much as it was necessary for industry. . In addition, there was limited electricity, because the city's power plant was located in the Soviet sector, so that was cut off, too. It was determined that in total supplies, 3,475 tons would be needed daily. A C-47 can haul 3.5 tons. In order to supply the people of Berliners, C-47's would have to make 1000 flights each day. Impossible. Initially, Gen. Clay determined that, with the limited number of airplanes available to him, he could haul about 300 tons of supplies a day, the British effort, was estimated to be capable of 750 tons a day. This leaves a 2,425-ton deficit daily.
31 Americans lost their lives during the Berlin Airlift, paying the ultimate price for the freedom of others. Let that not be forgotten.
- Anonymous10 years ago
Following the introduction of the new Deutschmark by the Western powers, the Soviets again closed all the surface routes to Berlin on 24 June 1948. The next day they advised the three Western commanders in Berlin that no food would be supplied from the Soviet zone to the Western sectors. On 26 June, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States Air Force began the Airlift,
Only way in was by air through 3 air corridors so we started a massive Air lift of food Fuel to feed the People in west Berlin
The airlift carried over two million tons of supplies in 270,000 flights. The blockade of Berlin was finally lifted by the Soviets on May 12, 1949.
the civilians involved by the British later formed the British Airways cargo division
and New airports were built soon after to to prevent problems that had arisen from the blockadeSource(s): http://samilitaryhistory.org/vol112ts.html