Clearance of the Berlin Blockade

Posted by seomypassion12 on June 5th, 2023

In June 1948 the US, UK and France introduced a new currency into Berlin and Bizonia (the Deutschmark). This angered the Soviets who imposed a blockade of all ground access to the Allied zones of Berlin - only three formally granted air corridors remained.

An airlift was the only solution - but with only old Yorks and Dakotas available the task looked daunting. Enter General Curtis LeMay and his USAFE forces!

The Berlin Blockade BSR Entrümpelung Berlin was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War period. It exposed the deep ideological differences between East and West and helped to align Germany with the United States as its major protecting power.

The Blockade began on 24 June 1948 when the Soviets closed all road, rail, and water access to the Allied zones of Berlin. This cut off over 2 million people from basic supplies of food, coal, and electricity. The Soviets justified the move by saying that it was a response to the Western Allies' introduction of the Deutsche Mark into their occupied zones of Germany and Berlin.

President Truman and the other Allied leaders were committed to preserving Berlin's freedom as part of the de-compression of postwar Europe, but they were not prepared for such an aggressive Soviet move. To prevent a humanitarian disaster, the Truman administration launched a massive airlift to supply Berlin with the necessities of life. Operation Vittles (also known as the "Berlin Airlift") would ultimately involve over a quarter of a million flights.

Despite manifold difficulties, the operation was an incredible success under Lieutenant General Tunner's leadership. The operation ended only when the Soviets lifted the blockade on 12 May 1949. It would be another two years before the West and the Soviet Union were fully reunited.

In the meantime, it became clear that the Allied countries needed to expand and improve their airlift capabilities. Eventually, the US would have to build a new airlift base at Rhein-Main Air Base to meet its needs and to provide support for all of the Allied operations in Western Germany.

The Berlin Blockade also highlighted the inadequacies of spies and informers during this period of intense tension between the Allies and the Soviets. Too many sources were supplying too much information, making it difficult to distinguish useful intelligence from rumor and half-truth. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that there were too few intelligence analysts on staff, who had difficulty sorting out the signals from the noise. The resulting confusion and paranoia contributed to the lack of early warning of the threat posed by the Soviet move.

The Berlin blockade was one of the first major international crises to arise during the Cold War. It arose because of the conflicting objectives of the two global superpowers charged with occupying post-World War II Germany. The Soviets feared the West would try to create a new and independent Germany that could compete with their own socialist system. The United States and the United Kingdom were concerned with building a prosperous and stable Germany that would be a partner in world affairs.

The blockade started with the Soviets blocking road, rail and canal access to the sectors of Berlin they occupied in western Germany. This left 2.5 million Berliners without food, water and electricity. The blockade also undermined allied confidence in the Marshall Plan, which had just been approved by Congress to provide economic aid for Europe.

After the London 6-Power Conference, Britain and America began to join their zones of Germany together into Bizonia (two countries). Stalin saw this as an attempt to destroy Russia’s influence in eastern Europe by salami tactics, and he immediately blocked all train traffic into Bizonia and stopped supplies to Berlin.

On 26 June 1948, the Soviets also banned Allied air access to Berlin. The US Army airlift commander, General Curtis E. LeMay, decided to use the vast resources of the Allied forces and organize a massive airlift that would supply Berlin.

The operation would take a long time and require enormous amounts of cargo, so General LeMay ordered that all aircraft were to be kept at their bases until they were needed for the airlift to Berlin. This meant that no pilot was to be away from his aircraft for more than a few hours at a time.

This slowed down the operation considerably. Nevertheless, by the end of March 1949, a record of over 1 million tons had been flown into Berlin. Despite the Soviets’ attempts to slow down the airlift, it was successful because of the determination of the Allied pilots and the cooperation of the Berliners. In addition, it demonstrated that air transport was a viable option for the Allied occupation of Germany.

The Berlin Airlift required a massive investment of time, money, and people. But it allowed the United States to retain a foothold in post-war Germany. And it demonstrated that the West was determined to hold fast to its values in the face of the Soviet threat.

Despite the fact that the Soviet leaders tried to starve Allied personnel out of Berlin, tension did not boil over into war. This is in part due to the Western refusal to use force against the Soviets, a policy known as “realism.” Realism holds that leaders should make commitments only when they have sufficient power to fulfil them. The Soviets could not stop all traffic to the city, but they did interdict Allied road, rail and canal routes. They could also stop or disrupt Allied aircraft flights into and out of the city.

But the Airlift allowed Allied planes to deliver food, fuel, and other supplies into West Berlin. This kept the city alive. And the Allied fighter pilots who escorted these cargo flights were willing to put their lives on the line for this mission. This is what made the Airlift so remarkable.

As the months wore on, it became clear to the Soviets that their blockade was futile. The Allied aircraft were flying into the city and carrying more than enough food for West Berliners to survive. The Berlin Airlift was a triumph for the free world. It forged the spirit of NATO, an alliance of 12 nations determined to stay together for collective defense against the Soviet threat.

On May 12, 1949, the Soviets finally recognized that their blockade was useless and lifted it. But the Airlift continued for a few more months as a precaution in case they changed their minds. A monument honoring the American and British pilots who lost their lives in the Berlin Airlift is located at the Berlin Tegel Airport. There are also monuments at RAF Gatow and Rhein-Main Air Base. This is a fitting tribute to those who stood up for freedom and human dignity in the face of overwhelming odds.

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