60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

1949 British propaganda film about the Berlin Airlift

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Berlin Airlift. In June 1948 the Soviet regime blockaded the three western sectors of West Berlin, cutting off all food and logistical supplies. It was an overt effort to push the Allied powers out of Berlin, which lay in the heart of the DDR, communist East Germany.

On June 28, 1948, the British and the Americans began airlifting food and supplies to 2 million West Berliners. Originally decried as a “futile attempt to save face” by the Soviets, and a “lost cause” by the French, the airlift soon became a resounding success. Thousands of tons of supplies were flown in on planes which landed and took off every few minutes. After a year the Soviet regime backed down, and re-opened supply routes to West Berlin.

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2 Responses to “60th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift”

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    BERLIN — Germany on Thursday commemorated the 60th anniversary of the start of the Berlin airlift, celebrating an unprecedented undertaking that probably saved the city from falling to the Soviet Union and helped mend German-American relations after World War II.

    Often called the first battle of the Cold War, the airlift pitted the United States and the Soviet Union against each other for the first time and set the tone for the decades to come.

    “I find the courage with which this operation was carried out truly admirable,” Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said at a ceremony at the U.S. Army airfield in Wiesbaden, from which many of the flights originated.

    The significance of the airlift was not immediately apparent, however, when it began on June 26, 1948. The future looked “bleak” to Berliners at the time, said Helmut Trotnow, director of Berlin’s Allied Museum.

    “There was no light at the end of the tunnel, but the airlift brought this light,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for the success of the airlift, history would have looked very different. It really is a turning point.”

    After the war, zones of western Germany were divided among Britain, France and the United States to administer, while the Soviet Union was given the east. Berlin was inside the Soviet sector, but also divided among the four powers.

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