The Berlin Airlift: The Salvation of a City

Overview

In June 1948, Joseph Stalin stopped all road and rail traffic coming into and out of the Allied sector of Berlin. He simultaneously cut off all electricity to the city, leaving only a 20-mile-wide sector of air corridors and one wayto get supplies to desperate, starving people. The United States, using the only method it could, led Allies in mobilizing an unprecedented airlift of thousands of tons of supplies each day. By September 1948, the airlift was transporting food, coal, medical supplies, and other ...

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Berlin Airlift: The Salvation of a City

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Overview

In June 1948, Joseph Stalin stopped all road and rail traffic coming into and out of the Allied sector of Berlin. He simultaneously cut off all electricity to the city, leaving only a 20-mile-wide sector of air corridors and one wayto get supplies to desperate, starving people. The United States, using the only method it could, led Allies in mobilizing an unprecedented airlift of thousands of tons of supplies each day. By September 1948, the airlift was transporting food, coal, medical supplies, and other necessities into West Berlin as aid for the residents. At the same time, the Russian military threatened to strike down any aircraft caught flying outside of the corridor. Finally, by April of 1949, Russia announced their intent to end the blockade, and in August of the same year, the United States airlift operation was terminated.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Detailed, nuts-and-bolts exploration of the 1948-9 Berlin airlift, first major crisis of the new Cold War. British military historians Sutherland and Canwell begin at the close of World War II, when the Red Army occupied the decimated, starved city. Germany was divided into four zones after its surrender in May 1945, and the Soviets jealously guarded access to Berlin, which lay within their zone but was divided among all four Allies. Food and fuel were urgently needed for the city's nearly three million residents, but the Russians did not allow supplies to move through their zone into West Berlin. As Soviet-sponsored communist parties seized power in Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, the Truman Doctrine guaranteed U.S. support for democracies that resisted. When the Marshall Plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe was set forth in July 1947, the Iron Curtain had already fallen, and divided, vulnerable Berlin came under increasingly restrictive Soviet measures. The crisis was precipitated by the introduction on June 21, 1948, of the Deutsche Mark in Berlin's three Western sectors. In response, the Soviets declared they would no longer supply food to the German civilian population in those sectors. The authors credit British Air Commodore Rex Waite (rather than American General Lucius D. Clay) with drafting the plan for an airlift (dubbed Operation Vittles) to sustain the population and the garrisons. Using three airfields from June 1948 to June 1949, the Western powers airlifted nearly two million tons of food and supplies, effectively undermining the Soviets and keeping West Berliners from starving. The authors make a good use of primary documents to portraythe broad political machinations of the time, yet neglect to offer voices from the civilian eyewitnesses. A final chapter, "Legacy of the Airlift," covers such subsequent events as the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989. A proficient overview, though skewed by its British orientation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781589805507
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,012,568
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction     1
Prelude to the Blockade     5
Meagre Beginnings     31
Black Friday     56
Berliners and Volunteers     69
Flying the Corridor     94
Airlift Airbases     107
Eastern Parade     119
End of the Airlift     130
Political Settlement     145
Legacy of the Airlift     163
RAF Units used During Operation Plainfare, June 1948 - September 1949     181
The Airlift in Figures (Figures from British Sources)     183
Chronology     185
Statistics for the First Year of the Airlift (26 June 1948 - 26 June 1949)     197
Soviet Harassment Incidents during the Airlift Operations     200
Documents Regarding the Partitioning of Germany and Berlin     201
Bibliography     206
Index     211
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