The Blockade and the Beginning of the Berlin Airlift

© Archiv AlliiertenMuseum/Slg. Provan
These trucks cannot deliver their goods to Berlin as all access roads have been blocked, June 1948.

A failed joint attempt at currency reform in Germany by the four victorious powers in the summer of 1948 provided the catalyst for the Berlin Blockade. In late June, the Soviet occupying power blocked access from the Western zones of occupation to West Berlin, by road, water and rail. Had the USA, Britain and France failed to secure supplies for their troops and the civilian population, they would have been forced to withdraw from Berlin and abandon the city to the Soviets. Since the governments in Washington, London and Paris did not want to respond with military intervention, their only option was a daring plan, which was devised by the British Air Commodore, Rex N. Waite: to supply the city exclusively from the air via the three existing corridors. Although nobody could predict how long the blockade would last, the Western occupying powers resolved to implement an airlift – an unprecedented undertaking.

© Archiv AlliiertenMuseum/US Army
Flightline of C-47 planes being unloaded at Berlin Tempelhof Airport, July 1948.
© Archiv AlliiertenMuseum
Map of the four zones of occupation in Germany denoting the Airlift´s airports and the three air corridors connecting Berlin.

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