Berlin Airlift Facts

Berlin Airlift Facts
Almost immediately after World War II was over, it became apparent to many in the West that a new war with the Soviet Union could happen at any moment. The Soviets quickly installed pro-Soviet, puppet communist governments throughout eastern Europe, creating what was known as the "Iron Curtain" over Europe. Germany was partitioned into a democratic-capitalist West Germany and a communist dictatorship East Germany. The largest city and former capital of Berlin was similarly partitioned by both sides. Joseph Stalin, the premier of the Soviet Union at the time, thought that all of Berlin should be part of the communist East, so he began applying pressure on the Western powers to hand the western part of the city over. Beginning on June 24, 1948, Stalin ordered all railways and roads in and out of West Berlin blocked, which began the Berlin Blockade. The Americans, British, French, and other allies immediately began round the clock transport flights in and out of Berlin Templehof Airport. Despite the logistical difficulties, the Berlin Airlift was a success - Stalin ended the blockade on May 12, 1949.
Interesting Berlin Airlift Facts:
The Berlin Airlift is considered to be the first major conflict in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Besides food, the cargo planes brought clothing, heating supplies, and other living essentials to the stranded Germans.
The United States Air Force (USAF) had just become a separate branch of the military in 1947.
The USAF and the Royal Air Force (RAF) flew a combined 2,326,406 tons of supplies in nearly 280,000 flights, comprising the vast majority of the flights, but French, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South African pilots also flew supply missions.
Although the Soviet Union did not have atomic/nuclear weapons during the Berlin Blockade, it had the largest army in the world poised to take western Europe.
After USAF pilot Gail Halvorson gave some candy to some German children, the gesture developed into "Operation Little Vittles," a program to drop candy specifically for children.
One of the backdrops and some would say reasons for the blockade was a recent municipal election in Berlin where the communists were soundly rejected. Needless to say, Stalin was not happy with the outcome.
Before the blockade, Stalin publicly told East German communist leaders that he believed that if enough pressure were placed on the British and Americans in West Germany, they would quickly leave and allow Germany to be unified under a communist, pro-Soviet government.
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain was one of the most commonly used USAF planes used.
Former members of the German Luftwaffe served as ground crews in Berlin.
Although France had a large military and plenty of planes, its military involvement in Indochina resulting in it contributing far less than Britain.

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