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‹ Return to Berlin
The Berlin Airlift
Following WWII, Germany was divided up between France, UK, USA and the Soviet Union.
Berlin was an island in Soviet territory, and was itself divided between the 4 Powers, and remained so until 1990 (I hitch-hiked along the transit route out of Berlin in 1989, a bizarre experience and you had to be sure of getting a lift all the way to the West)
In an attempt to take control of the entire city, Stalin blockaded Berlin on June 24 1948, preventing Allied vehicles and trains from bringing in supplies to Berliners, expecting Britain and the US to give up on the city.
The Allied response was to airlift coal, food and other supplies via 3 pre-agreed air corridors. The Soviets tried to intimidate the pilots, did everything except shoot them down (which would have caused a war, which without an atom bomb of their own, the Soviet Union could only lose).
Diagram showing 3 air corridors into Berlin.
The seemingly impossible task actually ended up delivering more goods than could have been transported overland, and on May 11 1949 a humiliated Stalin lifted the blockade.
Pilots and crews came from Britain, USA, Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand. Figures vary, but it seems there were between 80 and 100 military and civilian deaths as a result mainly of the 25 aircrashes during the period, the first casualties of the Cold War.
At the height of the airlift, planes were landing in Berlin every minute, 24 hours a day. Once on the ground, German civilians would unload the aircraft in 20 minutes before it turned around and went back for more.
Some pilots began dropping little parcels of sweets out of the cockpit window, which floated down beneath handkerchief parachutes to the kids who stood at the end of the runway watching the planes come in. The idea caught on in the US and people and sweets manufacturers began sending in sweets especially for the purpose, a bit of propagada which scored points with the German people under Allied occupation.
The image above is of the memorial to the Berlin Airlift and to those who died relieving the blockade and is situated near Tempelhof airport. The three prongs represent the three air corridors along which the aircraft could fly. There are similar memorials at the other airports forming the air bridge. Although a composite, this is not a then and now shot, I don’t know where the original was taken.
The original photo.
Source; wikipedia commons
Diagram source; wikipedia commons