Berlin airlift

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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

42 comments on “Berlin airlift
  1. stopherjones says:

    Great composition, really seems to set the tone and illustrate the narrative

  2. A Certain Ratio says:

    My Hometown. Tastefully done.

  3. steiner2009 "AKA Dr Dust " says:

    wow that is a cracking piece of art work , an amazing and powerful shot dude 🙂

  4. mick cooke says:

    yes great work ian

  5. cgullz says:

    bloody wicked information. i only just read a small piece* on this yesterday – i have to admit, my knowledge weak in this area, didn’t even know anything about it. that you post this, is timely and motivating. really appreciate the effort gone into making this such a readable piece, and the image conversion is very cool. great work Ian. thanks for all that you do.
    * the piece was on W/O Doug Holloway who flew for 18 months, with No.41 sqd RNZAF, during the blockade of West Berlin, operating night and day – 18 months!! that’s a long blockade!

  6. pasujoba says:

    I,m sure one of the crash sites we have visited was of an aircraft which took part in the Berlin airlift.
    This is a great idea Ian , to mix the pictures like that , the children look as if they are viewing the monument. Makes for a very fitting memorial!

  7. nondesigner59 says:

    Brilliant editing as ever..

  8. Canadian Wendy 24 says:

    WOW this is really fantastic so much interesting info!! Thanks for sharing this with us!! Great song!!

  9. Ian D B says:

    You are right Paul, this American C-54 was returning from Germany when it crashed on Stake House Fell.

    This site has photos of all the American personel killed during the Berlin Blockade.

    And of course Over Exposed on Bleaklow had previously taken part in the airlift too.

  10. Ian D B says:

    Many thanks everyone.
    How about that! Good timing. We must be telepathetic.

  11. pasujoba says:

    How could i forget ! Two not one and one of them probaly the most famous crash site in England at least.

  12. Keartona says:

    Another triumph of combined images to tell a particular story.
    Amazing stuff Ian!!!!

  13. jr55 (John Richardson) says:

    Very clever editing and a great piece of history as usual, Nice work Ian

  14. gastephen says:

    interesting stuff, Ian!

  15. Art In Time says:

    Thanks for sharing this image I remember this well since I lived in Berlin at the time as a kid. This was built at the Templehof Airport in Berlin.

  16. crusader752 says:

    Very cleverly done Ian ……you certainly give us a real feast of info to back up your superb images and investigations plus the added bit of humour in the comments/replies which help offset the emotions felt when reading how these (mostly) tragedies unfolded. As an aside this particular campaign spawned the foundations of some of our postwar airlines – but just imagine the logistics involved, the sheer determination and spirit involved in plying tons and tons of food, coal and supplies to feed a ‘population’ day after day – round the clock and in all weathers too! Given the tools to hand, the lack of technology – when you look back at it now – incredible!

  17. Kingsdude/Dave says:

    What a great image Ian – and the background story is fascinating as ever. Amazing what can be done given the political will and outstanding bravery of all those flyers

  18. Tech Owl says:

    Another fabulous shot Ian – well put together. Informative too as I had never heard of this memorial

  19. C J Paul (chris) says:

    great job ian you do work on your pic’s mate.
    the history is 1st class.

  20. amyrey says:

    Fascinating stuff…. and clever minipulation of the image.

  21. Billy Currie says:

    your treatment suits it well, Bowie certainly knew his stuff

  22. Ian D B says:

    [] []
    I know, it’s amazing isn’t it! This was the same generation that developed computers, moon landings, modern aviation etc etc. We would live in a very different world had WWII not happened, it is nigh impossible to consider the implications of how things would be if Hitler hadn’t come along when he did… The emergence of the USA would perhaps have been overshadwed by the Soviet Union? We might still have a class system in place in Britain? Our knowledge of other people around the world would be limited to cliches and the concept of racism (without the Holocaust) might not exist? It was these can-do responses to problems then that created the cosy and easy (in the Western) world we have now. I fear we have lost much.

  23. Ian D B says:

    [] [] [] [] [] [] []
    Thanks chaps, I am always amazed people actually read all this stuff underneath my photos.
    Thanks Klaus, good to hear from you.

  24. Highy says:

    Nice work Ian, thought provoking as usual too.
    There was a good article on the "Candy Bombers" in Aircraft a while back – I’ll dig it out for you if you haven’t seen it.

  25. Reflective Kiwi %-) says:

    Oh I LOVE this Ian! Well done! %-)

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  26. judecat (it's all in the Nature of things) says:

    a most wonderful tribute! Thank you for a real learning experience, as well as a terrific song!

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  27. paloetic says:

    wonderful composition and tribute

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  28. cgullz says:

    [] you may just be right 😉

  29. SolarScot. says:

    i wonder if i stand at the end of the runway at Edinburgh Airport they would throw me some Tunnocks !

  30. mambo1935 says:


  31. Benoit Foisy says:

    Another superb piece of history. Great thread with full of infos. Thanks

  32. *Psycho Delia* says:

    This is brilliant Ian

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  33. Orchids love rainwater says:

    Just brilliant !

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  34. Jainbow says:

    What an amazing image. :~}

    Viewed in: Music Monday

  35. redsnapper8 says:

    An interesting shots,, informative locations

  36. Hotpix [LRPS] Hanx for 1.5M Views says:

    Cracking shot and track Ian! – nice one 😎

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  37. D*Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ says:

    Awesome Shot

  38. bill_fawcett says:

    Very well done Ian – excellent write-up and photo work. Thanks to both you and Paul for the excellent work.

  39. IANLAYZELLUK says:


  40. het broertje van.. says:

    Wow man…………………your so good at this!!!


  41. dlberek says:

    I love the combination of the "old" and the "new," especially the use of children, who benefitted the most from this amazing feat.

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