The Berlin Airlift

Emily Koster Hour 1 Chapter 18 Project

Who, When, and Where

British and American planes flew supplies into West Berlin. It began in June 1948, when the Soviets cut West Berlin off and ended on May 12, 1949 when they finally yielded and lifted the blockade. There were only three 'paths' to get the supplies in - two British airways and one American.

"We stay in Berlin - period."

Supplies and Statistics

Both food and supplies were brought into the city. 2.3 million tons of medicine, food, and coal to fuel homes in the cold winter were flown in. On the first day alone, the U.S. flew in 32 planes carrying 80 tons of cargo - mostly food and medicine. On April 17th, 1949, the British and U.S. operated the 'Easter parade' and set the record for the most supplies brought in. They delivered 13,000 tons of cargo, made possible by shipping the supplies overseas on boats and then having planes fly it in. Americans did most of the work in the whole operation. 75% of the supplies was brought in by the U.S. and they flew around 190,000 flights into the city.

Problems

The Soviets always observed the situation but never truly acted on it - they never attacked the planes. Sometimes, however, they tried to sabotage them, like opening fire in the air paths to momentarily blind the pilots. Some lives were lost in the Berlin Airlift, not to Soviet harassment, but rather flying in bad weather. 30 American servicemen and 1 civilian lost their lives in 12 crashes.

My Reaction

I thought it was interesting to learn more about how the British and Americans went about doing this. It caught my attention in the book when it stated that the plane's crew sometimes brought Christmas presents, bought with their own money, in addition to the supplies. I wanted to know more about what exactly they brought and how much of it. I was surprised at how effective the system was and how it didn't even seem to hinder the U.S./British and the Soviets eventually just gave up on the blockade.