World War II was the most damaging war our world has witnessed in the 21st century. After the war ended, most of the world was ready to have a long, peaceful, and prosperous break. The Soviet Union, however, had different plans. The Berlin Airlift was an event that caused tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, furthering tensions between the two countries.
The dividing of Germany
After the Allies won the war and defeated the Axis powers, the country leading the Axis powers, Germany, was divided into four regions. Each of those four regions was ruled by one of the four most powerful countries of the Allied forces: the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union.
The democracies of the west wanted all the four parts of Germany to be reunited and ruled by a single democratic government. Another goal the western democracies had was to stop the Soviet Union from further spreading its communism. The Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine made this intention very clear. On the other hand, the Soviet Union wanted to have full control over Berlin, the Capital of Germany, which would have allowed the Soviet Union to have the upper hand in the ruling of Germany.
Cutting Berlin off from the rest of Germany, and the world
Berlin, which was in the center of the Soviet-controlled part of Germany, was an island that connected to the rest of Germany by roads and railroads. The western countries ruling the three parts of Germany used to send different supplies, such as food and medicine, to the city of Berlin through those roads and railroads. In an attempt to gain full control of Berlin, the Soviet Union decided to cut off the means of supplies entering the city by blocking the traffic in and out of the city. They also cut off electricity and power that the Soviet Union part of Germany supplied Berlin with.
Once the blockade started, the city of Berlin only had enough food for about a month. Other resources like coal for energy and medicine were almost completely gone.
The Berlin Airlift
Not wanting to start another war, the western countries ruling the other three parts of Germany decided to find a way to provide Berlin with the supplies the city needed. Since all way by land was blocked, the only option left was air!
Flying in all these supplies for the people of Berlin, which had a population of 2 million people at the time, was an extremely difficult mission. For example, the food the city needed per day just to survive was estimated at 1500 tons. The Soviet Union was convinced that this airlift would never work and that the people of Berlin would have to give their city up to the communists if they didn’t want to starve.
Saving the city of Berlin
The United States and Great Britain continued to fly in food, energy, and medical supplies to the city of Berlin for 10 months! By the end of those ten months, both countries had over 2 million tons of food entering Berlin through more than 200,000 flight missions. Finally, on May 12th, 1949, the Soviet Union realized that the road and railroad blockade they made was useless and was not getting the expected result. As a result, the blockage was lifted and the Berlin Airlift came to an end.
Back to Cold War topics