Post World War II antagonism between the Soviets and the western allies led to the Soviet blockade western access to Berlin, a city shared by the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviets. The Soviet aim was to strangle the ability of the west to supply their sectors of Berlin. In 1948, roads, rivers, and rail leading to Berlin were cut off. The agreed-to air corridors were left open due to the superiority of western aircraft. The Soviets believed that the supply of Berlin's energy, food, and other resources by air alone was impossible, and the western allies would be forced to leave.

From June 1948 to May 1949, thousands of flights flying thousands of tons of cargo of coal, food, and other supplies were flown into Berlin each month. In the end the Soviets were forced to accept that the western allies were not leaving Berlin, and the blockades were lifted after negotiations.

Known in German as "die Luftbrücke" (the air bridge).

The Berlin blockade and airlift was a crisis that occurred from 1948 to 1949, caused by Allied economic unification of German sectors and Soviet ambitions to expel the Allies from their holdings in West Berlin. When Allied powers united their German holdings in March of 1948 and released the new currency of the Deutsche Mark in West Berlin (The Soviets viewed this as direct competition to the currency of East Berlin), the Soviets responded by blockading all land and water communications between the city of Berlin and all other countries. In order to transport critical supplies to the city as well as partially continue the exportation of West German industrial products, the U.S. and Britain organized “airlifts” in and out of West Berlin. Although war did not break our between the U.S. and the Soviets, it did heighten tensions between the two powers, partially precipitating the Cold War.

The Berlin Airlift was an amazing organisational feat. A population of approximately 2 million people was supplied with all their worldly needs by a continuous stream of cargo aircraft.

The Combined Airlift Task Force (CALTF) was formed a few months into the effort, as an organisation solely dedicated to keeping planes flying into Berlin. It was made up of American, British, and French aircrews.

From June 1948 through to September 1949, around 2.1 million metric tons of supplies were carried into Berlin by CALTF. In total, almost 280000 flights were made, peaking at 1400 flights landing in Berlin *per day*, approximately 1 per minute!!

These numbers may not seem much today, especially compared with major international terminals like Heathrow and O'Hare, but 55 years ago to organise for such a mind bogglingly large amount stuff to be transported in just 12 months is a truly great feat!

Stats drawn from:

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