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THE BERLIN AIRLIFT ( A Brief History )

In the early hours of June 24, 1948 by order of Joseph Stalin Russia halted all traffic into and out of the Russian sector of Berlin at Marienborn, which was the russian checkpoint located nearly one hundred miles from the city of Berlin. Stalin also cut off all electricity to the city of Berlin claiming "Technical Difficulties". General Clay who was the Military Governor of Germany at the time contacted General Curtis LeMay who was the Commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe and asked him if they could start flying food supplies into Berlin. General LeMay agreed and the airlift started on 24 June, 1948. At the beginning of the airlift General LeMay had hoped to concentrate the men of the 60th and the 61st Troop Carrier Group at Rhine Main AFB which had one 6,000 yard runway. Rhine Main had been used as a fighter station after the war by the Air Force and was composed entirly of "Marston" steel matting.

At the beginning of the airlift there were three supplying airfields: Rhein Main and Wiesbaden in the American zone, and Weinstorf in the British zone. However, by the end of the Airlift there would be nine airfields. All six would be located in the British zone to cut down the length of time of flying supplies into Berlin. The only route into Berlin was by means of three twenty mile wide corridors across the Soviet zone of Berlin. Once the allied forces were over the the city, western aircraft shared airspace with seven Soviet airfields.

At the start of the airlift the main aircraft used was the C-47 and they first were to carry 80-tons of milk, flour and medicine into the suffering city of Berlin. The American name for the Berlin Airlift was first called " The LeMay Coal and Feed Delivery Service". The british called it "Operation Plainfare". The primary goal of Russia was to force the United states, Britian and France out of Berlin. As you can see from the map at the top of the page, western Berlin was comperable to an island surrounded by a sea of red which was the Russian occupied zone.

On July 2nd, 1948 Britians' Lt. General Brian K. Robertson demanded after confering with the U.S. and French leaders that the russians lift the entire blockade. On July 14th Russia informed the western powers that they no longer had any right to be in Berlin and that the blockade was invoked to protect "The economy of the soviet zone". The russians claimed that by setting up a west German government, issueing seperate currency and through other alleged violations of "Big Four" agreements on Germany and Berlin, the west had rendered "Null and Void its' Right" to participate in the occupation of Berlin. Moscow asserted that West Berlin "is in the center of the Soviet zone and is part of that zone".

 


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