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"Berliner Luftbrücke" - When Allied Airmen fed the isolated West Berlin

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Wikipedia shows some interesting and informative pictures of the days, when West-Berlin was isolated

within the Sowiet-controlled GDR (German Democratic Republik), by the surrounding wall. The Soviets had

controlled and cut off all land supply routes - it seemed a question of time, when West-Berlin would have

to give up.

But the Americans did not accept this as an inescapeable fate - in a tremendous effort, they organised the

supply of a whole city by air transport: "Unternehmen Luftbrücke" (Operation Air Bridge) was installed.

Here is Wikipedia about the facts:


The Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War.

During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies'

railway, road and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied control. Their aim was to force the western

powers to allow the Soviet zone to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving the Soviets practical

control over the entire city.

In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies to the people in West Berlin.

The recently independent United States Air Force and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force flew over 200,000

flights in one year, providing up to 4700 tons of daily necessities such as fuel and food to the Berliners.


Alongside US and British personnel, the airlift involved aircrews from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal

Canadian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and South African Air Force. By the spring of 1949, the effort

was clearly succeeding and, by April, the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported

into the city by rail. The success of the Berlin Airlift brought embarrassment to the Soviets who had refused to

believe it could make a difference. The blockade was lifted in May 1949 and resulted in the creation of two separate

German states.

The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) split up

Berlin. In remembrance of the airlift, three airports in the former western zones of the city served as the primary

gateways to Germany for another fifty years.






There are still many Berliners, who lived, when all this happened. They may have been among the kids on that

hill of bomb damage rubble, just outside the airfield. And when you speak with them about the "Luftbrücke",

their eyes may get moist, while they tell you, that the pilots often threw chocolate bars - attached to little handkerchief-

parachutes - out of their cockpits, when they saw the waiting children. And you can feel, how gratefull they still are.




A total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Britons and 31 Americans,

mostly due to crashes. Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation.

They are not forgotten - the Berlin Airlift Monument in Berlin-Tempelhof shows this inscription at it's base:


"They gave their lives for the freedom of Berlin in service of the Berlin Airlift 1948/49".



Edited by Olham

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A somewhat funny side note to this effort.


When my unit was in Somalia in 1993, we were supposed to all be awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal [left image] for helping to deliver massive ammounts of food to the local villages. But my supply officer had mistyped the requisition and ended up getting us 250 copies of the Medal for Humane Action (otherwise known as the Berlin Airlift Medal) [right image]. I wanted to keep one for a souvenir, but we had to return all of them.



Edited by NS13Jarhead

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Hmmm - makes one wonder, why they have two medals for a very similar reason.

I'd say they could have used the "Airbridge" medal for the other causes too?

And the old one even looks a tad better IMHO.


Damn, the military - they'd ask everything back from you, what they can.

Arthur Gould Lee or Cecil Lewis - one of them had landed his scout in a terrain,

which was a bit later overrun by the Germans.

He remembered the flight watch and ran back to the craft under threat of life, to get it out

of the aircraft cockpit. He then wanted to keep it as a wartime souvenir.

One or two days later, he received a message - they asked him to hand over the watch

the other day in the morning.

Edited by Olham

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Ehm. At this time West Berlin was not surrounded by the GDR. The GDR was founded on 7.October 1949, more than one year later than the start of the Airbridge and one month later than the Federal Republic of Germany. The "birthday" of the FRG was never an official celebration day, because also the most "smart" people of Germany would realise who had ruptured Germany into parts. :grin:

West Berlin was never a part of the FRG, it was a seperate part of Germany under westallied occupation (you can called it protection if you want).


The Berlin Blockade was started when the west allies made a surprising currency change. They changed the old Reichsmark into "Deutsche Mark West Berlin" under the condition, that only money on saving accounts were changed in a relation of 10:1. All cash money was not changed. At the same time the Reichsmark was the official money in East Berlin, so that billions of Reichsmark flew over the open border into the east and had a devasting effect of the east german economy (inflation) The soviet command had seen only one methode to stop the moneyflow and closed the border with military force. Then they organized a money change in the eastern zone of germany. and so on.....

Perhaps we will see a similar behaviour of the EU states if Greece will leave the Euro zone. Maybe.


Enough with backroundinfos.

The british, american and french pilots made a great job. No doubt. :salute:

Edited by Gepard
  • Like 1

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Thanks for the info, Gepard. That's not how we hear it over here, but with propaganda that's not surprising. Thanks for providing new (and I assume better) data.

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Thanks for the detail, Gepard. I kept it simpler, cause it didn't matter for my report,

wether it was the GDR or still only just the Soviet zone.

I didn't know the details about the way of the currency change; good info!

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Interesting, Gepard. Of course, as a young Air Force ROTC cadet, I was thoroughly versed in the airlift - and a veteran plane from that effort is still making the air show rounds in the US - I've seen it in Pittsburgh a number of times.


But what I find interesting is the (presumably) provocative action taken by the allies with regards to the currency. I have absolutely zero knowlege about how this kind of stuff works, and I often suspect it to be a "shell game" of sorts - but using currency as a weapon? The peons never get the full story, do we...?

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