Berlin Blockade

On June 26, 1948 the largest airlift began as the American and British forces began the
Berlin Airlift. To understand how the airlift came to be, we have to look all the way back
to the Yalta Conference. The Yalta Conference began in February 1945 in which the three
superpowers, America, Russia and Britain, met to discuss the future of post war Europe.
America and Russia were emerging as the two superpowers, and their deteriorating
relationship would soon lead to many problems that would develop in post war Europe.
Yalta saw the beginning of this deteriorating relationship. First, Stalin put a communist
government in place in Poland. Poland had been the route that enemies had used to
invade Russia on three separate occasions and Stalin felt he needed a friendly government
in power. Stalin had agreed to hold elections in liberated countries following the war
which he broke when he established a communist government in Poland. Although the
U.S. and Britain had done the same thing when they put their own government in Italy
following their defeat, Stalin’s move in Poland still upset the other two superpowers. U.S.
still needed Russia’s help to fight the war in Japan so President Roosevelt had to be
careful not to upset Stalin. The communist government was allowed to stay in Poland but
the government was extended to include the Poles living in London that were suppose to
form the government. Stalin made sure that the communists always had the majority.
Also in an attempt to keep good relations with Russia, Roosevelt agreed to allow Russia
to remove ten billion dollars from defeated Germany. Also at Yalta, it was agreed that
post war Germany be divided into four occupational zones, which would become one of
the main problems leading to the Berlin Airlift. Russia was given the north east, the U.S.
was given the south east, Britain the north west, and France the south west. Berlin,
Germany’s capital, was also divided into four occupational zones but Berlin was located
in Russia’s zone of occupation.
Soon following the war in the Pacific, the relationship between the superpowers
would soon begin to deteriorate further leading up to the Berlin Blockade. Soon Russia
and France began removing items from their zones in Germany to help rebuild their
homeland that Germany had demolished. Germans living in these zones began to move
into the U.S. and Britain zones where life was much better. Before long the U.S. and
Britain could not afford to feed all the mouths moving in. Russia and France used their
hatred for Germany as their excuse for what they were doing but it soured the relationship
between the great powers. In the attempt of the U.S. and Britain to help rebuild the
economy of Germany they introduced a new currency, the Deutchmark, in U.S., Britain
and French zones. They got France to agree by supporting their reclaiming effort of
French-Indo China. Knowing that Russia would not agree with the new currency, they
were not consulted. This broke the rule that was set that anything that affected all of
Germany must be agreed upon by all zones. News also began to come out about the
formation of Bizonia, the joining of the U.S. and British zones. Stalin, upset over not
being consulted over the currency issue and the news of a Bizonia, saw this as a good
time to get the allies out of Berlin. “ The Soviets halted first auto, then barge, finally all
railroad traffic into the city, sealing off the western portion of Berlin controlled by
American, British, and French forces.”(
President Truman, who took over from Roosevelt after he passed away, had one
of the most important decisions he would face as President. By moving into Russia’s
zone and trying to break the blockade using ground forces Truman would risk the
possibility of starting World War III. It was also an election year for Truman, the first he
had faced, and all eyes were watching him on this one. Truman’s decision would
eventually help him win the election. Truman, lacking the ground forces to punch through
a blockade and worried about starting World War III opted to go with the airlift to get
into Berlin. For the next 322 day, beginning June 26 1948, U.S. and Britain launched the
largest aerial resupply operation the world has ever seen. Major General Curtis E.LeMay
was commander of the Air Forces in Europe. At his disposal he had 102 C-47’s, each
with a cargo capacity of three tons and two of the larger C-54’s that could haul ten