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What is the Definition of the Berlin Airlift?

by | Mar 7, 2024 | World War Tour Berlin

The Berlin Airlift was a historic event that took place during the Cold War. It was a massive humanitarian and logistical effort to provide supplies to the people of West Berlin, who were cut off from the rest of the world by a Soviet blockade. In this blog post, we will explore the background, significance, and key details of the Berlin Airlift.

The Background

After World War II, Germany was split into four occupation zones controlled by the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. The capital city of Berlin, located deep within the Soviet zone, was also divided into four sectors. Tensions between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies began to rise, leading to the start of the Cold War.

In 1948, the Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, implemented a blockade on West Berlin. The aim was to pressure the Western Allies to abandon their plans to create a separate West German state. The blockade cut off all rail, road, and waterway access to West Berlin, leaving its two million residents without essential supplies.

The Response

The Western Allies faced a difficult choice. They could either back down and abandon West Berlin, or find an alternative way to supply the people. They chose the latter and initiated the Berlin Airlift.

The Airlift Operation

The Berlin Airlift involved the transportation of supplies, mainly food, fuel, and other essentials, by air. The operation began on June 26, 1948, and lasted for almost a year, until September 30, 1949.

The two main airports used for the airlift were Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin and Gatow Airport in the British sector. The Allies organized a massive fleet of cargo planes, mainly C-47s and C-54s, which made non-stop flights, around the clock, to transport supplies into West Berlin.

At the height of the airlift, a plane would land in West Berlin every 30 seconds. To ensure the planes could land and take off quickly, a complex traffic control system was implemented.

The Impact

The Berlin Airlift was a remarkable logistical achievement. Over the course of the airlift, nearly 277,000 flights were made, delivering over 2.3 million tons of supplies. This ensured that the people of West Berlin did not suffer from food shortages or other essential supply disruptions.

Moreover, the Berlin Airlift symbolized the determination of the Western Allies to stand against Soviet aggression and protect the principles of democracy and freedom. It demonstrated the unity and resolve of the United States, Great Britain, and France in the face of adversity.

The End of the Airlift

The blockade ended on May 12, 1949, when the Soviet Union lifted the blockade. The decision was partly due to the pressure exerted by the success of the airlift and the realization that the blockade was not achieving its intended goals.

Even after the blockade ended, the airlift continued for several more months to ensure a sufficient stockpile of supplies in West Berlin.


The Berlin Airlift was a defining moment in history. It not only provided much-needed supplies to the people of West Berlin but also showcased the determination and resilience of the Western Allies. The operation served as a powerful symbol of hope, unity, and the triumph of democracy over tyranny.

Today, the Berlin Airlift is remembered as a humanitarian and logistical feat that united nations and demonstrated the power of international cooperation in the face of adversity.

What is the Definition of the Berlin Airlift?