The Berlin Airlift 1948-1949

RAF Gatow

The start of the Cold War

At the end of World War II the country of Germany was divided by the Allies into four zones. Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union each controlled a different zone. The capital of Germany, Berlin, was located in the Soviet Union zone, but control of this city was also split into four zones between the four countries. Tensions began to mount between the democratic countries of the west and the communist countries controlled by the Soviet Union of the east. Soon the two sides were at odds over the future of Germany. The west introduced a new currency called the Deutsche Mark, but the Soviets refused to use it in their zone. The city of Berlin was an island in the middle of the Soviet controlled zone. The west sent supplies there via railroads and roads. However, the Soviets wanted total control of Berlin. They figured if they cut off Berlin from their external supplies and food, then it would fall under their control. On June 24, 1948 the Soviets blocked all rail and road traffic to Berlin. They cut off the electricity coming from the Soviet part of the city. They halted all traffic going in and out of the city. Without going to war or giving up the city of Berlin, the only option the western countries had was to try and fly in all the supplies. This was a huge task. There were over two million people living in the city at the time. The RAF estimated that it would take over 1500 tons of food each day to keep them alive. Over the next ten months the United States and Great Britain flew around 277,000 flights into Berlin. They carried over 2.3 million tons of supplies into the city. On May 12, 1949 the Soviet Union stopped the blockade and the airlift was over. 

RAF Gatow Display

Berlin Airlift Display at Horseguards parade

The TEC takes you to the Berlin airport of Gatow. Here you will be able to see the ground crew unloading and loading aircraft as well as explaining who this little known conflict of the Cold war.

Aircraft had to be turned around in 30 minutes in 1948, will our crews make it in time?