By 1948, it became apparent that the Western Powers (Great Britain, France, and US) plan to rebuild Germany differed from the Soviet Union's plan. Currency, German Unification, Soviet War reparations, and mere ideology were among the many differences the two sides had. There would be no compromise. As a result, Stalin wanted them out of Berlin. In early 1948, tensions between the once former Allies climaxed. On April 9, 1948, Stalin ordered all American Military personnel maintaining communications equipment out of the Eastern Zone (Soviet controlled Berlin). Trains were halted on June 1and June10. On June 21, the Soviets halted a US Military Supply Train and refused it passage to Berlin. On the 22nd, they placed armed guards aboard, attached a Soviet engine and hauled it back to Western Germany. In a final move to spurn the Americans, British, and French out, on June 24, 1948, all land and water access to West Berlin was cut off by the Soviets. There were to be no more supplies from the West. What was going to happen? Where were the necessary supplies going to come from for the Occupation Forces? For that matter, where were the supplies for the 2, 008, 943 Berliners going to come from? It was a grave situation.
General Lucius Clay Sir Brian Robertson General Curt LeMay Brig. General Joseph Smith
The Allies were certainly not going to stand for this. Diplomacy failed, Ground invasions were planned, and World War 3 was on the brink of existence. US Military Commander Lucius Clay had developed a plan by which an armed convoy through Soviet Controlled Germany would break the blockade. This action would certainly create a war.
A Douglas C-47, the military version of the DC-3. It is capable of hauling 3.5 tons of cargo.
However, British Commander Sir Brian Robertson offered an alternative: supply the city by air. A daunting task. Supplying the Occupation forces of 2, 2679 was easy, but the entire population? The only aircraft the Americans had available for the task were 5 year old Douglas C-47 Skytrains, which would only hold 3.5 tons each. After some consultation, the decision was made: it was worth a try. Earlier in April, US Forces airlifted in supplies to replace the ones being delayed by the Soviets. This was what became known as the "Little Lift". West Berlin had two airports, Tempelhof, which was Berlin's main airport and located in the American Sector, and Gatow, in the British Sector. Supplies could be airlifted in by C-47 and there was nothing the Soviet Union could do about because, in 1945, someone had foresight. On November 30, 1945, it was agreed, in writing, that there would be three 20-mile wide air corridors providing access to the city. These were unarguable.
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