The South African Military History SocietyDie Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

August 27, 2016 – 10:43 am

First mapBy Anthony Speir
South African National Museum of Military History


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift or Air Bridge, which operated for a period of fifteen months between June 1945 and September 1949. It was the first major trial of strength between the West and the Communist powers in Eastern Europe and it was one of the rare occasions when the Communists were forced to admit defeat.

The background to the blockade of Berlin by the Soviets and the consequent need for the airlift lay in the differing attitudes of the Occupying Powers towards their respective parts of Germany. The Soviets wanted to keep Germany weak to prevent her from ever launching another attack on the Soviet Union. The British and Americans, on the other hand, wanted to see the destitute Germany back on her feet as soon as possible, so that all of their resources could be used for the rebuilding of Britain and the ravaged countries of Europe.

Damage and looting

During the War, 70 000 tons of bombs had been dropped on Berlin. The city had also been shelled for nearly ten days by the advancing Soviet armies. Up to 45% of its houses had been totally destroyed, another 15% were severely damaged and only 5% remained totally undamaged.

Berlin had been captured by units of the Soviet Army in the last week of the war and, for the first two months after the end of the war, the entire city had been occupied by the Soviet Army. In the beginning of July 1945, the Western Powers took over their sectors of Berlin and, in return, they evacuated some parts of Germany that were to be occupied by the Soviet Army.

When the Soviets had entered Berlin at the end of April 1945, they had looted, raped and pillaged their way through the city and concentrated on removing anything of value from the areas destined to become the Allied sectors. Many eastern troops from Mongolia had moved into Berlin and had been allowed to loot and rape with little control, learning only two words of German: 'Frau, komm' (Woman, come here).


Prints Online Photo Jigsaw Puzzle of Map at the Berlin Air Safety Centre, during the Berlin Airli
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  • Photo Jigsaw Puzzle You Are Purchasing A Photo Puzzle. Estimated image size 356x254mm
  • 10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box of dimensions 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle artwork 5x7 affixed to box top. Puzzle pieces printed...
  • Artwork Description Map at the Berlin Air Safety Centre, during the Berlin Airli Photograph showing a large wall map of Berlin and its air corridors, in the Berlin...
  • Artwork chosen by Prints Online. (c) Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans
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