Soviets Blockade West Berlin
The division of Germany into eastern and western halves was mirrored by the splitting of the former unified nation’s capital, Berlin, located deep in the heart of East Germany, into pro-Western and pro-Soviet sectors as well. The Kremlin, disturbed by the presence of a pro-Western enclave in the heart of Soviet-held German territory, grew incensed by the refusal of Western trains to be inspected within the Soviet zone by Russian soldiers.
The response was swift and shocking. Soviet troops blocked all ground access to Berlin. At first claiming to be making road repairs, the Kremlin finally acknowledged its intention to envelope Western-controlled Berlin by starving its populace into submission. Agreements after World War II allowed for access by air but not by roadway, leaving the Western allies little choice but to supply the 2.5 million people within their sectors of Berlin with all of the food, medical supplies and clothing they would need to survive the coming winter.
At first the allies got off to a slow start. Western-controlled Berlin needed 4,000 tons of food a day to survive. The allies at the time could only fly in about 700 tons. President Harry Truman (1884–1972), recognizing the daunting odds, resisted domestic pressures to abandon Berlin and, with the assistance of the British, began assembling flight crews and gathering available aircraft to fly. From June 1948 until September 1949, flights entered and left Berlin in a steady stream, insuring the survival of the besieged Berliners. The Soviet blockade was lifted in May 1949.
“Commentary on Berlin Airlift.” The Cold War. Ed. Walter Hixson. Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 2000. American Journey. U.S. History in Context. Web.