Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free

Operation Vittles: The Berlin Airlift Begins

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin


The Berlin Airlift was one of the most remarkable humanitarian efforts of the 20th century. It took place in the aftermath of World War II when the city of Berlin was divided into four zones, each controlled by a different Allied power. The Soviet Union, which controlled East Berlin, implemented a blockade in an attempt to isolate West Berlin and force the Western powers to abandon the city. In response, the United States and its allies initiated the Berlin Airlift, a massive logistical operation to supply West Berlin with essential goods and prevent its collapse. In this article, we will explore when the Berlin Airlift started and how it unfolded.

The Beginning of the Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift officially began on June 26, 1948, in response to the Soviet blockade. Soviet forces had closed all road, rail, and waterway access to West Berlin, effectively cutting off the city from its supply lines. The Western powers, primarily the United States, Britain, and France, saw the blockade as a direct challenge to their presence in post-war Germany and believed they had to act quickly to address the crisis.

Operation Vittles, as it was known to the Allies, involved airlifting essential supplies into West Berlin. The mission was to deliver food, fuel, and other necessities to the residents of the besieged city. The primary goal was to sustain the population until a diplomatic or political solution to the crisis could be reached.

The Logistical Challenges

The Berlin Airlift faced numerous logistical challenges right from the start. One of the major concerns was the limited capacity of the airports in West Berlin. Tempelhof Airport, Tegel Airport, and Gatow Airfield were the three main airfields used for the operation. These airports were not designed for such a large-scale operation and had to be expanded to accommodate the increased air traffic.

The Western powers also needed to establish an efficient supply chain to keep the airlift running smoothly. They had to coordinate the transportation of goods from various locations to the airports, where they would be loaded onto cargo planes that would then fly into West Berlin. This required meticulous planning and coordination between military forces and civilian organizations.

The Role of the C-47 Skytrain

The C-47 Skytrain, a military transport aircraft, played a crucial role in the Berlin Airlift. It was capable of carrying significant cargo loads and was well-suited for the operation. These planes, along with other aircraft such as the C-54 Skymaster, were instrumental in ensuring a steady flow of supplies into West Berlin.

Operation Maintenance

Efficient maintenance of both the aircraft and the airports was vital to the success of the Berlin Airlift. The planes operated around the clock, landing and taking off every few minutes. This demanding schedule put a strain on the aircraft, and regular maintenance was necessary to keep them in serviceable condition. Additionally, the airports had to be kept in good working order to handle the constant influx of cargo planes.

The Duration of the Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift lasted for a total of 11 months, officially ending on May 12, 1949. During this time, over 2.3 million tons of supplies were airlifted into West Berlin. The operation continued despite harsh weather conditions, political tensions, and the occasional accidents that occurred during flights.

The Impact and Legacy

The Berlin Airlift had a profound impact on the people of Berlin and showcased the determination and resilience of the Western powers. It demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the people of West Berlin and their resolve to defend democracy and freedom in the face of Soviet aggression.

The successful conclusion of the Berlin Airlift had lasting effects on the political landscape of post-war Europe. It solidified the division between East and West, leading to the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The airlift also served as a powerful symbol of Western unity and cooperation during the early years of the Cold War.


The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948, and lasted for 11 months, effectively breaking the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. It was a massive logistical operation that involved airlifting essential supplies into the city to sustain its population. The Berlin Airlift showcased the resolve and determination of the Western powers in the face of Soviet aggression and had a lasting impact on the political landscape of post-war Europe. It remains a testament to the power of humanitarian aid and the triumph of hope over adversity.

Thank you for reading. If you're inspired by the stories of Berlin and want to delve deeper, why not join us on our Free Berlin Walking Tour? It's a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the city's rich history and vibrant culture. We look forward to welcoming you soon.


  • 3.5 hours walking tour
  • Berlin’s major highlights
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Free Walking Tour Berlin

When: Every day 10am & 12pm every day
Where: The meeting point is in front of the ehemaliges Kaiserliches Postfuhramt Berlin, Oranienburger Straße, 10117 Berlin, Germany, next to the entrance.
Price: Free