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

Rescuing a Divided City: The Berlin Airlift

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

Imagine waking up one day to find yourself trapped in a city completely surrounded by hostile forces. Your access to basic necessities like food, water, and fuel is suddenly cut off. This was the reality for the people of Berlin in 1948. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why the Berlin Airlift occurred and the incredible logistical challenge that was overcome to ensure the survival of a city.

The Background and Context

After World War II, the victorious Allied powers divided Germany into four occupation zones, each controlled by the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. Berlin, the capital of Germany, also found itself divided into four sectors. However, tensions soon emerged between the Western powers and the Soviet Union, leading to the onset of the Cold War.

In 1948, in an attempt to consolidate their control, the Soviet Union caused a disruption in Berlin by blocking off access to West Berlin, which was under the control of the Western powers. The Soviets aimed to force the Western powers out of the city by cutting off their supply lines.

The Trigger: The Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Blockade, as it came to be known, began on June 24, 1948, when the Soviet Union closed all land and water routes into West Berlin. This move aimed to starve the city of supplies and isolate it from the rest of the world, making it entirely dependent on the Soviet-controlled zones.

The blockade resulted in a severe shortage of vital resources, including food, coal, and medical supplies. As the situation grew dire, the people of Berlin faced the very real possibility of starvation and economic collapse.

The Response: The Berlin Airlift

The Western powers refused to back down in the face of the blockade. Led by the United States, they devised a bold plan to supply West Berlin completely by air. On June 26, 1948, the Berlin Airlift officially began, signaling a turning point in the history of the city.

Operation Vittles: A Remarkable Feat of Logistics

Operation Vittles, the codename given to the airlift, was an enormous logistical undertaking that required meticulous planning and execution. The operation aimed to deliver an average of 5,000 tons of supplies each day to the people of Berlin.

To achieve this, a 24/7 airlift was established, with aircraft flying into West Berlin from numerous airports in Western Germany. The aircraft, primarily cargo planes such as the C-47 Dakota and C-54 Skymaster, made continuous flights, loading and unloading supplies at temporary airports established within the city.

The airlift was not without its challenges. The pilots had to navigate through narrow air corridors, constantly changing weather conditions, and the risk of Soviet interference. Despite these obstacles, the dedication and determination of the airlift crews ensured a steady flow of supplies to West Berlin.

The People’s Spirit: A City United

The Berlin Airlift was not only a demonstration of technological prowess but also a testament to the resilience and unity of the people of Berlin. As the planes landed at Tempelhof Airport, Berliners would come out to welcome and cheer for the pilots and crew members, inspired by their unwavering support.

Furthermore, the people of Berlin played a crucial role in the success of the airlift. They contributed to the construction of a makeshift airport overnight, known as Tegel Airport, to provide additional capacity for incoming flights. The spirit of cooperation and determination among the Berliners remains an enduring symbol of human resilience.

The Resolution: The End of the Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Airlift continued for nearly a year, until May 12, 1949, when the Soviet Union finally lifted the blockade. The airlift had proved successful in supplying West Berlin and had highlighted the commitment of the Western powers to defending the city against Soviet aggression.

Following the end of the blockade, the situation in Berlin changed. The division between East and West Germany became more pronounced, leading to the eventual construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. However, the memory of the Berlin Airlift remains a symbol of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

The Legacy: Lessons Learned

The Berlin Airlift was a historic event that demonstrated the power of determination, innovation, and international cooperation. It showcased the willingness of nations to come together to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, even in the face of major obstacles.

The lessons learned during the Berlin Airlift continue to resonate today. The successful logistical operation serves as an inspiration for overcoming challenges and finding creative solutions in times of crisis. It also stands as a reminder of the importance of maintaining open lines of communication and pursuing peaceful resolutions even in the midst of political tensions.

In conclusion, the Berlin Airlift occurred in response to the Soviet Union’s blockade of West Berlin. Through a combination of ingenuity, perseverance, and the united efforts of nations, the Western powers successfully supplied the city by air, alleviating a humanitarian crisis. The airlift showcased the extraordinary ability of humans to come together and triumph over adversity, leaving an indelible mark on the history of the Cold War.

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
  • Brandenburg Gate
  • Reichstag and Berlin Wall
  • Historical sites

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