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

The Berlin Airlift: Triumph Amidst Crisis

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Original Berlin

The Background

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany was divided into four zones, each administered by a different Allied power: the United States, Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and France. The city of Berlin, located deep within the Soviet-controlled East Germany, was also divided into four sectors. Tensions ran high between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies as differing ideologies clashed.

The Blockade

In June 1948, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on West Berlin, cutting off all land and water transportation routes. The aim was to force the Western Allies to abandon the city or submit to Soviet control. This move threatened the livelihoods of over two million West Berliners, who relied on supplies from the Western powers for their everyday needs.

The Response

The Western Allies, determined not to abandon the people of West Berlin, devised a plan to supply the city with essential goods by air. This marked the beginning of the historic Berlin Airlift, one of the most monumental humanitarian efforts in history.

The Operation

The Berlin Airlift began on June 26, 1948, when American and British transport planes began flying essential supplies into West Berlin. The initial goal was to provide adequate provisions for the city’s inhabitants until the blockade was lifted. The operation involved a massive logistical challenge, with aircraft flying around the clock to ensure a steady flow of supplies.

Operation Vittles

The American contribution to the airlift was codenamed Operation Vittles, symbolizing the determination to feed the people of Berlin. American pilots transported supplies using C-47 and C-54 aircraft, operating out of the three designated air corridors established by the Allies.

Royal Air Force and the Berlin Airlift

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) played a crucial role in the airlift as well. RAF pilots flew a variety of aircraft, including Avro Lancasters and Handley Page Hastings, delivering supplies alongside their American counterparts. Their efforts were instrumental in ensuring the success of the operation.

The Challenges

Operating the airlift presented numerous challenges for the Western Allies. The Soviet Union frequently harassed the supply flights, engaging in provocative acts, such as buzzing aircraft and impeding their progress. Nevertheless, the pilots and ground crews remained steadfast, determined to overcome every obstacle.

The Weather

Weather conditions posed a significant challenge to the airlift. Harsh winters and dense fogs made flying difficult, causing numerous accidents. However, the pilots and air traffic controllers persevered, often landing aircraft in near-zero visibility conditions to ensure supplies reached Berlin.

The Phantom Fleet

One unique aspect of the Berlin Airlift was the use of “phantom fleets.” These flights were designed to deceive the Soviet Union into believing that the Western Allies had more aircraft at their disposal than they actually did. Non-operational aircraft were painted in realistic colors and positioned to create the illusion of a large fleet.

The End of the Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift came to an end on May 12, 1949, almost a year after its inception. By that time, the Western Allies had successfully flown over 277,000 flights, delivering more than 2.3 million tons of supplies to West Berlin. This remarkable achievement is a testament to the unwavering commitment of the pilots, ground crews, and the citizens they served.

The Triumph

The success of the Berlin Airlift was a resounding triumph for the Western Allies. It showcased their determination to stand up to Soviet aggression and protect the people of West Berlin. The airlift also had a profound impact on the geopolitical landscape of post-war Europe and contributed to West Germany’s subsequent economic recovery.

The Legacy

The Berlin Airlift remains an enduring symbol of determination, resolve, and human compassion. It stands as a remarkable example of how international cooperation can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. The lessons learned from the airlift continue to resonate today, serving as a reminder of the importance of unity in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, the Berlin Airlift, which began in June 1948, ended on May 12, 1949, after nearly a year of sustained effort. This monumental humanitarian operation brought hope and sustenance to the people of West Berlin, demonstrating the power of unity and resilience in the face of adversity. The triumph of the Berlin Airlift continues to inspire generations, serving as a testament to the indomitable human spirit.

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