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Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift (1948-1949) was an action taken during the Cold War by the United States and allied Western European nations to airlift food and other necessities into a Communist-surrounded West Berlin.

Hundreds of aircraft were used to fly in a wide variety of cargo items, including more than 1.5 million tonnes of coal. At the height of the operation, on April 16 1949, an allied aircaft landed in Berlin every minute. The aircraft were supplied and flown by the US, UK and France, but crews also went from Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand to help.

The airlift was launched on June 26, 1948 after the Soviet Union started a land blockade of West Berlin on April 1, 1948. The USSR lifted its blockade at midnight, on May 11, 1949. However, the airlift did not end until September 30, as the Western nations wanted to build up sufficient amounts of supplies in West Berlin in case the Soviets blockaded it again.

The American action was given the name Operation Vittles and the British one was called Plain Fare.

Operational control of the three allied airlift corridors was given to BAARTC air traffic control located in the American sector at Tempelhof Airbase, Berlin. Diplomatic approval authority was granted to a secretive four-power organization also located in the American sector. It was called the Berlin Air Safety Center, (BASC).

See also History of Germany.