Bibliographic Entry. To Save a City

2.  Author: Roger Miller

          AF Historian

3.  Scope & Context:   Airlift operations and political impact

4.  Evidence/credibility:  STD

5.  Central Proposition/Thesis: The Berlin Airlift was the first shot in a series of limited wars that pitted the West against the Soviet system.  The airlift not only saved Berlin, but thwarted communist efforts at expansion and solidified western resolve/alliances against the Soviets. (179)

6.  Sub-themes:

a.  The berlin crisis was the result of a series of political disputes between the West and the Soviets, culminating in the West Berlin currency issue.  (27) The real issue, however, was always over the emergence of a separate West Germany that was outside Soviet control. (32)

b. The airlift was backed by deployments of combat forces to ensure the Soviets knew that the humanitarian effort was not to be interfered with, and that US resolve toward Western Europe was backed in blood, if necessary. (45-47)

c.  As a prelude to globalism, the weakness in the Soviet strategy was the dependence on the Western zones for trade.  The blockade hurt the Soviets just as much as it hurt the Berliners because Western leaders cut off exports to the Soviet zones. A prolonged action became unsustainable due to the economic harm inflicted on themselves. (54)

d. The airlift (military means of power) bought time for negotiations to succeed (diplomatic means of power). (85)

e.  PTP: What was on these planes on the way out of Berlin?  Why weren’t non-essential personnel evacuated in the midst of a logistics nightmare to feed them (best case), or (worst case) an impending combat action?

f.  PTP: Isn’t a naval blockade an act of war?  Why wasn’t the land blockade a similar act of war?



16 The desperate plight of western Europe persuaded Marshall to announce a comprehensive program of American assistance--the European Recovery Act. or "Marshall Plan.. -on June 5. 1947. This program in concert with the Truman Doctrine marked a fundamental change in American policy toward Europe. driven by deepening concerns over the consolidation of communist power in eastern Europe. the failure to reach a settlement on Germany's future, and the worsening economic situation in western Europe threatening political stability. especially in France and Italy. The Marshall Plan was open to all nations that wanted to participate, including the Soviet Union and the countries of eastern Europe.

27 ',The most important step, however, took place on June r6 when the Soviet delegates walked out of the Komandatura, the four-power council that governed Berlin. evidence that they no longer believed that they could achieve their goals by participating in its deliberations and a signal of increased confrontation with the West.

32 Contrary to popular belief. the purpose of the Berlin crisis was to reverse political decisions already taken by the Western powers, not to force the Western garrisons out of Berlin (although eliminating Western influence and activity in Germany remained a long-term Soviet goal), While the introduction of a new currency in the Western occupation zones triggered the Berlin Blockade. it was clear that the new currency itself was not the problem. What offended Soviet leaders was the new currency as a concrete measure of separation of Western Germany.

 33 · Lacking experience with strategic air transport of their own and familiar with the German failure to air supply its forces at  Stalingrad during World War II. Soviet leaders drastically underestimated the capability of the American and British air forces to sustain the population of Berlin.

39 In December. 1947. the new secretary. James V. Forrestal. · ordered the army and navy to prepare a plan to unite ATC and NATS. Planning proceeded smoothly and on June I. 1948-just three weeks before the Berlin Airlift began-the Department of Defense activated the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) under the command of U.S. Air Force

42 USAFE'S response to General Huebner's order was immediate despite its limited means. Overnight deliveries went from just under 6 tons on June 21 to 156042 tons on the next day, and for the next week the C-47s sustained 80 tons daily.

43 · Backing this force, Curtis LeMay and USAFE planned to attack Russian airfields in Germany. Clay believed from intelligence reports that the Soviets were bluffing and concluded that forcing the blockade immediately was the correct response.

46 · The deployment of the two heavy bomber groups was a serious demonstration of American commitment to the defense of Europe and of its partnership with Great Britain.

47 Soviet intelligence reported the arrival of the 28th and the 307th Bombardment Groups. but it remains unclear if the Soviet leadership knew that the B-29s lacked nuclear capability. In any case. the u.s. nuclear monopoly had already provided an effective deterrent to any idea on Stalin's part of settling the Berlin situation through military means.

54 The dependence of the Soviet occupation zone on the Western zones · was the Achilles· heel of the Soviet blockade.

85 It cannot be overemphasized that the Berlin Airlift played a crucial role in diplomatic dealings with the Soviet Union. "The air lift into Berlin alone has given us time for these negotiations and time to present the case before the United Nations," Secretary Royall wrote to Secretary Symington on September 26. ..Without the air lift we would long ago have been faced I with the alternative of either using force to maintain communications for the supply of Berlin or to have withdrawn from Berlin in virtual defeat."

153 Ultimately, coal made up about 65 percent of all cargo flown and proved to be a dirty, miserable cargo that caused all sorts of hazards for the airplanes and aircrews. The fundamental problem was coal dust.

168 November was the worst month for the Berlin Airlift. The amount of cargo delivered had risen steadily through the end of October. During that month. the American and British effort had delivered 147.580.8 tons. An average of 4.760.7 per day. But in November the weather closed in on the Berlin run. To deal with some of the winter conditions, Tempelhof had five thousand cubic yards of sand that could be spread in case of ice. and. If necessary, the airfield could call on Berlin's administration for the live pieces of snow removal equipment available.  However. Nothing available could remove the fog.

169 The primary reasons for increased confidence was the success of GCA, the opening of Tegel and the new runways at Tempelhof. the arrival of additional personnel. and the appearance of more aircraft.

173 The success of the airlift amazed and appalled Soviets leaders. They had counted on "General Winter" to bring the bridge of airplanes to a halt. The strategy had failed. and. after the problems of November had . been overcome. the steady drone of Pratt & Whitney engines at three minute intervals was about as welcome to them as acid rock to the ears of a connoisseur of Mozart.

Public health records for Berlin documented a consistent improvement in the people's health since 1945. and despite Soviet actions. the population in the Western sectors was better off in terms of communicable diseases than during the previous winter.

179 s.The determining factor in the USSR'S failure was the Berlin Airlift. It had succeeded. leaving the Soviet dictator with only the options of direct. Brute force or a diplomatic settlement. Direct action risked war with the United States, something Stalin refused to consider. Negotiation was the only alternative. The Berlin Airlift. however. ensured that the Western allies could negotiate without haste or undue pressure.

187 The Berlin Blockade proved a disaster for Joseph Stalin and his foreign policies by providing graphic evidence of Soviet ruthlessness and inhumanity. Frightened by Russian cynicism and brutality, Western European leaders took a long close look at the "red menace" and turned to each other and the United States for protection. Soviet policies drove these nations to seek safety within a unified defense system. and the Berlin Crisis of 1948 led directly to the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April, 1949. and the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany the following month.

188 The USSR'S machinations in Germany and its threats to Berlin during the summer of 1948 drove the WEU and United States together.

Subsequent Soviet threats convinced Norway to participate as well. Backed by bipartisan support and favorable public opinion, Secretary of State Marshall began negotiations with the WEU in mid1948

192 Modern airlift required professional organization and exceptional precision in all aspects of transportation. communications. maintenance. and supply. Above all. the airlift validated the need for large cargo airplanes designed specifically use as military transports. 

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