This week in history


Reviewing history in the military, the Air Force and triumphs and misadventures in airpower.

Sixty-five years ago this week, the largest airlift mission in history came to an end in Berlin, Germany.

The unprecedented humanitarian undertaking known as the Berlin Airlift spanned 464 days. More than 2.3 million tons of cargo delivered to blockaded West Berlin via air sustained the city during that time, according to Air Mobility Command. American aircrews flew more than 189,000 flights, accumulating 600,000 flying hours.

The capital city of recently defeated Nazi Germany had, like the rest of the country, been parsed into four zones among its victors — the Soviets, Americans, British and French. But the Soviets closed off ground access to the city in June 1948, choking off coal, food and other supplies.

The only way to supply the city was by air. The young United States Air Force, along with Great Britain and France, fed and fueled the city for nearly a year.

The blockade ended in May 1949, but the Berlin Airlift continued through Sept. 30 of that year in what has been described as a triumph for democracy.


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