69th anniversary of Berlin Airlift
June 26, 2017, marked the 69 years since the launch of the Berlin Airlift, also known as Operation Vittles here in the States. Relations between the US and the Soviet Union soured shortly after the war, and on June 24, 1948, Soviet forces blockaded rail, road, and water access to the Allied-controlled areas of Berlin. This was one of the earliest and defining moments of the Cold War. Yet rather than provoke another conflict, the Truman administration resolved to resupply the Western-section of Berlin by air. Operation Vittles launched two days after the Soviet blockade, with C-47s and C-54s forming the backbone of the airlift. The most critical item Berliners depended upon was fuel, with coal making up roughly 65 percent of the total tonnage flown into the western half of the city. The beginning of the airlift proved difficult, but over time it became increasingly efficient with aircraft eventually departing every three minutes for Berlin. As the last commander of the Berlin Airlift Major General William H. Tunner later reflected, “It was this beat, this precise rhythmical cadence, which determines the success of an airlift.” Once the Western Allies had demonstrated that they could sustain the intensity of the operation, Moscow eventually relented and lifted the blockade in May 1949, though the airlift would continue through the summer and into the fall. The Berlin Airlift lasted fifteen months and delivered nearly 2.3 million tons of supplies into Berlin. American aircrews made more than 189,000 flights, totaling nearly 600,000 flying hours and exceeding 92 million miles.

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Photo by: Jeremy Prichard |  VIRIN: 170626-F-DL035-1024.JPG