In this expert survey Air Force Historian Robert Miller explores the Epic story of the Berlin Airlift, the confrontation of Democracy and Communism as the world teetered on the brink of the Third World War.
The Berlin blockade (24 June 1948;–12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under allied control. The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutschmark from West Berlin. In response, the Western Allies organised the Berlin airlift to carry supplies to the people in West Berlin. Aircrews from the United States Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing up to 8,893 tons of necessities daily, such as fuel and food, to the Berliners. Neither side wanted a war; the Soviets did not disrupt the airlift.
By the spring of 1949 the airlift was clearly succeeding, and by April it was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. On 11 May 1949, the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin. The Berlin Crisis of 1948–1949 served to highlight competing ideological and economic visions for post-war Europe, particularly Germany. The clash ultimately led to the division of that country into East and West and to the division of Berlin itself.
Focusing on the crucial period from 1942 to 1945, Fire and Fury tells the story of the American and British bombing campaign through the eyes of those involved: the military and civilian command in America, Britain, and Germany, the aircrews in the skies who carried out their orders, and civilians on the ground who felt the fury of the Allied attacks. Here, for the first time, the story of the American and British air campaigns is told-and the cost accounted for...
In order to defeat Germany in World War II, the Allies needed to destroy the Third Reich's industry and invade its territory, but before they could effectively do either, they had to defeat the Luftwaffe, whose state-of-the-art aircraft and experienced pilots protected German industry and would batter any attempted invasion. This difficult task fell largely to the U.S., which, at the outset, lacked the necessary men, materiel, and training. Over the ensuing years, thanks to visionary leadership and diligent effort, the U.S. Army Air Force developed strategies and tactics and assembled a well-trained force that convincingly defeated the Luftwaffe.
It is 25 years since the end of the Cold War, now a generation old. It began over 75 years ago, in 1944—long before the last shots of the Second World War had echoed across the wastelands of Eastern Europe—with the brutal Greek Civil War. The battle lines are no longer drawn, but they linger on, unwittingly or not, in conflict zones such as Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine. In an era of mass-produced AK-47s and ICBMs, one such flashpoint was Berlin.
Allied agreements entered into at Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam for the carving up of postwar Berlin now meant nothing to the Soviet conquerors. Their victory had cost millions of Russian lives – troops and civilians – so the hammer and sickle hoisted atop the Reichstag was more a claim to ownership than success. Moscow’s agenda was clear and simple: the Western Allies had to leave Berlin. The blockade ensued as the Soviets orchestrated a determined program of harassment, intimidation, flexing of muscle, and Socialist propaganda to force the Allies out. Truman had already used the atomic bomb: Britain and America would not be cowed. History’s largest airborne relief program was introduced to save the beleaguered city. In a war of attrition, diplomatic bluff and backstabbing, and mobilizing of forces, the West braced itself for a third world war.