Ok, tommorow marks the end of the Berlin Airlift in 1949. It began in June 1948 when the Soviet Union blockaded Western Berlin from all supplies. Berlin was entirely inside the Soviet occupation zone, but was split between the victorious powers. The Soviets cut off Berlin in 1948 in an attempt to force the Western nations to accept its demands concerning Germany. The Allies turned instead to the sky. While roads, railroads, and rivers were blocked by the Soviets, the treaty signed in 1945 had designated three airspace corridors allowing access to Berlin from the West. There was only one way to stop an aircraft: Shoot it down. And shooting down an unarmed aircraft in a treaty-protected zone would be an unquestionable act of war. On June 25, 1948 the airlift began and lasted for fifteen months. While the blockade was lifted in May of 1949, the last plane of the airlift flew on September 30. During those months, over 75,000 people from the US, England, France, Germany, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Baltic State reufgees loaded and flew over 2,300,000 tons of vital supplies to the people of Berlin in the greatest humanitarian airlift in history. The US and its allies had won a major Cold War victory, and without firing a shot. And so, our first "Memorial Monday" is dedicated to these men and women who showed the Soviets that beating us just would not be that easy.
Photos taken at an airshow at Beaufort, South Carolina in spring 2004.
The Spirit of Freedom is a Douglas R5D transport that participated in the Berlin Airlift, and now flys as a memorial to these brave men who saved Berlin.