Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the former allies of the Anti-Hitler coalition – with the USSR on one side and the Western countries on the other – became rivals, and the conflict known as the “cold war” began. The epicenter of this conflict was the city of Berlin.
USABig Britain and the USSR, before the end of the war, on September 12, 1944, at the London conference, they agreed on the division of defeated Germany into three occupation zones. At that time, the east of the country was Soviet, the north-west Britain, the southwest would also be the American zone. At the Yalta conference held in February 1945, a decision was made to give some space to the French at the expense of the American-British.
The capital of the country, Berlin, was located in the Soviet occupation zone, but it was not completely under the control of the USSR. This city was also divided into occupation sectors of four countries.
A month after Germany’s surrender, on June 6, the division of both Germany and Berlin into four occupation zones became official. On July 30, over Germany higher A powerful Allied Control Council was established. The Inter-Allied Command, which would run Berlin, was also under the control of the Council.
I would like to note that in order to avoid confusion, from now on in the article, when the “occupation zone” is mentioned, it will be divided over the country, and when the “occupation sector” is mentioned, it will be divided over Berlin.
On the basis of the agreement reached in November 1945, Western countries connected their occupation zones and occupation sectors over the Soviet occupation zone. weather they won the right to the corridor. This also played a significant role during the events mentioned in the article.
Disagreements soon emerged between the USSR and the Western Allies over the management of Germany. The conflict will mainly be built in the country political it was related to the regime. Moscow wanted the establishment of a communist dictatorship, while the Westerners favored the restoration of democratic governance. For example, a former communist whom Stalin knew personally in 1947, and now social-when Ernst Reuter, a democrat, was elected mayor of all of Berlin, the Russians did not accept it. As a result, Reuters could only operate in three sectors.
Gradually, the division of the quadruple occupation parts of Germany and Berlin into dualist (Soviet and Western) zones is taking place. Still on December 2, 1946 USA and Britain it was decided to unify the occupation zones and the resulting entity was called Bizonia.
The Western allies were gradually forming the opinion that it was impossible to cooperate with the USSR on the issue of Germany as a whole, and it was necessary to think about the future of the territory under their occupation. In 1948 in London USAGreat Britain, Franceas well as the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg) consisting of two rounds (February-March and April– in June) conference is held. Here France with the addition of the occupation zone to Bizonia, an agreement was reached on the creation of Trizonia and the establishment of a federal and democratic German state in those territories.
In addition, in April 1948, within the framework of the US Marshall Plan, 17 Europe aid to the country began. German lands belonging to the Western occupation zone were also included in those countries.
Not being invited to the London conference caused Moscow’s sharp displeasure. The Russians responded to this after the first round of the conference, in March 20In , they stopped participating in the Allied Control Council. On June 16, they left the Inter-Allied command post.
June 20In , Western countries carried out monetary reform. A devalued reichsmark with a new deutschmark substitute has been done. Three days later, the USSR carried out a similar reform in its zone. This reform actually consisted of stamping old Reichsmarks and putting them back into circulation. Thus, two currency units appeared in Germany. After that, Moscow claimed that since Berlin was located in the Soviet occupation zone, the entire city should be branded East Germany. Western countries rejected it.
Against the background of growing disagreements and the impossibility of joint administration, the USSR decided to end Berlin’s special status and take the city under its control. For this, it was necessary to cut the connection between the occupation zones of the West and the occupation sectors in Berlin, in other words, West Germany and West Berlin.
Western countries had three means of surface communication with the occupation sectors in Berlin: railway, car way and river transport. Weather unlike the corridor, there was no agreement governing ground transport, and Moscow decided to take advantage of it.
Still April Restrictions were imposed on the movement of Western military personnel from West Germany to West Berlin using transit through the Soviet zone. Unlike the previous period, they were kept and their documents were checked. In addition, weather Certain obstacles were also placed on the flights along the corridor, they created scary situations. For this reason, on April 5, the Yak-3 of the USSR military plane with the British “Vickers VC.1 Viking” plane collided. In addition to the Soviet pilot, 14 people on the British plane perished it happened
On June 24, the USSR cut off all ground communication between the occupation zones of the Western countries and the occupation sectors. In addition, he cut off the electricity supply to West Berlin, taking advantage of the fact that all power plants were in his occupation zone. About 2.6 million people were blockaded.
Moscow’s steps created a revolution in Western countries. Head of the US occupation zone general Lucius Clay to West Berlin military to send a convoy and check the Soviet response offer did But this step would lead to a hot war. The West didn’t want it, and it wasn’t ready. After the end of the Second World War military forces were reduced, the military forces in Germany were much smaller than the forces of the USSR. For example, the United States had a total of 98,000 troops in Germany, of which 9,000 were stationed in West Berlin. The USSR had a military force of 1.5 million in Germany.
Therefore, it was decided to use the air corridor. However, the possibility of supplying such a population with airplanes did not seem plausible. One of the most pessimistic general It was Clay. But there was no other choice, and he, as well as the commander of the US Air Force in Europe general Lemey rolled up his sleeves and got to work. The mayor of Berlin, Reuter, promised the Americans that “you do everything in the air, I will organize everything on the ground.” At that time, West Berlin had 45 days of coal and 36 days of food.
The air supply began on June 26. In the early days, due to the lack of aircraft, not enough cargo was transported. A total of 32 planes took off on the first day and carried a total of 80 tons of cargo. However, the population of 2.6 million has both food and coal, gasoline 4-5 thousand tons of cargo had to be transported every day to pay for its stock. But the Westerners, especially the United States, gradually increased their forces, new aircraft were brought to Germany and leased from civilian companies.
The increase in the number of planes created a new problem: it was necessary to organize a continuous flow of these planes of different models and speeds to West Berlin. Therefore, the planes used two of the three corridors on their way to Berlin: they flew from Hamburg and Frankfurt-Main to West Berlin, and returned to Hanover via the middle corridor. Five floors were available in each corridor for the flight.
Each plane had one landing chance. If for any reason it was not possible to land, you had to go back without unloading the cargo in order not to disturb the conveyor and not to obstruct other planes that wanted to land. Almost ¾ of the flights were carried out by the Americans, and the rest by the British. The contribution of other countries was negligible.
The Soviet side met these attempts of the Western allies with derision, but this derision soon turned to astonishment. It should be noted that the Russians had to take food cards from the Soviet administration for the integration of the population in the western sectors into East Berlin. offer they did. But the total 100,000 West Berliners (3.84%) took these cards.
The Berliners, who had been hiding from the US and British aviation until three years ago, were now waiting for them, hanging from the hills, from the balconies and windows of the houses. Because that aviation now carried fuel and food to obtain light and heat. Moreover, Ernst Reuter, himself a former communist, was now working to prevent West Berlin from falling under communist rule.
There was a widespread fear among Berliners that the Western countries would get tired of this supply and make concessions to the USSR, and that they would become the subject of trade. On September 9, 1948, in front of the Reichstag building, a large, attended by more than 350 thousand people rally was held. Here Reuter delivered his famous speech:
“Let diplomats and politicians be silent today. Today the world will hear the voice of the people of Berlin. People of the world! America, England, France, Italian peoples! Look at this city. You can’t leave Berlin and Berliners! And you won’t do it!”
This is huge rally it caused a special resonance in the United States, which gives importance to public opinion.
The Soviet leadership had high hopes for winter (now Putin as a feeder), because in this case it would be necessary to increase coal transportation significantly, almost twice, to obtain heat. But Western countries have also overcome this. Fortunately, the winter was also relatively mild.
In response to the blockade of West Berlin, the United States and Britain also organized a counter-blockade against the Soviet occupation zone: the shipment of coal and steel to East Germany was stopped. This had a serious impact on the industry of the Soviet occupation zone. Therefore, seeing that the blockade of West Berlin did not have the desired effect, Stalin lifted the blockade on May 12, 1949. Nevertheless, Western countries continued to supply through the air corridor until September 30 to create a stockpile.
278,228 flights were made within 15 months. In other words, an average of 600 (!) flights every day. Or, on average, a flight every 2 minutes and 24 seconds. But this was on average, the difference between flights during the busiest times of supply was less than 1 minute. Hundreds of planes every day, regardless of weather conditions, in good weather, bad weather, fog, rain, snow, night and day.
In general, more than 2.3 million tons of cargo were transported during the operation. 76.4% of them are Americans, and 23.3% are British. The record daily supply is said to be 12,941 tons (April 15 to 16, 1949). American planes traveled 148 million km, which is roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Berliners working at Tempelhof and Gatow airports also created chaos when unloading cargo. of a brigade of 12 people 10 it is known that it unloads a ton load in 5 minutes and 45 seconds.
It would be a miracle for such a huge operation to happen without an accident, unfortunately, a miracle did not happen. As a result, 39 British, 31 American pilots and 13 Berliners perished it happened
11 days after the lifting of the blockade, on May 23, the Federal Republic of Germany was established in Trizonia, the occupation zone of the USA, Great Britain and France. The USSR, in response, created the German Democratic Republic in its occupation zone on October 7. West Berlin is special political unit continued its existence as This split situation continued until October 3, 1990.
The most sentimental story of the Berlin blockade is the “raisin bombings”, which I will talk about in my next article.
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