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Berlin Airlift


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Director Unknown
Duration 10min 13sec
Release Date 1949
Sponsor Central Office of Information
Synopsis The Western powers airlift of supplies to Berlin during the Soviet Blockade of the city
Text version of this film


At the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided into four zones under the administration of Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union. The Big Four also occupied Berlin, dividing the city into sectors, despite its location deep in the heart of Soviet occupied Germany.

Although relations between the four powers was at times strained in the immediate post-war era, co-operation began to break down in 1947. Early 1948, the three Western powers decided to amalgamate their zones and introduce a new currency - the Deutschmark.

In attempts to dissuade the West, Soviet forces deliberately escalated harassment of Western traffic to and from the city. This led to the Berlin blockade imposed on 24 June 1948. By impeding all road, rail and river approaches, Berlin was a city under siege - accessible only by air.

An 'airbridge' consisting of hundreds of reconditioned World War II bombers (nick-named Rosinenbomber, or 'raisin bombers'), supplied over 2 million West Berliners with food, fuel and other supplies. At its height one plane reached West Berlin every 30 seconds.

The Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949, fifteen months after its protracted beginnings in June 1948. In total, the United States and Britain delivered 1,783,573 and 541,937 tons respectively, from 277,569 flights to Berlin.

Operation 'Plain Fare', the British codeword for the airlift, came at a human cost though. In total 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the airlift, including 39 British (17 Royal Air Force, 1 British Army, 21 civilians).

The attempted strangulation of Berlin by the Soviet Union to force the Western Allies out of the city failed. Nevertheless, the Berlin blockade, and subsequent Airlift, went on to symbolise the uneasy peace of the Cold War.

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