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The Berlin Airlift
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The Soviet side of their checkpoint on the autobahn at Helmstedt. The Soviet land blockade that began on June 24, 1948, put the residents of West Berlin instantly in dire straits; the city had only 36 days of food supplies and 45 days of coal. General Lucius Clay, who had replaced Dwight D. Eisenhower as the military governor of the American zone in Germany, wanted to call Joseph Stalin's bluff and break the blockade with an armed convoy. Clay thought there was only about a 25% chance that this would lead to war with the Russians, and if fighting broke out, he believed "twenty good divisions" would be enough to halt the Soviet advance at the Rhine River that separated France and Germany. Clay was not convinced that it was possible to airlift the 4,500 daily tons necessary for West Berlin to survive; after all, the Air Force's C-47 transports could only hold 3 tons each.

On the other hand, Clay's position had certain problems, not least of which was the fact that American forces in Europe then numbered only 60,000, far short of 20 divisions he would need to stop any Soviet advance. And President Harry S. Truman, having recently presided over the end of World War II, was in no hurry to begin another global conflagration. Furthermore, the British had more confidence in the ability of an airlift to succeed. After discussions with Clay in Washington, Truman decided on the airlift and ordered more planes sent to Europe to carry it out.

Do you think the United States should have tried to end the blockade by force?

 

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Did you watch the film, "The Berlin Airlift"?
(Please vote "yes" if you watched at least half of the film.)
 

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If yes, did it influence your answers?
 

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