The Berlin blockade and subsequent airlift proved to be a public relations bonanza for the United States in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The American military provided humanitarian relief to Germans -- whom they had recently fought on the battlefield -- while the Soviets used starvation as a means to control a population.
Contemporary newspaper accounts describe the Berlin crisis around the world, as well as provide a glimpse into the nationalist upheavals that ended the 1940s.
July 8, 1948:
The Palestine (later Jerusalem) Post
Russia Disclaims Responsibility for Air Safety
BERLIN, Wednesday: The Russia authorities have disclaimed all responsibility for the safety of American aircarft supplying Berlin, it was officially revealed here today with the publication of an exchange of letters between the American and Russian control elements at the Berlin Air Safety Centre.
The Russian notification came after the American controller had informed the other three Allies of a modification in the procedure of handling American flight information. The American controller said that the progress of American flights would in future be posted on a visual flight progress board, "For the information of all other elements."
Despite bad weather which forced them to fly by instruments, U.S. pilots brought in more than 1,000 tons of supplies for Soviet-blockaded Berlin during the past 24 hours.
Allied authorities have estimated that 2,000 tons of food a day are needed for the Western sectors, and the American planned to fly at least half of it.
The British have kept their daily hauls secret for "security reasons." However, an idea of the size of their cargoes can be formed by the number of R.A.F. flights. Today British transports came in 209 times, compared with the 108 flights with which the Americans beat the 1,000 ton record.
September 19, 1948:
U.S. Air Lift Educates Germans and Russians
Our Power to Supply Berlin Has Bolstered Our Diplomatic Position
By James Reston, Special to The New York Times
The objective of the Russian blockade was fairly obvious. The Russians are evidently convinced that they cannot break the development of the Western German Government and the consolidation of Western Germany into the economy of the West. They are, therefore, seeking in every way possible to consolidate their own position in Eastern Europe and Eastern Germany.
To this end they put the squeeze on Berlin. They cut-off supplies from one sector to another. They cut the electrical power. They even stopped the flow of medical supplies -- all on the pretext of "technical difficulties" on the main railway routes from Western Germany into the former capital.
Their hope evidently was that within a short time the Germans would be forced by the shortages to take radical measures to break the blockade; that they would demand withdrawal of the Western powers and thus leave Berlin and the whole of Eastern Germany to the Soviet Union.
The thirty-four-day supply of goods and the airlift defeated this strategy and the dramatic quality of the air operation has certainly heartened and emboldened the Berliner.
These Berliners are not the apathetic, gray-faced persons this reporter saw a year ago. They are probably not quite as reliable either, as many of the United States officials here think they are.
But something has happened to them. They are certainly going through a process of reading of both sides of the question — something new for this generation of Germans.
All the evidence available suggests that their love of Marshal Vassily D. Sokolovsky, Soviet Military Governor, and the Russians is not unlimited.
People living under a siege -- even former enemies — are naturally drawn together, and hungry men naturally tend to support those who feed them against those who blockade their supplies. For the moment, therefore, the feeling between United States officials and the Germans is perhaps slightly on the dreamy side. Nevertheless the planes overhead night and day are a fairly strong argument in favor of the United States and for the moment the Berliner seems impressed.
In the wider sphere of European politics too, United States officials feel the airlift has had a considerable effect.
Berlin has become unfortunately, the symbol not of the German problem, but of the Russian problem and United States efforts here have undoubtedly been reassuring to the West. The feeling seems to be that the United States is keeping its word, and that is always refreshing thing, especially in these parts.
November 6, 1948:
Black streak for American aviation
Le Monde, Paris
The American occupation zone in Germany has been for its part the site of two accidents: at Gramisch, in Bavaria, a D.80 clipped itself on two houses. The pilot was killed, the houses burned. At Neubiberg, Captain Vincent Bracha had more luck: he successfully landed his Thunderbolt, which was completely destroyed, off the runway. The pilot was only slightly injured.
November 9, 1948:
German policy of the United States could be modified after shuffling of the cabinet
Assuredly, the Americans do not intend to give the Russians the impression of ceding to the power of the blockade. The tendency in contrast is always firmness, as in the testimony of M. Foster Dulles at the United Nations, conforming to directives coming from Washington immediately following the election of M. Truman. But any significant changes in western Germany will have to wait until after the reshuffling of the cabinet and the inauguration ceremony of next January 20.
December 26, 1948:
Barkley in Berlin says U.S. People Back the Air List:
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
BERLIN, Dec. 25 (AP): Alben Barkley, United States Vice-President-elect, declared today "it would be unthinkable that we pull out of Berlin. Our people are determined to continued the air lift."
Addressing a press conference on his Berlin stop of a European trip, Barkley said there is "no question that the United States Congress will favor continuing the air lift to Berlin."
Air Secretary Stuart Symington, another United States notable here for the holidays, told reporters at the same conference that there is no reason why air lift tonnage "cannot go to whatever figure is necessary." He said more planes are being purchase for the air lift task force.
Feb, 14, 1949:
MR. BEVIN TO VISIT BERLIN
The Times of London
From Our Own Correspondent
Professor Ernst Reuter, the chief burgomaster, announced to-day that Mr. Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, intends to visit Berlin. He said he hoped that the visit would take place in the next few months if Mr. Bevin's health permits, and added that Berliners would make him welcome.
Reporting to the City Assembly on his visits last week to London and Paris, Herr Reuter said that the Lord Mayor of London had expressed his sympathy for Berlin in its difficult position, and his admiration for the behaviour of its citizens. He had invited the Lord Mayor to visit Berlin.
Herr Reuter emphasized that both in London and in Paris there had been discussions only, not negotiations, but, he said, the fact that even discussions were possible signified a great improvement in the atmosphere. In London he had been sympathetically received, and had found complete agreement on the most important issues affecting Berlin. He had left with the conviction that all the inevitable barriers had been broken.
"AN EARLY DECISION"
On currency, the "most urgent problem," he was convinced that the existence of two currencies in western Berlin -- the west mark and the east mark, which have circulated simultaneously since the introduction of currency reform last summer -- was coming to an end, although he was not authorized to mention any date. This change would mean that a whole series of problems in the western sectors would solve themselves.
May 12, 1949:
Rejoicing in Berlin
Road, Rail Supplies Go Through
From Our Staff Correspondent and A.A.P.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Berlin people really knew the blockage was off when at one minute past midnight last night.
The big Soviet-controlled Klingenberg power station switched on the lights in the Western sectors of the city; and Soviet-controlled Berlin radio announced: "At this moment, all traffic and trade restrictions between the Soviet zone of Germany and the Western zone and within Berlin imposed since January 1, 1948, are being lifted on the orders of the four occupation Powers."
Cheering Crowds in City
Berlin is the happiest city in the world to-day.
After months of tension and austerity and the recent days when skepticism tempered the hopes of more than two million people besieged in the Western sectors, the whole city is lit with jubilation to-day.
Great crowds — singing, laughing, and cheering every Allied vehicle — are parading the ruin-lined streets decorating tramcars with bunting garlands and slogans — "Berlin lives again," and "hail to the new era."
With trains, lorries and a never-ending stream of airlift planes pouring supplies into the city's larder, West Berlin is tasting normal life for the first time for 11 months.
Laden with potatoes and other vegetables, a cavalcade of lorries poured into the city this morning after a breakneck race along the Helmstedt-Berling Highway.
The placings were: 16 tons of cucumbers, time four hours, first; 13 tons of leeks, time four hours seven minutes, second.
The winning driver won 10 bottles of schnapps, three bottles of wine, a golden wreath and a number of cash awards.