On this day: The Berlin Airlift officially ends
On this day: The Berlin Airlift officially ends (30th September 1949)
Following disagreements over the introduction of the Deutsche Mark in then occupied Germany, Soviet forces initiated a blockade of West Berlin in June 1948, limiting access via road, rail and water, to the British, French and US zones of the divided city.
Resolving to support the isolated Western zones of Berlin and counter the Soviet chokehold by flying in essential supplies, the Western allies, primarily under US auspices, undertook one of the greatest logistical feats in history.
At a cost of more than $200 million and the lives of 101 airmen and crew, over 2.3 million tons of food, fuel, machinery and other supplies reached West Berlin, mainly transported by C-47 and C-54 cargo planes, in the space of 15 months.
Over 270,000 flights were recorded and at the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds, with the C-47s and C-54s covering a combined distance of 92 million miles, almost the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Although the Soviet blockade was eventually halted on 12th May 1949, the Airlift continued until September in order to establish a stockpile of necessary goods.
The last plane – a US C-54 – landed in Berlin on 30th September 1949 and unloaded two tons of coal.