FYI September 30, 2019

On This Day

1949 – The Berlin Airlift ends.
The Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control. The Soviets offered to drop the blockade if the Western Allies withdrew the newly introduced Deutsche Mark from West Berlin.

The Western Allies organised the Berlin airlift (26 June 1948 – 30 September 1949) to carry supplies to the people of West Berlin, a difficult feat given the size of the city’s population.[1][2] Aircrews from the United States Air Force, the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force,[3] the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the South African Air Force[4]:338 flew over 200,000 sorties in one year, providing to the West Berliners necessities such as fuel and food, with the original plan being to lift 3,475 tons of supplies. However, by the end of the airlift, that number was often met twofold, with the peak daily delivery totaling 12,941 tons.[5] The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict, even though they far outnumbered the allies in Germany and especially Berlin.[6][7]

The first blockade runners were RAF flights made in support of British military personnel stationed in the city. The UK–US then began a joint operation in support of the entire city. By the spring of 1949, the airlift was clearly succeeding, and by April it was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. On 12 May 1949, the USSR lifted the blockade of West Berlin, although for a time the US, UK and France continued to supply the city by air anyway because they were worried that the Soviets were simply going to resume the blockade and were only trying to disrupt western supply lines.

The Berlin Airlift officially ended on 30 September 1949 after fifteen months. The Royal Australian Air Force had delivered 7,968 tons of freight (0.34% of total) and 6,964 passengers during 2,062 sorties. The US Air Force had delivered 1,783,573 tons (76.40% of total) and the RAF 541,937 tons (23.30% of total),[nb 1] totalling 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.

The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92 million miles in the process, almost the distance from Earth to the Sun.[8] At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.[9]

A total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Britons and 31 Americans,[9] mostly due to non-flying accidents.[10] One Royal Australian Air Force member was killed in an aircraft crash at Lubeck while attached to No. 27 Squadron RAF.[11] Seventeen American and eight British aircraft crashed during the operation.

The Berlin Blockade served to highlight the competing ideological and economic visions for postwar Europe and played a major role in drawing West Germany into the NATO orbit several years later in 1955.

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Born On This Day

1901 – Thelma Terry, American bassist and bandleader (d. 1966)
Thelma Terry (born Thelma Combes, September 30, 1901 – May 30, 1966) was an American bandleader and bassist during the 1920s and 1930s. She led Thelma Terry and Her Playboys and was the first American woman to lead a notable jazz orchestra as an instrumentalist.

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FYI

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