The Berlin airlift was important because it prevented West Berlin from falling into the control of the Soviet Union after World War II. The Soviet Union was blockading the parts of Berlin that were occupied and administered by the United States, Great Britain and France. The airlift was the only means of transporting food and other supplies to the besieged inhabitants of the city.
When World War II ended, Germany and its capital city of Berlin were divided into four zones of occupation. Berlin was located deep within the Soviet-occupied zone, though some sectors of the city were under allied control. According to the History Channel, the Soviets objected to the efforts of the Western Allies to reunify Germany and create a single currency for it. In protest and hoping to drive out the Western Allies, the Soviets blockaded Berlin by cutting off all road, rail and water links with West Germany. Instead of withdrawing, the Western Allies initiated the airlift, which lasted from June 1948 to September 1949. During this time, the airlift delivered about 2.3 million tons of supplies to West Berlin.
Though the Soviets lifted the blockade in May of 1949, the Western Allies continued the airlift until September to ensure sufficient supplies in case the blockade was reinstated. The blockade turned out to be a failure, says the History Channel, as it hastened the creation of West Germany, escalated the Cold War and spurred the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.Learn More
Joseph Stalin was the de-facto ruler and dictator of the Soviet Union between 1924 and 1953, leading the country through World War II and overseeing a modernization of Russia's industry. Stalin's rule is marked with forced rapid industrialization as well as immense human suffering and death.Full Answer >
The Berlin Wall, which surrounded West Berlin, was 96 miles long. Of this perimeter, the border between West Berlin and surrounding East Germany was 69.5 miles, while the border between East and West Berlin was 26.8 miles.Full Answer >
The East German military began constructing the Berlin Wall in 1961 for the purpose of preventing civilians from crossing into West Berlin, which was part of West Germany. The wall began as a line of barbed wire guarded by the military before being built into a lengthy concrete barrier.Full Answer >
The traditional date marking the fall of the Berlin Wall is Nov. 9, 1989. On this day, the government of East Germany allowed people to cross freely into West Berlin. The government removed some portions of the wall to create more crossings.Full Answer >