Background to the Berlin Blockade
1945 (4th – 11th February)
This was a meeting between Churchill
, Roosevelt and Stalin
to decide what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed:
that Germany would be split into four zones controlled by: the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), the United States, Britain and France
that the capital of Germany, Berlin, would also be split into four zones controlled by the USSR, USA, Britain and France
war criminals would be tried in an international court
that liberated countries could have free elections
that a United Nations Organisation would be established to maintain peace
that the USSR would have influence over eastern Europe.
The disagreed on:
German reparations (the amount of damages Germany would have to pay)
the fate of Poland
1945 (8th May)
V E Day
Germany surrendered to the Soviet army bringing the war in Europe to an end.
1945 (5th June)
Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany
More commonly known as the Berlin Declaration, this agreement was signed by the four occupying powers. It agreed the dissolution of the Third Reich and the partition of Germany into four controlled military zones. It also agreed Western control of three air corridors from West Germany to West Berlin.
By July 1945, the Soviet army had liberated and occupied Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
1945 (17th July to 2nd August)
This meeting between Attlee, Truman and Stalin revisited what would happen at the end of the war. They agreed
To partition Germany and Berlin into four zones as agreed at the Yalta Conference
to set up and become members of a United Nations Organisation.
that Germany should be demilitarised
that free elections should be held in Germany
that Germany should pay reparations
that Poland’s border would be moved west
that Korea would be divided into a northern Soviet Zone and a southern American zone.
over the extent to which Germany should be disabled – Truman did not want Germany subjected to another treaty like Versailles, while Stalin totally disagreed
over free elections for the countries of Eastern Europe – Stalin refused to allow this
1945 (6th August)
The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
1945 (8th August)
A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
1945 (14th August)
V J Day
Japan surrendered bringing World War Two to an end.
1945 (30th August)
Allied Control Council
While the four powers – Britain, America, France and the Soviet Union were responsible for the administration of their respective zones, it was agreed that matters affecting Germany as a whole should be decided by an Allied Control Council. The Council would be made up of the commanders-in-chief of each zone.
1946 (early March)
Stalin stated his intention to have a ‘buffer zone’ of controlled Communist satellite states between the West and the Soviet Union.
1946 (5th March)
Churchill delivered his ‘Sinews of Peace’ speech which included the famous words “..an iron curtain has descended on Europe.” His statement marked the delineations in the Cold War.
1947 (1st January)
The United States and Britain merged their sectors to create the Bizone. This made the two sectors a stronger economic zone which concerned Stalin.
1947 (12th March)
President Truman argued that the World was being divided into two armed camps – Capitalist and Communist. He promised to use the resources of the United States to follow a policy of containment and prevent Communism from spreading.
1947 (5th June)
This was a programme of economic aid offered by the United States to any European country on condition that they agree a free trade deal with the United States. Truman approved the plan because it would help other countries resist Communism and the free trade clause would help the United States economically. Stalin rejected the plan and warned that any Eastern Bloc country would be severely dealt with if they accepted. He was unhappy that the Allied zones were included in the plan, particularly West Berlin.
1948 (7th March)
The Western powers agreed that the Marshall Plan should be extended to the united Western zones of Germany.
1948 (20th March)
At a meeting of the Allied Control Council the Soviet representative, Marshall Vasily Sokolovsky argued that the unification of the Western zones and the introduction of the Deutschmark were violations of the Potsdam Agreement. Realising there could be no agreement the Soviet representative walked out of the meeting and attended no further meetings of the Council.
1948 (1st April)
The Soviets began restricting military and passenger traffic between the Western Zones and Berlin. All trains and trucks entering Berlin from the West were searched.
1948 (1st June)
The Western powers agreed plans to create a unified West Germany and France joined the Bizone, creating the Trizone. It was planned to introduce a new currency, the Deutschmark, to West Germany and West Berlin.
In response to the Western announcement of a planned unified West Germany and a new currency for West Germany and West Berlin, Stalin accused the West of interfering in the Soviet Zone. He announced that the Deutschmark would not be accepted as legal tender in Berlin.
1948 (22nd June)
The Soviets announced that the four-way control of Berlin was ended. They issued their own currency, the Ostmark, into Eastern Germany and all of Berlin.
Berlin Blockade and Berlin Airlift
1948 (24th June)
In the early hours of the morning, the Soviets cut all electricity, water, road, canal and rail links to the American, British and French partitions of Berlin. Western Berliners were left with no power and no access to medicine, food and other essentials. West Berlin had sufficient food stored to last 36 days and enough coal for 45 days. It was quickly realised that when supplies ran out West Berliners faced starvation.
1948 (25th June)
The Western powers responded to the Soviet action by setting up a counter-blockade and stopping all rail traffic from West Germany entering East Germany. Military action to free West Berlin was ruled out due to the huge presence of the Red Army in the city. However, the Western powers retained control of the three air corridors into West Berlin.
1948 (26th June)
President Truman authorised the transportation of food, medicine and other goods into Berlin by air. He also sent a number of B-29 bombers to Britain. These aircraft were capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
1948 (28th June)
British forces joined the Berlin Airlift taking food, clothing, oil and building materials to West Berlin.
1948 (1st July)
The Berlin Airlift was beginning to operate more efficiently.
Thoughts turned to the coming Autumn and Winter months. It seemed likely that the airlift would continue and increased supplies of food and fuel would be needed in the colder months. To accommodate increased aircraft landings, a new runway was built at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin.
1948 (1st August)
To counter the success of the West, the Soviet Union offered free food to anyone that crossed to East Berlin to get the food.
The German Communist Party stormed a meeting of the Berlin City Council forcing it to adjourn. West Berliners were very concerned that the action preceded a Soviet Communist takeover of the city and that the Berlin Airlift would be abandoned. Around 300,000 people gathered in protest at the Reichstag building. The numbers of protestors convinced the Americans and British to continue the relief work.
1948 (November and December)
The weather was particularly bad with a severe fog that made landings impossible for several weeks. Luckily the fog cleared before the city’s food supply ran out.
1949 (15th April)
It was reported that the Soviets might be willing to lift the blockade. Negotiations between the United States, United Kingdom, France and Soviet Union began.
1949 (16th April)
The Berlin Airlift was at its peak with a plane landing at one of Berlin’s airfields every 45 seconds.
1949 (4th May)
A settlement was reached and it was agreed that the blockade would be lifted on 12th May.
1949 (12th May)
Berlin Blockade lifted
Stalin realised that he was not going to win the dispute and lifted the Berlin Blockade.
1949 (12th May)
Although the Berlin Blockade had been lifted the Airlift continued to support the people of West Berlin until road supplies could be fully resumed.
1949 (30th September)
Berlin Airlift ended
The last plane, an American C-54, landed in Berlin. Over the course of the airlift:
277,804 flights were made into Berlin
the total cost was $350 million to the United States and £17 million to the United Kingdom
39 British and 31 American servicemen lost their lives
13 German civilians lost their lives.