June 24, 1948: The Berlin blockade begins.

The Berlin blockade was an early crisis of the Cold War that began when the Soviet Union, one of the four nations responsible for administering Germany in the years following World War II, severed communications and halted traffic in and out of the German capital of Berlin. The imposition of this blockade followed several key events that heightened tensions between the Soviet Union and the western Allies in 1947, the British and American occupation zones united to form the Bizone, intended to strengthen economic development; in April of 1948, the United States issued the Marshall Plan, which was rejected by the Soviet Union and, under Soviet pressure, by its satellite states; in early June, the U.S., Great Britain, and France initiated currency reform in their zones and introduced a common currency throughout western Germany, while the Soviet Union introduced its own in its zone.

While Berlin was entirely within the eastern zone, the city itself was also divided into different zones of control between the western Allies and the Soviet Union; throughout the Cold War it remained a focal point of conflict, for, as Vyacheslav Molotov noted, “what happens to Berlin, happens to Germany; what happens to Germany, happens to Europe”. 

On June 24, the Soviet Union launched the Berlin blockade by cutting off rail and road transportations between Berlin and the Allied zones. Food supplies were also cut off to the non-Soviet zones of Berlin, which contained a total population of approximately 2.5 million people. Shortly afterward, a joint British-American effort to airlift supplies into Berlin began, countering the Soviet blockade for eleven months until it was finally lifted in May of 1949, although the airlift did not officially end until September. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent airlifting approximately 2.3 million tons of necessary supplies (coal made up a majority of the tonnage) to the people of Berlin over that period of fifteen months. 

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