The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Allies' railway, road and canal access to their sectors of Berlin. The aim was to force them to allow the Soviet zone to supply Berlin with food and fuel, giving the Soviets full control over the city.
The Blockade accelerated Western plans for a West German government, which was formed soon after its end, and the Soviets errected a communist East German state in response...Stalin's hostile actions also lead to the formation of the NATO alliance and greater US involvement in European military security.
Though it ushered in an era of hostility and distrust, there was at least one sign of hope during the Berlin crisis. Despite high tensions, neither side resorted to war, and though agreements were not easy, they were reached through diplomatic means.
On November 30, 1948, delegates from the Kulturbund, the Free German Trade Union Federation, and other Communist organizations met at the Admirals-Palast and drafted a new constitution that they said would be the sole legitimate basis for governing Berlin.
Now Berlin had two de facto governments, each of which could make good its claims only in half of the city. The Soviet and the Western sectors of Berlin would develop under opposing ideologies.
The airlift, however, did not solve the political impasse over Berlin. Soviet agents continued to disrupt the City Assembly at City Hall. Unable to conduct business, non-Communist members of the assembly reported to the Technical University in the British sector on September 8. Their Communist colleagues stayed behind, claiming to run the entire city.
Despite the airlift people living in West Berlin did not have an easy time especially during the winter months. There were drastic power cuts, food was strictly rationed and fresh vegetables were scarce...
On May 12, 1949, the Soviet Union raised the blockade. However, the airlift continued for a further four months so that stocks could be built up in case the blockade was re-imposed.
On June 26, 1948, the Berlin Airlift began with U.S. pilots and planes carrying the lion's share of the burden. During the next 15 months, 277,264 aircraft landed in West Berlin bringing over 2 million tons of supplies. On September 30, 1949, the last plane--an American C-54--landed in Berlin and unloaded over two tons of coal.
On June 24, the Soviets completely severed land and water communications between the Western zones and Berlin, and the next day they added for good measure, that the Soviet Union would not supply food to the civilian population in the Western sectors of Berlin. As of June 24 the military government halted all rail and barge traffic in and out of Berlin. Motor traffic from Berlin to the Western zones was permitted, but even this required a twenty-three kilometer detour to a ferry crossing, allegedly because of "repairs" to a bridge.
The new measures began on April 1 with the announcement that no cargo could leave Berlin by rail without permission of the Soviet commander, an action that would place the Russians in control of all trade with Berlin; this was later extended to passenger trains as well...
...On April 2, [General Lucius D. Clay] directed the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and its commander, Lt. Gen. Curtis LeMay, to deliver supplies to the military garrisons in Berlin by airplane...
USAFE officers quickly established an emergency airlift system later dubbed the "Little Lift"...The Little Lift began delivering as much as 80 tons of perishable foods...to Berlin daily.
In 1948 there had been ongoing tensions over Allied moves to create a single economic zone out of the British, French and American zones. Following the introduction of the new Deutsche Mark currency for the western zones in June, Josef Stalin thought he could squeeze the Allies out of Berlin completely by declaring the governing four-power Kommandantur invalid and blocking all land and water routes between West Germany and West Berlin. On June 24, 1948 the Russians officially blockaded all rail, road and waterway traffic into Berlin.
The Berlin municipal election of October 20, 1946 is one example. Despite Soviet coercion, Berliners gave democratic parties an overwhelming majority and handed the communists a resounding defeat. Tragically this was the only free election held since World War II,
in which all Berliners could take part.
At the Yalta Conference, held in February 1945 before the capitulation of the Third Reich, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union agreed on the division of Germany into occupation zones. Estimating the territory that the converging armies of the western Allies and the Soviet Union would overrun, the Yalta Conference determined the demarcation line for the respective areas of occupation. Following Germany's surrender, the Allied Control Council, representing the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union, assumed governmental authority in postwar Germany. The Potsdam Conference of July-August 1945 officially recognized the zones and confirmed jurisdiction of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (Sowjetische Militradministration in Deutschland--SMAD) from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the demarcation line...The city of Berlin was placed under the control of the four powers.