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June 2008 marked the 60th Anniversary of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift, in post-war Germany.  The Berlin Airlift represents one of the most dramatic humanitarian efforts of the post-war era and was a strikingly successful example of British and American co-operation.  It was, furthermore, an event which made a major contribution into turning a wartime enemy into a cold-war ally.

As an American historian who lived for twenty years in Berlin, my non-fiction book  "Blockade Breakers" commemorates the Berlin Airlift and the impact they had upon Allied-German relations.  The book re-creates the excitement and tension of the period by reminding the reader that the success of the airlift was by no means self-evident at the start.  From the perspective of the Western Allies, the airlift represented an enormous logistical challenge; no airlift of these dimensions had ever been attempted (much less successfully) before, and there were serious technical, political and military obstacles to its implementation.  From the perspective of the Berliners, there was no certainty whatever that their former enemies would indeed be prepared to risk war for the sake of the freedom of the citizens of the Western Sectors of the former Nazi capital.

These two themes - the enormous logistical challenges posed by the airlift and the complicated relationship between the Berliners and the Western Allies - form the core of the book.  By introducing the reader to the enormous difficulties faced by the Allies and the fears of the Berliners at the start of the Blockade, I have re-created the tension and uncertainty of the times and so generate - step by step - the sense of accomplishment and growing trust between victors and vanquished that characterized the successful operation. 

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Publisher's Synopsis of book:

Blockade Breaker CoverOn June 24, 1948 the Soviet Union abruptly closed all land and water access to the Western Sectors of Berlin.  Over two million civilians, dependent on the surrounding territory and the West for food, fuel, and other basic goods, were suddenly cut off from all necessities of life.

The Western Allies had the option of either withdrawing their garrisons and allowing the Soviet Union to take control of the entire of city, or of trying to supply the city by air.  Never in history had two million people been supplied exclusively by air before. Furthermore, the survival of the Western Sectors of Berlin depended not just on food supplies but above all on coal to fuel the power plants that kept the water and sewage systems, the public transport and the factories functioning. None of senior military commanders believed it could be done.

But the political leadership in London and the Washington insisted that it must be done.  A withdrawal from Berlin would discredit the West at a critical moment in history, when the Soviet Union was expanding aggressively into Europe.  Worse: it would endanger the political stability and economic recovery of all of Europe.

So the largest and most ambitious Airlift in history was set in motion. It began without the West really knowing how much of what the Berliners needed in order to survive - much less how much those supplies weighed.  It was launched despite an almost complete absence of aircraft and aircrew resources in Germany and despite the serious inadequacies in airfields and air traffic control. It was launched without airlift expertise in theatre or a unified command structure.  But once it was took wing, it flew and turned into something that not even its originators and advocators had ever imagined or expected.

The Berlin Airlift represents one of the most dramatic humanitarian efforts of the postwar era and was a strikingly successful example of British and American cooperation.  It was also an event that made a major contribution towards turning a wartime enemy into a Cold War ally. Helena Schrader commemorates the “Blockade Breakers” of the Berlin Airlift and the impact they had on Allied-German relations in this thoroughly-researched study.  The book recreates the excitement and tension of the period by reminding the reader that the success of the Airlift was by no means a foregone conclusion.  At the core of the book are two themes: the enormous logistical challenges posed by the Airlift, and the complicated relationship between Berliners and the Western Allies.  It focuses on the human, political, economic, and technological perspectives and includes a wealth of first-hand accounts from British, American, German, and Russian sources.

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NOTE: In building this site, I thought about many things - such as what spelling standard I should use in referring to World War II, and what keyword spelling people might use in a search engine to find this page.  I found it interesting to note the following numbers of page listings for the various ways one might type World War II into a search engine. 

bullet  6,050,000 for world war two
bullet  5,860,000 for world war 2
bullet  134,000,000 for world war II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  83,900 for world war ll (using the lower case L for the 2)
bullet  26,200,000 for second world war
bullet  310,000 for 2nd world war

bullet  21,600 for ww two
bullet  804,000 for ww 2
bullet  7,130,000 for ww ii (using the i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for ww ll (using the lower case L for the 2)

bullet  21,600 for w.w. two
bullet  804,000 for W.W.2
bullet  7,130,000 for w.w.II (using the capital i for the 2)
bullet  46,300 for w.w.ll (using the lower case l for the 2)

Note that capitalization, punctuation and spacing changes introduced no differences.  So if you are looking for information on a particular subject, remember to use all variations of the wrods related to the subject.  The pages a search engine will give you to look at will vary with each method. Also in general, I have referred to World War II on these pages using WWII (using the capital i for the 2).


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 Last updated May 28, 2010