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The Berlin Airlift...


...the World's Largest Ever Air Supply Operation, from Pen and Sword



Title: Berlin Airlift

Author: John Grehan

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-52675-826-2

Under the banner of Images of Aviation, this new book from Pen & Sword looks at one of the potential hot spots of the Cold War, the Berlin Airlift. My knowledge of any detail was limited, hence I found this interesting from the historical point of view. The opening chapter, 'The Curtain of Iron' sets the scene with the background.  After WW2 had ended, when Berlin remained deep within the Russian zone of Eastern Germany, the city of Berlin was divided into 4 allied zones: Russian, British, US, and French. This section does a good job of the Hows and Whys Stalin decided to try and cut off access to the city for road, rail and waterborne access. To try and force the Allies to withdraw from the city. While he did this, he didn't want to start a new war. The one thing he couldn't stop was the agreement for three air corridors from West Germany, into Berlin.  Aircraft could land within the allied zones at Gatow and Tempelhof, as well as flying boats on Lake Havel, and later on new runways at Tegal.

Each of the 9 chapters contain a fine selection of archive photos, most with extensive captions that provide a host of additional information. The German population of Berlin, still living in a largely ruined city and with limited industrial capacity/employment, meant over 2 million people at risk, as well as the allied occupation troops. The airlift succeeded, managing to supply the city over the 400+ days of the blockade, before Stalin gave up and opened the road/rail/river access again.

Bearing in mind this was all just a couple of years after WW2, there was a large supply of aircraft available to the US and the UK, plus some civilian contractors as well.  Also a good supply of very capable aircrew and groundcrew. The mix of aircraft types is fascinating for the aircraft historian/enthusiast, such as the DC3, the Lancastrian (and early trials with air-to-air refuelling), the Avro York, C-54 Skymaster, C-82 Packet, the civilianised Halifax, the Halton, the early Hastings, and even a single example of an early C-97 Stratocruiser.  Add the ground vehicles, the people and the work within Berlin and the huge variety of cargoes they had to carry, this is a marvellous historical reference in a good value book.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.


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