Air technology and the busting of the Berlin Blockade

Personal bravery and a deft use of air technology settled the first major crisis of the Cold War.

It was the first big Cold War test of wills between the United States and the Soviet Union that threatened to turn hot and perhaps, ignite another world war just a couple of years after Germany's surrender.

Tensions between the two former allies had been building since the end of World War II. In the aftermath of the Marshall Plan and disagreements between the Russians and the western occupying powers -- the U.S., Britain, and France -- over the future of Germany, a crisis broke out on June 24, 1948, when Soviet forces blocked Allied access to the city.

With Berlin lying about a hundred miles inside Soviet-controlled territory, the city was isolated and in danger of getting starved out. But the Allies responded immediately with an airlift to resupply Berlin with a dramatic airlift which lasted for months. The Soviets finally lifted the blockade on May 12, 1949.

A so-called Candy Bomber drops sweets hanging on small parachutes over Tempelhof airport in Berlin in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of the airlift (1948-1949). U.S. and allied aircraft flew in 4.000 tons of food and supplies daily for the population of west Berlin for almost a year during the Berlin Blockade. Getty Images

About the author

James Martin is the staff photographer at CNET News, covering the geeks and gadgets of Silicon Valley. When he's not live-blogging the latest product launches from Apple, Google, or Facebook, James can be found exploring NASA, probing robotics labs, and getting behind-the-scenes with some of the Bay Area's most innovative thinkers.


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