Year
1949
Month Day
September 30

Berlin Airlift ends

After 15 months and more than 250,000 flights, the Berlin Airlift officially comes to an end. The airlift was one of the greatest logistical feats in modern history and was one of the crucial events of the early Cold War.

In June 1948, the Soviet Union suddenly blocked all ground traffic into West Berlin, which was located entirely within the Russian zone of occupation in Germany. It was an obvious effort to force the United States, Great Britain and France (the other occupying powers in Germany) to accept Soviet demands concerning the postwar fate of Germany. As a result of the Soviet blockade, the people of West Berlin were left without food, clothing, or medical supplies. 

Some U.S. officials pushed for an aggressive response to the Soviet provocation, but cooler heads prevailed and a plan for an airlift of supplies to West Berlin was developed. It was a daunting task: supplying the daily wants and needs of so many civilians would require tons of food and other goods each and every day. 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. Even though the Soviet blockade officially ended in May 1949, it took several more months for the West Berlin economy to recover and the necessary stockpiles of food, medicine, and fuel to be replenished.

The Berlin Airlift was a tremendous Cold War victory for the United States. Without firing a shot, the Americans foiled the Soviet plan to hold West Berlin hostage, while simultaneously demonstrating to the world the “Yankee ingenuity” for which their nation was famous. For the Soviets, the Berlin crisis was an unmitigated disaster. The United States, France and Great Britain merely hardened their resolve on issues related to Germany, and the world came to see the Russians as international bullies, trying to starve innocent citizens.

Tags
terms:

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

World Series broadcast on TV for first time

On September 30, 1947, the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 5-3, in Game 1 of the World Series—the first Fall Classic game broadcast on television. It is the second "Subway Series" between and Yankees and Dodgers and first World Series to involve a black player. Jackie ...read more

Joseph Marion Hernandez

Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic elected to Congress

On September 30, 1822, Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic to be elected to the United States Congress. Born a Spanish citizen, Hernández would die in Cuba, but in between he became the first Hispanic American to serve at the highest levels of any of three branches ...read more

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and best-selling author, is born

On September 29, 1928, Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize-winning author of more than 50 books, including “Night,” an internationally acclaimed memoir based on his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, is ...read more

Munich Pact signed

British and French prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier sign the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The agreement averted the outbreak of war but gave Czechoslovakia away to German conquest. In the spring of 1938, Hitler began openly to support the ...read more

USS Nautilus—world’s first nuclear submarine—is commissioned

The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, is commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in ...read more

Riots over desegregation of Ole Miss

In Oxford, Mississippi, James H. Meredith, an African American student, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, setting off a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, ...read more

Babe Ruth hits 60th homer of 1927 season

On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the 1927 season and with it sets a record that would stand for 34 years. George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. ...read more

President Woodrow Wilson speaks in favor of female suffrage

On September 30, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gives a speech before Congress in support of guaranteeing women the right to vote. Although the House of Representatives had approved a 19th constitutional amendment giving women suffrage, the Senate had yet to vote on the measure. ...read more

Wyoming legislators write the first state constitution to grant women the vote

On September 30, 1889, the Wyoming state convention approves a constitution that includes a provision granting women the right to vote. Formally admitted into the union the following year, Wyoming thus became the first state in the history of the nation to allow its female ...read more

First volume of “Little Women” is published

The first volume of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved children’s book Little Women is published on September 30, 1868. The novel will become Alcott’s first bestseller and a beloved children’s classic. Like the fictional Jo March, Alcott was the second of four daughters. She was born in ...read more

Michael Eisner resigns as Disney CEO

On September 30, 2005, Michael Eisner resigns as the chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company. During Eisner’s 21-year tenure with Disney, he helped transform it into an entertainment industry giant whose properties included films, theme parks and a cruise line, ...read more

James Dean dies in car accident

At 5:45 PM on September 30, 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he is driving hits a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, ...read more

General George Washington complains about his militia

In a letter to his nephew, Lund Washington, plantation manager of Mount Vernon, General George Washington writes on September 30, 1776, of his displeasure with the undisciplined conduct and poor battlefield performance of the American militia. Washington blamed the Patriot ...read more