April 1

This Day in History

Cold War

Apr 1, 1948:

Soviets stop U.S. and British military trains

On this day, Soviet troops stop U.S. and British military trains traveling through the Russian zone of occupation in Germany and demand that they be allowed to search the trains. British and U.S. officials refused the Soviet demand, and the problems associated with the Soviet, British, and U.S. occupation of Germany grew steadily more serious in the following months.

Soviet and U.S. differences over the post-World War II fate of Germany began even before the war ended in 1945. The Soviets were determined that Germany would never again pose a military threat to Russia and they also demanded huge postwar reparations. The United States shared the Soviet concern about German rearmament, but as the Cold War began to develop, American officials realized that a revitalized Germany might act as a bulwark against possible Soviet expansion into Western Europe. When Germany surrendered in 1945, it was divided into British, American, Russian (and, eventually, French) zones of occupation. Berlin was located within the Russian sector, but the city itself was also divided into occupation zones.

As it became clear during 1946 and 1947 that the United States, acting with the British and French, were determined to economically revitalize and militarily rearm Western Germany, tensions with the Soviet Union began to mount. On April 1, 1948, Soviet troops began stopping U.S. and British military trains traveling through the Russian sector to and from Berlin. Both the British and American governments responded with indignant letters of reproach to the Soviet Union. Eventually, the stoppages ceased, but in June 1948 the Soviets began a full-scale blockade of all ground travel to and from the U.S.-British-French sectors of Berlin. Thus began the Berlin Blockade, which was only broken when U.S. aircraft carried out the amazing task of flying and dropping supplies into Berlin. Germany remained a major Cold War battlefield throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

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