Year
1949

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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

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 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, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, setting off a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, ...read more

Henry IV proclaimed

Henry Bolingbroke is proclaimed King Henry IV of England upon the abdication of King Richard II.Henry was the eldest surviving son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. While his father was away in Spain, Henry joined other lords in opposing King Richard II’s rule. Richard later ...read more

James Dean dies

On this day in 1955, movie star James Dean dies at age 24 in a car crash on a California highway. Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder, nicknamed “Little Bastard,” headed to a car race in Salinas, California, with his mechanic Rolf Wuetherich, when they were involved in a ...read more

Hitler appeased at Munich

On this day in 1938, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, French Premier Edouard Daladier, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sign the Munich Pact, which seals the fate of Czechoslovakia, virtually handing it over to Germany in the name of peace. Upon return to Britain, ...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

First volume of Little Women is published

The first volume of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved children’s book Little Women is published on this day. 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

Johnny Mathis is born

Stars like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were established enough to survive the rock-and-roll revolution, but the arrival of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry et al., in the late-1950s did no favors for most of the artists who occupied the top of the pre-rock-and-roll pop charts. Names ...read more

Eisner resigns as Disney CEO

On this day in 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

Radiation released at Japanese plant

Large doses of radiation are released at Japan’s Tokaimura nuclear plant on this day in 1999. It was Japan’s worst nuclear accident, caused by a serious error made by workers at the plant. One person was killed, 49 were injured and thousands of others were forcibly confined to ...read more

A Texas college student kills his ex-girlfriend

On this day in 1994, a 22-year-old Texas A&M University student and born-again Christian named Ronald Shamburgerkills Lori Ann Baker, a young woman whom he had briefly dated. Shamburger broke into Baker's College Station home as he had on several prior occasions, and was ...read more