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What Best Describes the Objective of the Berlin Airlift

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Cold War Tour Berlin

When it comes to significant historical events, one that stands out is the Berlin Airlift. Taking place between 1948 and 1949, the Berlin Airlift was a massive humanitarian effort carried out by the Western Allies to provide essential supplies to the citizens of West Berlin. In this blog post, we will explore the objective of the Berlin Airlift in detail and understand its profound impact on history.


To understand the objective of the Berlin Airlift, we must first delve into the historical context. After World War II, Germany was divided into four occupied zones, each administered by one of the Allied Powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. This division also extended to Berlin, which was situated deep within the Soviet-occupied region.

In an attempt to assert control, the Soviet Union blockaded all surface access to West Berlin, effectively cutting off the city from receiving essential supplies like food, fuel, and medicine. This action was seen as an effort to force the Western Allies to relinquish control of West Berlin, creating a crisis that demanded a swift response. And so came the birth of the Berlin Airlift.

The Objective

The primary objective of the Berlin Airlift was to ensure the survival and well-being of the people living in West Berlin. With over two million residents facing dire consequences due to the Soviet blockade, the Western Allies had to find a way to deliver supplies to the isolated city. The airlift was their answer to this critical situation.

Operation Vittles and Operation Plainfare

The airlift, also known as Operation Vittles by the United States and Operation Plainfare by the British, aimed to transport vast amounts of goods by air to sustain the population. This involved a mammoth logistical task, as not only did they need to transport food, but also coal, building materials, and other essentials.

Flights were operated day and night, with cargo planes landing at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. The aircraft used for this mission ranged from large transport planes like the C-54 Skymaster to smaller planes like the C-47 Dakota. As the operation progressed, both the United States and the British significantly increased the number of flights to meet growing demands.

Consequences of the Berlin Airlift

The Berlin Airlift had a tremendous impact, not just on the people of West Berlin but also on the geopolitical landscape at the time. Here are a few key consequences:

Demonstration of Allied Determination

The successful implementation of the airlift demonstrated the unwavering determination of the Western Allies to protect and support their democratic ideals. It showed that they would not bow down to Soviet pressure and abandon West Berlin. The resolve displayed by the Allies during this crisis strengthened their position in the early years of the Cold War.

Failed Soviet Blockade

Ultimately, the Soviet Union’s blockade of West Berlin was unsuccessful. The airlift proved that the Western Allies could sustain the city and its inhabitants without relying on surface access. In the face of this failure, the Soviet Union lifted the blockade in May 1949, thus ending a tense standoff.

NATO and the Federal Republic of Germany

The Berlin Airlift served as a catalyst for increased cooperation between Western nations. Recognizing the importance of collective defense, the Western Allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. Moreover, the successful outcome of the airlift contributed to the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, a crucial step towards German reunification.


The objective of the Berlin Airlift was clear: to ensure the survival and well-being of the people living in West Berlin during the Soviet blockade. Through this massive humanitarian effort, the Western Allies successfully maintained supplies to the isolated city, demonstrating their determination and strength. The consequences of the airlift extended beyond the immediate crisis, shaping the political landscape of post-war Europe.

The Berlin Airlift serves as a testament to the power of unity and resilience in the face of adversity, and its impact still resonates today. It stands as a powerful example of humanitarian aid and cooperation, reminding us of the importance of coming together to support those in need.

What Best Describes the Objective of the Berlin Airlift