Tag Archives: Soviet Union

History: The Berlin Airlift

The Soviets hoped to bring West Berlin under its sphere of influence by keeping western Allies out - and starving the city's 2.8 million residents was the price it was willing to pay. Uploaded by culturaldiplomacy.org.

At the conclusion of World War II, both the western Allies and the Soviet Union wanted Germany under their sphere of influence. The defeated country was divided into four sections (French, British, American, Soviet), as was the city of Berlin. That city, however, was 100 miles inside the Soviet sector. And Stalin wanted all of Berlin under his control. As a result, he stopped trains bringing in crucial food and other supplies to the vanquished city, hoping to gain total control.

Uploaded to Flickr by x-ray delta one.

The devastate German capital could only produce two percent of its food needs. Outside supplies were a humanitarian necessity. While the western Allies had never negotiated land links to Berlin, they had secured three air routes into the city. To prevent a catastrophe, and to keep the entire city from falling under Soviet power, this was the daily supply total needed to support Berlin’s 2.8 million people, according to Wikipedia: “646 tons of flour and wheat, 125 tons of cereal, 64 tons of fat, 109 tons of meat and fish, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes, 180 tons of sugar, 11 tons of coffee, 19 tons of powdered milk, 5 tons of whole milk for children, 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking, 144 tons of dehydrated vegetables, 38 tons of salt and 10 tons of cheese. In total, 1,534 tons were needed daily to keep the over two million people alive.Additionally, the city needed to be kept heated and powered, which would require another 3,475 tons of coal and gasoline.”

The U.S. and Britain agreed that the only course of action was an airlift. Yet they could only use a medium-size cargo plane (the C-54), due to runway limitations. At first, the Allies managed to bring in 1,000 tons of supplies each day – 5,000 tons were needed. It took a month of improved procedures and logistics, but eventually the full 5,000 tons were delivered daily. The airlift continued for most of a year, eventually humiliating the Soviets into capitulating. West Berlin continued as a free island as a result of President Truman’s commitment to turning back the Soviet threats – and as a result of thousands of American pilots, crewmen, and ground personnel who made the operation a success.

History: America Sends a Man into Space

The suborbital flight lasted only 15 1/2 minutes, but lifted American morale and made Alan Shepard a national hero. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

His name was Alan Shepard, and he was the second man – and first American – into space. His flight took place on May 5, 1961.

The second man, because the USSR had sent up Yuri Gagarin less than a month earlier. The space race wasn’t a matter of dueling technologies, but of competing ideologies. For America, the challenge to beat the Russians into space paralleled the struggle to achieve political superiority over Communism.

Shepard safely completed his 15½ minute flight and became an instant hero. He had sat in a nose cone on top of a Redstone rocket and been exploded into the atmosphere. He received accolades, parades, and met President Kennedy. His successful mission motivated the President to appear before a joint session of Congress just a few weeks later and challenge the country to send a man to the moon “before this decade is out.”

Shepard went on to become the fifth man to walk on the moon. He’s the one who took the famous golf shot. By the way, when asked what he was thinking while sitting in the capsule waiting to be launched into space, he replied, “The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.”