Why the American people would execute you if you did not use the [atomic] bomb in the event of war.
-- John Foster Dulles to James V. Forrestal, October 19481
The blockade of all rail, road, and river traffic into Berlin by the Soviet Union on June 24, 1948 did not come as a surprise. It was presaged by a series of Communist provocations, including the Greek civil war, subversive activities in France and Italy, and a sudden coup in Czechoslovakia on February 24, 1948. The U.S. responded with the Truman Declaration of March 12, 1947, which extended economic and military aid to countries threatened by Communism, an American-financed Economic Recovery Program (ERP), also known as the Marshall Plan, announced June 5, 1948, to restore stability and prosperity to democracies in Western Europe, and negotiations for a Western European defense union, which eventually gave way to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These larger developments had an effect on the four occupying powers in Berlin. Increasingly, the Soviets refused to cooperate with their British, French, and American counterparts. In winter of 1947-48, they began to harass Western authorities, preventing full access to the Soviet zone.
American military power in Europe was at very low strength by early 1948 with only 98,000 U.S. Army troops facing upwards of 4.1 million Red Army soldiers (175 line divisions) supported by as many as 1.2 million satellite troops. On March 11, U.S. Military Governor in Germany General Lucius D. Clay sensed what he described as a "subtle change" in Soviet attitudes, indicating that Moscow might be getting ready for war. His telegram to Army Chief of Staff Omar N. Bradley was a catalyst for emergency meetings of the nation's top intelligence officials to consider that possibility. Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal was so concerned about the possibility of surprise attack that he asked Lilienthal how long it would take to get atomic bombs to the Mediterranean area. Even after the intelligence community concurred on March 16 that