Berlin airlift, 1948–49, supply of vital necessities to West Berlin by air transport primarily under U.S. auspices. It was initiated in response to a land and water blockade of the city that had been instituted by the Soviet Union in the hope that the Allies would be forced to abandon West Berlin. The massive effort to supply the 2 million West Berliners with food and fuel for heating began in June, 1948, and lasted until Sept., 1949, although the Russians lifted the blockade in May of that year. During the around-the-clock airlift some 277,000 flights were made, many at 3-min intervals. By spring, 1949, an average of 8,000 tons was being flown in daily. More than 2 million tons of goods—of which coal accounted for about two thirds—were delivered.
See A. and J. Tusa, The Berlin Airlift (1988).