Full Citation

  • Title Triumph Which Turned the Tables on Soviet Schemes
  • Publication Title Aberdeen Journal
  • Collection Aberdeen Journal
  • Date Thursday,  May 5, 1949
  • Issue Number 29435
  • Page Number 2
  • Place of Publication Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library British Library
Triumph Which Turned the Tables on Soviet Schemes Russia is expected to lift the Berlin Blockade on May 12. Here JOHN FISHER tells the story of the yreat HTHE end of a glorious ex- periment is in sight—the Berlin Airlift which started in June 28 last year and kept two and a quarter million people in West Berlin content and free. When the Russians clamped down the blockade —they made it complete on June 24 —the British, French and Americans were faced with the fact that West Berlin had been importing 12,000 tons of goods a day, and the best they could hope to work up to was 5000. Immediately ideas began to be put forward. The experts saved 30 per cent, in weight on bread by bringing it in as flour, and dried potatoes and vegetables saved another 40 per cent. Fog \« Bar The problem of coal came' next —Berlin had imported five train-loads a day before the' blockade started. In a few months British, American and French planes were already fly- ing in the equivalent of three and a half train-loads. In November and December they had some of the most foggy weather for thirty years, but still the Airlift carried on. Belts in Berlin had to be tightened, and in some parts of the city one in every three trees had to be cut down for winter fuel. The underground railway shut down after 6 p.m., and the Western sectors were divided into twelve districts, each of / which was allowed electric cur- rent for two hours a day. Even the British colony was sent to bed at eleven o'clock and docked of unnecessary 'cocktail parties. But new ideas to beat the blockade kept cropping up. Hot- air driers were installed on the airfields so that planes could be serviced out of doors in the bitterest weather, and hundreds of small generators were flown into Berlin to help the electri- city supply. Then a fleet of air tankers was called in and petrol was fed into barges and so brought to Berlin from the airfield in the most economical way. Frozen meat was distributed the day after its arrival, to save the fuel which would have been needed to keep it in cold stor- age. Fish arrived without heads and tails to save space. Aerial Queue Nothing was forgotten — not even vitamin C tablets and special rations for blind people and police dogs- The Airlift crews themselves set a high example. They learned split-second timing in flying and landing, and the queue of planes waiting to land pressed so close that,, if one failed to land the first time, it could never have a second chance. By the end of the year the R.A.F. had made their landings at first try ninety-seven times out of one hundred. On the ground, Gatow airway was lengthened by a whole quarter of a mile in a few weeks, and the German drivers learned to have their lorries alongside a plane as it was coming down. Now it takes • only sixteen minutes to unload nine tons of coal. Vast Sunderland flying boats began to land on the pleasure lakes and to bring in salt which could not be flown inside any other type of plane (salt cor- rodes land planes, which, unlike flying boats, have some of their controls below the level of the cargo). To-day, Berlin is costing Western Germany big money. More than 8 per cent, of West Berliners are unemployed, and all the time the Russians have been offering them more food and coal and well-paid employ- ment. But the main victory has been won. After all this propaganda, only 4 per cent, of Germans in the British, American and French sectors have registered at the Russian food offices, and many of these did so only be- cause they worked in the Rus- sian sector. Speedy turn-round was a feature of the airlift. The lorry seen in the picture was loaded with coal a few minutes after the Hand- ley-Page Hastings freighter had landed at Berlin.