When the Allies introduced the new Deutsche Mark in June 1948 to replace the chronically devalued Reichsmark, the Soviet Union, aiming to keep Germany economically weak, cut off electricity supplies and blocked all Allied rail and road traffic to West Berlin. This left the two million inhabitants of West Berlin without any means of receiving the 1,500 tons of supplies they required daily. The Allies’ only option was to begin a round the clock airdrop (the so-called Berlin Airlift) to combat the blockade as the Soviets would not risk shooting down unarmed aircraft. After crashes and severe planning failures on ‘Black Friday’, 13 August 1948, initial flaws in Operation ‘Vittles’ were ironed out. Smaller C-47 transport aircraft were replaced with C-54s and by September 5,000 tons of supplies were being landed from 1,500 flights per day across the three flight corridors. Coal requirements increased massively over winter but the operation was so successful that the Soviets ended the blockade after 11 months.
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