The Berlin Airlift
In 1948, after the defeat of Germany in World War II, West Berlin became part of the free country of West Germany. But Berlin was surrounded by armies and territory controlled by the Soviet Union. Stalin, the Soviet Union's murderous ruler, blocked all rail lines, canals, and roads entering West Berlin in an effort to conquer the city.
In 1949 the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force, supported by civilian and allied aircrew from around the world, tackled the seemingly impossible task of keeping Berliners alive during the 11-month blockade of their city.
Events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift and the outstanding contribution of UK Armed Forces throughout the campaign began in Berlin today.
Royal Air Force airmen help a Berlin Airlift veteran to dismount an RAF Puma helicopter at Gatow Airport in Berlin as part of today's commemorations.
Image: SAC Neil Chapman, Ministry of Defence
British and American aircraft flew more than 175,000 trips to and from the city to ensure that the two million people living in Berlin did not starve or freeze to death when their supplies were cut off.
No country had ever succeeded in such a massive flight-supply operation before.
The sacrifice of the British people, still living on war rations, helped to make the airlift a success, and kept West Germany free.