The Berlin Blockade (24 June 1948 – 12 May 1949) was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War. During the multinational occupation of post–World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway, road and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied control. Their aim was to force the western powers to allow the Soviet zone to start supplying Berlin with food and fuel, thereby giving the Soviets practical control over the entire city.
In response, the Western Allies organized the Berlin Airlift to carry supplies to the people in West Berlin. The recently independent United States Air Force and the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing up to 4700 tons of daily necessities such as fuel and food to the Berliners. Alongside US and British personnel, the airlift involved aircrews from the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, and South African Air Force.
By the spring of 1949, the effort was clearly succeeding and, by April, the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. The success of the Berlin Airlift brought embarrassment to the Soviets who had refused to believe it could make a difference. The blockade was lifted in May 1949 and resulted in the creation of two separate German states. The Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) split up Berlin. In remembrance of the airlift, three airports in the former western zones of the city served as the primary gateways to Germany for another fifty years.
In the early days the Americans used their C-47 Skytrain or its civilian counterpart Douglas DC-3. These machines could carry a payload of up to 3.5 tons, but were replaced by C-54 Skymasters and Douglas DC-4s, which could carry up to 10 tons and were faster. These made up a total of 330 aircraft, which made them the most used types. Other American aircraft such as the 5 C-82 Packets, and the one YC-97A Stratofreighter 45-9595, with a payload of 20 tons;— a gigantic load for that time;— were only sparsely used.