- Sen. Rand Paul: ‘I am seriously thinking about’ running for president in 2016
- Sleet, ice, deepfreeze hit large swath of U.S.
- ‘Welcome to the edge of freedom’: Biden’s boots touch down in DMZ
- Obama: Hole U.S. ‘digging out of’ requires billions more in unemployment benefits
- Obama’s regulatory agenda will cost U.S. economy $143B next year: report
- Patriot Act author on James Clapper: Fire, prosecute him
- Russia P.M. Medvedev: No amnesty for political prisoners
- Michigan GOP Senate hopeful reminds government is the ‘servant’
- Christmas, by Congress: Members mull a 15-cent tax on trees
- U.S. unemployment falls to five-year low of 7 percent; 203K jobs added
BOOK REVIEW: ‘Berlin on the Brink’
For more than four decades, Berlin stood as the very symbol of the Cold War.
The German capital, center of Nazi power, represented the big prize at the end of World War II. The victorious Allies — the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France — occupied and divided the city into four zones. The arrangement was meant to guarantee access to all.
It was Berlin where the first major crisis erupted between the West and the Soviet Union. On June 24, 1948, the Red Army abruptly blocked rail and road access to West Berlin with the aim of taking over the entire city.
Soviet dictator Josef Stalin gambled that the Allies would abandon the city and cede control to his forces. He meant to starve the residents of the western zone into submission.
The Western Allies refused to buckle.
President Harry Truman had two choices. He could order the blockade to be swept aside through military action. Or, he could try to break it by launching a massive around-the-clock airlift, providing food, medicine, coal and other vital supplies to western Berlin.
In this battle for Berlin, Truman picked the airlift. The action saved Berlin and avoided a shooting war.
In “Berlin on the Brink: The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War,” American historian Daniel F. Harrington concludes that the Allied airlift succeeded due to the determination of the United States and Britain. Mr. Harrington also notes the heroism and hard work of the pilots and mechanics who maintained the planes, and he applauds the stamina of common Berliners.
While Truman meant to “stay in Berlin, period,” he was equally determined to avoid a military confrontation with the Russians. He knew that the American people had no stomach for another conflict so soon after the bloodiest war in human history.
In the face of Western determination, Stalin lifted the blockade 11 months after it was imposed. The blockade turned out to be a reckless gamble that failed.
It was a stunning political setback for Stalin as his failed action strengthened Western opinion against the Soviet Union. It also hastened the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), aimed at checking Soviet military and political expansion.
Staying in Berlin and avoiding a general war was the fundamental purpose of Truman and his political allies. “They solved it through steadfastness and resolve, to be sure,” Mr. Harrington writes, “but also through caution and prudence. And they benefited from a large measure of good luck in the form of the airlift’s unexpected success and Berliners’ willingness to endure.”
Mr. Harrington observes in his excellent study that the West’s conduct during the crisis “exemplifies the adage that it is better to be lucky than good.”
The author also says the blockade seemed to confirm assumptions that the Kremlin would retreat when faced with strength and resolve and that firmness is the only way to check Soviet expansion.
Get Breaking Alerts
- Obama: Hole U.S. 'digging out of' requires billions more in unemployment benefits
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Bill OReilly reminds: Nelson Mandela was a communist
- PRUDEN: British press horrified as London's new mayor dares to proclaim the truth
- Activists urge Obama to go rogue, sidestep Congress
- Obama tries to calm Israeli fears over Iranian nuke deal 'not based on trust'
- 'Hunger Games' delivers Obama's message on income inequality
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- Craigslist killers: Police say newlyweds stabbed man for thrills
- Dick Cheney: Family feud over gay marriage has been 'dealt with'