On this day in 1949 the Soviet Union ended its 11-month blockade of capitalist West Berlin restoring much needed flows of food and other goods into the besieged city-within-a-city. While the Cold War was just getting started, the Berlin blockade — and subsequent airlift by US and British forces — became of the symbol of the strife to come. Starvation, whether in occupied and besieged enemy territories or at home, was a staple of state socialism. Those in East Berlin later had the unenviable position of seeing their friends and family prosper in a market economy just across the wall. As Venezuelans starve under yet another failed socialist regime, this history is worth revisiting.
How were the United States and Great Britain able to end the blockade? It wasn’t through force, but rather by leveraging the prosperity of market capitalism to feed the people of West Berlin. Together, they pulled off the largest airlift in history, flying 278,288 relief missions over 14 months and delivering 2,326,406 tons of supplies. When it became clear to the Soviets that they couldn’t out-spend the capitalists, the blockade was lifted and delivery of key resources like coal resumed.