In the spring of 1948, one of the worst crises in the history of the Cold War broke out in Germany, occupied by recent allies of the anti-Hitler coalition. Due to serious disagreements in the views on the future fate of German territories, the Soviet military administration established a complete land blockade of West Berlin by June 24th. The road and railway services as well as the river waterways between the American, British and French occupation zones of Germany and the part of the German capital controlled by Western allies were blocked.
In response to the actions of the Soviet administration, the Americans, the British and the French, avoiding a belligerent solution to the problem, organized an operation unprecedented in its scale, to supply the inhabitants of West Berlin and their troops with food and other necessities by air. Until May 12th, 1949, when the USSR lifted the blockade without achieving any result, British and American aircrafts transported about 2.34 million tons of food, fuel, building materials and other goods. The air bridge ran like clockwork – the record was 1398 flights per day.
The command of the 1st Airlift Task Force, which was in charge of the transportation, issued the “Task Force Times” every day during the operation. It covered transportation statistics and achievements of the best crews. To celebrate the end of the blockade “Task Force Times” published a satirical souvenir map of the air bridge, meticulously drawn by the editor-in-chief of the publication and chief navigator of the task group, US Air Force Major Harold H. Sims.
On a map full of small details, Sims depicted West Berlin surrounded by a brick wall, the border of the Soviet occupation zone, three air corridors, two of which worked to receive airplanes, and one to send them back out, as well as three main airfields in Berlin — Tempelhof, Gatow and Tegel — controlled by Americans, British and French respectively. Puzzled characters with well-recognizable moustaches and pipes peep out from behind the walls, Soviet interceptors hang in the air. The specifics of Major Sims' responsibilities are fully reflected in the carefully reproduced air navigation system with homing beacons and flight routes. The collapse of the ground transportation network is shown by cars, river vessels and trains standing still — storks already managed to make nests on the pipes of the locomotives.