BERLIN AIRLIFT - WILLIAMS, Thomas Melling, Air Marshal.

A Report on Operation Plainfare (The Berlin Airlift), 25th June 1948 - 6th October 1949.

A.P. 3257

Bielefeld, Germany: Prepared by Headquarters B[ritish] A[ir] F[orces of] O[ccupation], Air Ministry (A[ssistant] C[hief of] A[ir] S[taff]) (Op[erations]), April, 1950 Stock Code: 135790
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First and only edition, classified RESTRICTED. This definitive report on the British effort in the Berlin Airlift, the first major crisis of the Cold War, was compiled under Air Marshal Williams as C-i-C British Air Forces of Occupation (Germany), who was awarded the DSM (US) for his services during the airlift. Until relatively recently this remarkable logistical achievement, "given its acknowledged importance has been poorly served by its historiography", and particularly so the British contribution (Keen, "Half a million tons and a goat: a study of British participation in the Berlin Airlift", Birmingham, 2013, p.ii). Current research based in the close examination of sources such as the present report seems to confirm "that the RAF and Civil Lift aircraft were necessary for the logistical success of the total Anglo-American operation and would have continued to be so in the long-term commitment being planned" (ibid. p,263).

The ambitions of the report were intentionally widely inclusive, being compiled so as "to give as complete a picture as possible of this highly complicated and integrated operation... While the Headquarters B.A.F.O. was the primary operating agency on the British side, many other formations took a very active and important part in making the success of the operation possible... so slight incursions have been made into realms that were properly the responsibility of other services and other commands... reports by other formations have been included as appendices so that as much as possible of the valuable experience gained on this operation will be collected under one cover and can be available for reference if it should ever be necessary to carry out a similar operation" (Introduction). The account is presented thematically, covering The Task, The Implements of the Airlift, Air Operations, Communications, Equipment, Personnel, Freight - Organisation and Handling, Accomplishments of the Airlift, and a Summary of Lessons Learnt; the appendices include substantial reports from the Officer Commanding Transport Force during the first three weeks of operations, from the Operational Research Branch and the Combined Airlift Task Force, together with highly informative reviews of meteorology, signals, technical and equipment organisation.

"The achievements of the airlift in statistical terms are impressive enough. The total tonnage lifted into Berlin by British and American aircraft was 2,325,808.7 tons. Of this, the British lift carried 542,236 tons split of which the RAF carried 394,509 tons... The British carried 241,000 tons of food, 165,000 tons of coal and 92,000 tons of wet fuel, all the latter in civil aircraft. They also carried 35,000 tons of freight, including 12,800 tons of economic goods, and 131,436 passengers out of the city. British aircraft flew more than 32 million miles, consumed over 35 million gallons of Avgas and spent over 200,000 hours in the air. They helped sustain a city of more than two and a half million inhabitants for many months including through the winter. Just as importantly, however, was that in the first real test of the Cold War they demonstrated immense western resolve in the face of Soviet provocation and intransigence and dealt a significant blow to Soviet prestige and influence with incalculable effects on Western European communist parties, particularly those in France and Italy. The western presence in Berlin was maintained and it remained as a beacon of freedom inside the Communist bloc, not to mention acting as a very useful centre for intelligence gathering. The airlift also demonstrated to a Service dominated by airmen from an offensive bomber and tactical air background that the RAF's air transport capability could be deployed as a strategic asset to considerable effect" (Cox, "An Effort of Biblical Proportions The Berlin Airlift 19481949", Air Power Review, Volume 21 Number 2, Summer 2018).

Extremely uncommon WorldCat shows just 5 locations, Smithsonian, National Defense University Library, Calgary University, the Dutch Defensiebibliotheken, and the BL, Library Hub adds the National Aerospace Library.

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Folio. Original mid-brown half sand-grained cloth, yellowish brown printed paper-covered boards, spine unlettered. Marked in chinagraph pencil on the front board for "OC 'F'".


8 halftone plates, folding plan of an "ideal airfield" and 8 full-page plans of actual air fields at the rear, numerous plans, maps, diagrams and tables to the text, many full-page, many printed in colours.


Somewhat rubbed, corners through, head and tail of the spine chipped, hinges slightly crudely repaired, short split to the edge of the front free endpaper, light browning throughout, very good.


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