May 12, 1949. The Soviet Union lifts its blockade of Berlin after accepting that an Allied airlift rendered it ineffective. In June 1948 the USSR stopped supplies entering the US, British and French administered zones of western Berlin by rail, road or water. The Soviet plan was to monopolise the supply of fuel and food and effectively control the whole of the city. But over the next 11 months, Allied air forces led by the Americans and British organised more than 200,000 flights carrying over two million tons of coal, gasoline and food into RAF Gatow and Tempelhof airports. The planes travelled through three 30km wide flight corridors that had already been agreed with the Soviets three years earlier. Crashes left 101 people dead but despite the huge logistical challenge, the airlift was a success and forced the Soviets to back down and lift the blockade.
Also on May 12: Napoleon I conquers Venice (1797); George VI is crowned King of the United Kingdom (1937); Soviet spacecraft Luna 5 crashes into the Moon’s Sea of Clouds (1965).
Born on May 12: Florence Nightingale (1820), Gabriel Fauré (1835), Katherine Hepburn (1907), Burt Bacharach (1928), Jonah Lomu (1975)