Berlin in the Balance: The Blockade, the Airlift, the First Major Battle of the Cold War

Thomas Parrish, Author
Thomas Parrish, Author Da Capo Press $27.5 (400p) ISBN 978-0-201-25832-5
Reviewed on: 01/01/1970
Release date: 01/01/1968
In March 1948, Soviet authorities in Germany imposed restrictions on freight and personnel moving through the Soviet zone into the Western sector of Berlin. It was the beginning of the 14-month Berlin blockade and the enormous answering effort of the Berlin airlift. It was also the end of any naive hope American leaders had that wartime allies would be friends in peace. Parrish, a Cold War scholar and author of The Cold War Encyclopedia and Roosevelt and Marshall, focuses on the blockade as the opening salvo of the 50- year conflict between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. He covers a great deal about the early components of Cold War doctrine, such as Kennan's Long Telegram, the domino theory, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. The emphasis on these and the currency crisis that was the immediate cause of the blockade puts the whole of subsequent Soviet-American relations into a welcome perspective. As a narrative, however, it lacks the urgency of the usual tales of American innovation and German resolve, a problem exacerbated by the interpolation of unrelated tidbits (like a reporter's observation of greasy water discarded from a house abutting the Airlift Task Force hq). Parrish also concentrates on the American side of things, so while General William Tunner, who took over organization of the airlift in August, gets his full share of credit, there is little attention to the unshakable Ernst Reuter, the first mayor of West Berlin. With relatively few interviews with the lowly, this is a view from the air, with all the attendant benefits and drawbacks. (June)
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