During the early stages of the airlift, the British committed around 150 C-47 Dakotas and 40 Avro Yorks to the cause of the airlift. The Dakotas and the Yorks were reinforced by 10 Short Sunderland and Short Hythe flying boats in July. By July 18, the Royal Air Force planes were already airlifting more than 5,000 tons of assorted supplies of goods every day. The flying boats were specifically used in transporting bulk salt because salt would have proven too corrosive when loaded in the other types of planes being used in the airlift.
They were flying to the Havel river from their starting point at the Elbe near Hamburg.
Sometime in November 1948, the British airlift fleet was further reinforced by several Handley Page Hastings aircraft. The Royal Air Force was able to land 100,000 tons of assorted supplies in Berlin by mid-December (Berlin Blockade). The Negotiations During the early days of the airlift, the allied forces were worried that it might eventually fail. So as an alternative, ambassadors from the Allied countries decided to negotiate with Stalin.
During the negotiations, Stalin demanded that the Allies withdraw their Deutschmark and replaced by the eastern zone’s Ostmark.
In addition, Stalin demanded that the future of Germany should again be taken up. However, the emissaries from the Allied camp told him that although they were open to negotiation as far as the issue of the currency was concerned, the future of Germany or specifically the creation of a West German state was non-negotiable. However, Stalin did not give in to the Allied demands because he sincerely believed that the Berlin Blockade would succeed and force the allies to negotiate. Even the United Nations attempted to mediate between the two camps to no avail (Wilde).
However, although the airlift continued to be a success, Clay still saw a potential danger. He expressed his desire for a continued thrust towards achieving a diplomatic solution to the Berlin problem. According to him, the airlift would only “add to the prestige of the Western Powers as long as diplomatic avenues to gain a settlement continued. ” His view was shared by Dean Acheson of the State Department. In fact, the State Department was already exercising an initiative of its own without informing even Clay in Germany about it for security reasons.
The State Department initiative was anchored on Stalin’s remark which he made to Kingsbury Smith concerning the possibility of lifting the blockade. Based on said remark, a State Department initiative was started through private channels without the knowledge of the American officials in Berlin. It was also hidden from the French and British. Only President Truman, Dean Acheson, and selected officials of the Department of State knew of the initiative (Giangreco and Griffin [a]).
Acheson chose Philip Jessup, then deputy chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York to serve as his private channel. Jessup was given the instruction of discreetly contacting Jacob Malik, the United Nations representative of the USSR, and ask him whether “Stalin’s omission of the Berlin currency problem in his answer to Smith was significant. ” The first contact between the two men took place on February 15, 1949, and after only a month, Malik informed Jessup that the omission was “not accidental. ” Based on this response, discreet inquiries followed between the two men.
They discussed the possible conditions that would influence Stalin to lift the blockade. According to Malik, a possible condition would be if a meeting of a Council of Foreign Ministers could be definitely scheduled for the purpose of discussing the German question in its entirety (Giangreco and Griffin [a]). Aside from the Jessup-Malik negotiation, several negotiations of critical importance were also going on during the early part of 1949. One of these concerned the pact creating the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
When the NATO pact was ready for signature, the foreign ministers of Great Britain and France went to Washington sometime during the first week of April, 1949 for the signing ceremony. It was only then and there that they were informed of the discussion which was taking place between Jessup and Malik. The two foreign ministers then gave their authority to Jessup to speak for their behalf. On April 5, Jessup advised Malik that the governments of the United States, Great Britain, and France were aware that their secret discussions only concerned two points.
The first is the “simultaneous lifting of the blockade and counterblockade” imposed by the western powers. The other is the fixing of the Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting aimed at discussing the German problem. However, Jessup also informed Malik that the preparations being made by the three countries for the creation of a West German state would not be postponed or suspended before the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers could be held (Giangreco and Griffin [a]).
On April 8, the Western Powers issued a communique concerning their agreement with regards the creation of West German state. Two days after this, Jessup was informed by Malik that it was the understanding of the USSR that the West German state would not be created “before or during the scheduled Council of Foreign Ministers meeting. ” However, Jessup was instructed to reject as diplomatically as possible the interpretation of the USSR.
However, part of his instruction was to inform Malik that if the USSR acted quickly, the provisional West German state could not yet be established before the meeting of the council, explaining that several steps would have to be taken before such a state could be established (Giangreco and Griffin [a]). The negotiation between Jessup and Malik continued throughout the last week of April. However, flare-ups occurred which threatened the diplomatic settlement to lift the blockade. For instance, the British wanted “specificity regarding the restrictions to be lifted and written agreement on Western Power access to Berlin.
” The United States, on the other hand, with the support of the French, wanted the issuance of a “broad statement on lifting restrictions and silence on access. ” The Americans did not want to be specific because of the experience of the Military Governor whose negotiation with the Russians during the early part of September of 1948 bogged down because of his insistence of specifics. After being made to understand of this risk, the British finally agreed to do away with the specifics (Giangreco and Griffin [a]).