JUNE 26, 1948: The Berlin Airlift begins in a show of defiance by the Western Allied powers against the Soviet Union, marking the first confrontation of the new Cold War. Angered by the introduction of a new deutsche mark in West Germany and a move to consolidate Allied occupation zones within Germany, the Soviets withdrew from the post-war Allied Control Council and shut off access to West Berlin on June 24, at the same time greatly increased their military strength in the region, prompting the launch of “Operation Vittles” (the U.S. effort) and “Operation Plainfare” (by the British). At the height of the airlift Allied planes were landing at Tempelhof Airport every 45 seconds bringing tons of food and supplies to support the city’s inhabitants. The Soviets finally lifted the blockade in May 1949, but the airlift continued through September; in all more than 2.3 million tons of food and supplies were delivered.