May 20, 2017

1949. The West Prepares for Indefinite Blockade

Decisive Steps in Berlin
Map of the West Berlin air corridors from the American, British, and French sectors of Germany (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

March 13, 1949

The interlocutory period in Berlin's international separation case, wherein there might have been a reconciliation between East and West in this blockaded city, now appears to be over.

The final divorce decree bisecting the city for an indeterminate time is about to be handed down.

This will be done in two ways. It is reliably reported that the Western Powers will decree that the West mark is the sole legal currency in the American, British, and French sectors of Berlin. At present, factory and city administration workers are paid in both the East and the West mark, a practice that works hardship on West sector residents since the Soviet-sponsored mark is worth about one quarter of the West mark. This is a decisive step. It was over the introduction of the West mark that the Russians slapped on their Berlin blockade last June.

The incompatibility of the East and West, and the determination of the United States and Russia to pursue their present policies, is further demonstrated by the Air Force announcement that present airlift pilots will be assigned to the Berlin supply runs for a period of three years. An airlift village is planned near the base at Wiesbaden to house the families of the men flying over the blockade.

Another decisive step is contemplated. At present, the Soviet-licensed Radio Berlin originates its anti-Western broadcasts from a big modern building in the British sector. It is unlikely that this will be allowed to continue, a move which will undoubtedly be met with long and anguished howls from the Communists when it comes.

In other words, the on-the-spot situation in Berlin as of now is likely to become worse before it becomes better.

The blockade diet has provoked another story among Berliners who are getting a little tired of dehydrated potatoes. A little boy is asked that, if the stork brought another baby to his house, would he prefer a brother or a sister?

The little boy replies, "I prefer the stork. That we can roast and eat."

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.