From Publishers Weekly
In 1948, West Berliners were suffering and hungry, existing on food rations transported by trucks, trains and barges primarily by the occupying American forces. The Russians, trying to control the divided city, blockaded the transports on June 24, 1948, and American and British pilots risked their lives to airlift in 4.6 billion pounds of food and supplies until the blockade was lifted in May 1949. Pilot Hal Halvorsen won Berliners' hearts by secretly dropping his and his buddies' candy rations by parachute into the waiting hands of the city's children. In the process, says Cherny (The Next Deal
), Berliners became devoted to democracy, and Washington foreign policy and military brass learned that the Cold War needed to be won not primarily with bullets but by appealing to hearts and minds. This book could have been cut by a third for better effect; Cherny's prose and his references to 9/11 are manipulative, and his subject, particularly the nuts and bolts of the airlift, will appeal primarily to WWII buffs, who should still find much to savor in this exhaustive, often absorbing and lucid account of America's successful standoff against the Soviets. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 17)
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Accounts abound about the Berlin crisis and airlift of 1948–49, when the West thwarted the attempted Soviet takeover of the entire city. To distinguish his book from the pack, Cherny places his emphasis on the episode’s political effects in Washington, D.C. Ultimately, argues Cherny, Harry Truman’s decisiveness, above all his rejection of high-level advice to retreat from Berlin, contributed to his victory in the 1948 presidential election, a case he makes in recounting junctions between the political campaigns and players in the Berlin crisis. Sufficient as this would be for book-level treatment, Cherny augments his text with the organization of the airlift operation. Perhaps justified because of the airlift’s tremendous material and propaganda success, which drew the West’s line against further Communist expansion in Europe, including the airlift narrative nonetheless competes with Cherny’s announced angle on the impact of the Soviet blockade on American politics and foreign policy. Emphasizing figures prominent in the crisis—military governor Lucius Clay, Truman critic Henry Wallace, and pilot Gail Halvorsen––Cherny readably synthesizes this milestone cold-war confrontation. --Gilbert Taylor