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Coal: Berlin's Key to Survival

Coal became the major cargo of U.S. Air Force C-54s and ultimately made up 65 percent of the total tonnage flown into Berlin during the airlift. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Coal became the major cargo of U.S. Air Force C-54s and ultimately made up 65 percent of the total tonnage flown into Berlin during the airlift. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The single most critical necessity for Berlin to survive was fuel. Coal became the major cargo of U.S. Air Force C-54s and ultimately made up 65 percent of the total tonnage flown into Berlin. Coal was dirty, dusty and heavy, all of which created major problems for both aircraft and crew. Coal dust seeped into every part of the aircraft, causing damage that included corrosion of control cables and erosion of electrical connections. It caused equal problems for crews, who complained of breathing problems and headaches. The only way to effectively handle the coal, as a cargo, was to place it in bags. Many types of bags were tried, but finally one-half million army surplus duffel bags were found for this purpose. The average USAF C-54 carried 10 tons of bagged coal. The Airlift flew a total of 1.5 million tons of coal into Berlin.

Click here to return to the Berlin Airlift Overview.


Mask Policy:
In accordance with the updated guidance released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Defense (DoD) and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force will require all visitors to wear face masks indoors effective July 30, 2021 until further notice.

Visitors ages three and up will be required to wear masks while indoors at the museum. This policy applies to all visitors, staff and volunteers regardless of vaccination status. Visitors may wear their own masks or a free paper mask will be provided. Cloth masks will also be available for purchase in the Museum Store.
Additional information available here.

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