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Berlin on the BrinkBerlin on the Brink

The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Early Cold War

Daniel F. Harrington

Narrated by John Sipple

Available from Audible

Book published by University Press of Kentucky

The Berlin blockade brought former allies to the brink of war. Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union defeated and began their occupation of Germany in 1945, and within a few years, the Soviets and their Western partners were jockeying for control of their former foe. Attempting to thwart the Allied powers’ plans to create a unified West German government, the Soviets blocked rail and road access to the western sectors of Berlin in June 1948. With no other means of delivering food and supplies to the German people under their protection, the Allies organized the Berlin airlift.

In Berlin on the Brink: The Blockade, the Airlift, and the Cold War, Daniel F. Harrington examines the “Berlin question” from its origin in wartime plans for the occupation of Germany through the Paris Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in 1949. Harrington draws on previously untapped archival sources to challenge standard accounts of the postwar division of Germany, the origins of the blockade, the original purpose of the airlift, and the leadership of President Harry S. Truman. While thoroughly examining four-power diplomacy, Harrington demonstrates how the ingenuity and hard work of the people at the bottom—pilots, mechanics, and Berliners—were more vital to the airlift’s success than decisions from the top. Harrington also explores the effects of the crisis on the 1948 presidential election and on debates about the custody and use of atomic weapons. Berlin on the Brink is a fresh, comprehensive analysis that reshapes our understanding of a critical event of cold war history.

Daniel F. Harrington is deputy command historian at United States Strategic Command.


“This book surpasses the many surveys and monographs on the subject that have been published over the past sixty years. It is a comprehensive study, and Harrington’s is a nuanced approach on more than one level.”

—Lawrence S. Kaplan, author of NATO 1948: the Birth of the Transatlantic Alliance

“One of the most thoughtful, carefully constructed, thoroughly researched and well-argued analyses of a major international crisis that I have ever read.”

—Thomas A. Schwartz, Vanderbilt University

“Through meticulous research, Harrington has achieved a masterful synthesis that brings together for the first time all the intricate military, diplomatic, and political strands of the Berlin Crisis. It truly ranks as the definitive account.”

—Steven L. Rearden, Joint History Office, Washington, D.C.

“A scintillating book shedding new light on the history of the Berlin Airlift and the early years of the Cold War.”

—Helmut Trotnow, former director, Allied Museum, Berlin, Germany

Berlin on the Brink is scholarship of the highest order...The analytical insight, intellectual rigor, and breadth and depth of research that characterize this volume ensure that its arguments will continue to set the tone of historical debates about the Berlin airlift for a long time to come.”

Air Power History

“Successfully exploiting a rich variety of primary and secondary sources, with excellent maps and photos,...Cold War scholars, graduate students, undergraduates, and those interested in the crisis should take note of what Harrington believes we can learn from it. ”


“Harrington’s history of these tense months is without equal in the quality of its scholarship and interpretative framework and will certainly become the standard historical work on this well-known event.”

Library Journal

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks