The Berlin airlift was important because it prevented West Berlin from falling into the control of the Soviet Union after World War II. The Soviet Union was blockading the parts of Berlin that were occupied and administered by the United States, Great Britain and France. The airlift was the only means of transporting food and other supplies to the besieged inhabitants of the city.
When World War II ended, Germany and its capital city of Berlin were divided into four zones of occupation. Berlin was located deep within the Soviet-occupied zone, though some sectors of the city were under allied control. According to the History Channel, the Soviets objected to the efforts of the Western Allies to reunify Germany and create a single currency for it. In protest and hoping to drive out the Western Allies, the Soviets blockaded Berlin by cutting off all road, rail and water links with West Germany. Instead of withdrawing, the Western Allies initiated the airlift, which lasted from June 1948 to September 1949. During this time, the airlift delivered about 2.3 million tons of supplies to West Berlin.
Though the Soviets lifted the blockade in May of 1949, the Western Allies continued the airlift until September to ensure sufficient supplies in case the blockade was reinstated. The blockade turned out to be a failure, says the History Channel, as it hastened the creation of West Germany, escalated the Cold War and spurred the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO.