""From Stettin in the Baltic, to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has decended across the continent" Winston Churchill, March 5th 1946, Fulton, Missouri.
The original construction of the base began in 1941 at the height of the Blitz in World War Two. Since the mid-1930s, the government had a major program to build Royal Air Force stations around the country as the threat of war with Germany grew. After 1939, the program was accelerated and after the US joined the war in 1941, hundreds more airfields were built to accommodate our new ally.
In 1945, the world looked very different to 1939. For Britain and the US, the war had been a struggle for liberty over totalitarian aggression and expansionism. Britain and France had originally gone to war over German expansion into Eastern Europe.
Yalta Conference 1945
Yet after the great power conferences at Yalta and Potsdam between Britain, the US and Soviet Union, it became increasingly evident that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin would never be content with mere "influence" in Eastern Europe as was agreed. The Soviet Union had always been on a path of world domination motivated by its core doctrine of Marxist-Leninism. The Soviets believed that capitalism and communism could never exist side by side and that conflict was inevitable. The malignant forces of communism were set on a determined course of expansionism.
Shortly after WW2, evidence and a number of key defectors revealed that the Soviet Union had established a network of spies deep within the governments of major Western powers including the US and UK from the 1930s. These spies had compromised many valuable wartime and military secrets including details of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico to build the atomic bomb. many of the agents were active up until the 1950s until Project Venona was able to reveal (some) of them. Others were never caught.
The initial warmth between East and West as troops met at the Elbe in May 1945 was not to last. The Soviets were refusing to cooperate in the administration and redevelopment of occupied Germany with British, American, and French authorities. The difference was that Western powers wanted to rehabilitate and reconstruct Germany, whereas the Soviets wanted it permanently weakened. In June 1948, crisis and near war erupted when the Soviet Union cut off road, rail and water access and power supplies to the Western powers in Berlin. A blockade as such can be seen as an act of war. It was only through a massive effort by the RAF and USAF flying transport aircraft with goods through the air corridors to Berlin that saved the city from being swallowed up into what was becoming "The Iron Curtain". The Berlin Blockade was a tangible sign of Soviet hostility toward the West.
The states of Eastern Europe held elections after the war, but key members of those governments were communists loyal to Moscow. In 1947, Poland and Hungary came under communist domination and Czechoslovakia in 1948. Finally, the Soviets declared the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. Communist governments also took hold of Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Soviet troops occupied Austria and Northern Iran.
The expansion of communism did not stop in Europe. Stalin encouraged communist North Korea to invade its demilitarized Southern neighbour believing the West would not respond. Many in London and Washington feared that the attack on South Korea in 1950 was a smaller distraction as a prelude to a full scale Soviet attack on Western Europe which was left very weak by war and economic devastation. Furthermore, the Soviets had kept their forces on a high state of readiness, barely demobilising after 1945. In the immediate years after WW2, the Soviets could easily have invaded Western Europe as far as the English Channel in mere days.
The United States abandoned its old isolationist foreign policy after WW2 and took a leading role in Europe's defence. For the first time ever, the US entered a formal alliance as a founder member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with a number of other Western European states. The key clause was that "an attack against any member of the alliance shall be considered as an attack against all others who will provide full military and logistical support to that country". The treaty signed in April 1949 was not explicitly anti-communist, but was created in the face of Soviet hostility and the power vacuum left after WW2 in Europe. In August 1949, the Soviets also detonated their first atomic weapon having stolen the secrets from the West.
The enemy would soon be armed with the ultimate weapon.
US security policy after 1945 was guided by the President's National Security Committee or NSC. The committee held regular meetings to address emerging threats. It was becoming evident that the communist threat was far more than transient by the late 1940s, particularly after the communists seized power in China in 1949. A vital report was produced by the NSC in 1950. The report NSC 68 was vital to the Western strategy of the Containment ofcommunism. It authorized the expansion of US defence capabilities by trebling the national defence budget. Particular emphasis was laid on construction of a ring of military bases in friendly countries around the communist bloc and development of a strategic nuclear deterrent force to counter the sheer numerical superiority the Soviet forces held over the West.
C47s prepare to unload their cargo during the Berlin Airlift 1948-1949