BERLIN, June 28, 1948 (UP) - A crack appeared in the Russian blockade of Berlin today as British authorities announced that 10 barges carrying food and freight from western Germany had reached the German capital.
Several more barges have been allowed to cross the border of the Soviet zone en route to Berlin, the British authorities said. These were the first to cross the border since the Russians closed the boundary to all surface traffic to Berlin from the west on June 19 after announcement of currency reform in the western zone.
It was not clear yet whether the Russian barricade against western supplies for the American, British and French establishments in Berlin and for the 2,500,000 Germans in the capital who depend upon the western powers for food would be relaxed entirely.
The movements, which the British said returned water-borne freight traffic to Berlin to "normal," came as the United States and Britain used great fleets of transport planes to fly a doubled tonnage of supplies into the German capital, and imposed a stiff ration system to stave off the threat of starvation as a result of the blockade.
Earlier today, there had been a fairly serious riot among thousands of Germans waiting before the Russian Central Currency Exchange office in the Soviet sector of Berlin to exchange old marks for new under the Soviet currency reform scheme.
The Russian-sponsored ADN News Agency blamed Germans from the "western sectors" for the rioting. They feared they might not be able to exchange their old Reichsmarks for the new Russian-approved currency, the agency said.
The agency said four to six persons were injured seriously, three more were injured slightly, but mentioned no deaths. Earlier unconfirmed reports had said six to eight were killed and scores injured.
The outbreak came as the western Allies were buckling down to the job of blocking the Soviet ouster scheme. A stiffened attitude was in contrast with talk in high quarters last week that the Americans, British and French might have to get out of the blockaded city.
High Americans and British officials met in an emergency conference at the British Foreign Office in London to consider the Berlin crisis.
British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and his advisers on Germany talked with U.S. Ambassador Lewis Douglas and U.S. Undersecretary of Army William Draper.
Draper, who is expected to continue to Berlin tonight, was accompanied by Gen. Albert Wedemeyer, director of plans and operations of the U.S. Department of Army.
A Foreign Office source had indicated the conference would explore possible steps the western powers could take to meet the Russian challenge in the German capital. A strong three-power note to Russia was seen as a "possibility," but no steps have been taken yet to send such a note.
The U.S., British and French air forces stepped up their transport into Berlin. Doubling the tonnage arriving by air, they were taking up part of the slack caused by the Russian blockade.
At the same time, the western Allies clamped rigid ration systems on their part of Berlin in order to stretch as far as possible the stocks of foodstuffs and other essentials on hand.
At Tempelhof Airdrome in the U.S. sector, flour was pouring in at a rate of almost 1,000 pounds a minute. The planes were landing one every three minutes. It was taking just under four minutes to unload each cargo of 5,000 pounds of flour.
The British would not provide precise figures, but said their operation would be as large as that of the United States. "We are going to feed Berlin by air," a senior officer said.
The aerial shuffle got a boost from the dispatch from the U.S. of about 30 U.S. Air Force C-54s to join the operation. Three squadrons of the big transports, each of which can carry seven tons of cargo, were ordered to Germany beginning today at the request of Gen. Lucius D. Clay.
The increased air transport and the new restrictions on use of vital supplies admittedly were stop-gap measures. They were aimed to pad out and stretch as far as possible the stuff needed by the Allied colonies and the 2,500,000 Germans in the isolated part of the city occupied by the Americans, British and French.
Restrictions were ordered on the use of food, gasoline, electricity, heating gas, and various forms of entertainment. They were calculated to make the supplies on hand, estimated to be sufficient for about 30 days under normal conditions, last longer.
The threat of a general strike in Berlin to back up the Soviet efforts to squeeze out the western powers apparently had evaporated.
Gen. Clay sent a written apology to Marshal Vassily D. Sokolovsky for his 45-minute detention by U.S. military police Saturday night when his car was stopped for speeding.