Berlin Airlift Primary Source Activity

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This activity asks students to review online materials related to the Berlin Airlift and to investigate the site to complete their activities. 

This activity asks students to review online materials related to the Berlin Airlift and to investigate the site to complete their activities. 

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Gail Halvorsen provided the epitome of selflessness, as he became the Candy Bomber during the Berlin Airlift. In addition to addressing American and World History content standards, the goals of the social studies is to instill virtuous civic responsibility in our students.

Lesson Objectives - the student will

1. Discuss the origins of the Cold War

2. Examine photographs from the time period

3. Learn about the "candy bomber"

4. Examine and analyze primary source documents

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • National Standards for US History:  Era 9, Standard 2, How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics 
  •  National Standards for World History: Era 9 The 20th Century Since 1945:  Promises and Paradoxes 

                        Standard 1       How post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up.

                        Standard 2     The search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world


Missouri Standards: 

2. continuity and change in the history of Missouri, the United States and the world

4. economic concepts (including productivity and the market system) and principles (including the laws of supply and demand)

5. the major elements of geographical study and analysis (such as location, place, movement, regions) and their relationships to changes in society and environment

6. relationships of the individual and groups to institutions and cultural traditions

7. the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.

2.(A) analyzes the origins of the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the Soviet Bloc, Mao’s victory in China, Marshall Plan, Berlin Blockade, Iron Curtain).

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

You are to go to the Berlin Airlift section of Truman Library's web site for your information. Be accurate and descriptive. You will be viewing historical photos, documents, cartoons, etc. Your grade will be based on your number of correct answers as compared to your peers.

Directions: Using your browser, go to The Berlin Airlift

Read the historians' summary of this Cold War crisis in the middle column of the page to answer these:

1. Post WWII Germany was split into ___ sections and the city of Berlin was split into ___ sections.
2. The Soviets cut off what in June 1948? ___________________________________________
3. What was their motive in doing this? ____________________________________________
4. How did the U.S. respond to this action? _________________________________________
5. Name the two airfields used ____________________ _____________________________
6. By early July of 1948 U.S. and allied pilots were making ____ daily flights to allow Berliners to survive the Soviet blockade.
7. List three serious problems faced during this airlift operation:

______________________    _________________________    __________________________

Read the National Archives Blog post and review the short video clips

1. Write a summary of each video clip. What did you learn from each video?

Take a look at the cartoons created by Jake Schuffert here

1. Choose a cartoon from the web page

2. Analyze the cartoon using the cartoon analysis sheet at


Go to "Memo from General Clay" and read the telegram to answer (click on the links on the right side of the page to see the full telegram)

What is this primary document?
T/F It was classified "Top Secret" at one time.
He is accusing the Russian fighter pilot of doing what to the British passenger plane?
How many died from the British plane going down _____
He warns that the U.S. will now do what for passenger planes over
This document was "declassified" or made public in April of 19 _____ 

What surprised you the most about this document?


Online Collection