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For Two Sticks of Gum: The Berlin Airlift

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
Two days
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
Students will study the Berlin Airlift and the role Gail Halverson played in shaping this famous Cold War event. The lesson includes a lecture on the Berlin Airlift, a video presentation by Gail Halvorsen, a critical thinking worksheet, and a PowerPoint.

Students will study the Berlin Airlift and the role Gail Halverson played in shaping this famous Cold War event.  The lesson will include a lecture on the Berlin Airlift, a video presentation by Gail Halvorsen, a critical thinking worksheet, a PowerPoint presentation of Mr. Halverson’s five keys to a successful life, and a summery class discussion.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)

Our school motto is “Wisdom, Character, and Service.”  Gail Halvorsen’s story provides a real life model of the school’s standards for students to emulate.

Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Students will understand the significance of the Berlin Airlift.
  • Students will appreciate the impact an individual can have on the course of history.
  • Students will identify how they can impact history through their individual decisions and their individual actions.
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
  • National Standard:  “Explain the rationale, implementation, and effectiveness of the U.S. containment policy. [Evaluate the implementation of a decision] (Historical Thinking Standard 5F)  and Analyze cause-and-effect relationships (Historical Thinking Standard 3C)”   The national standard on U.S. Containment policy is met by identifying how the Berlin Airlift was the first practical implementation of the Containment policy and by evaluating how both Truman’s and Halvorsen’s actions shaped America’s foreign policy outcomes.  The lesson plan identifies why and how Truman made his decision to use an airlift to counter Soviet aggression in Berlin and how an individual pilot named Gail Halvorsen used individual initiative to improve the airlift’s overall effectiveness.

Missouri Standards

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

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).

3. (A) evaluates the foreign policies of Truman and Eisenhower during the Cold War (e.g., establishment of the United Nations, containment, NATO, Truman Doctrine, Berlin Blockade, Korean War, Iron Curtain, U-2 incident).

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.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed
  • Teacher PowerPoint presentation on Berlin Airlift
Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
  • Video:  Gail Halvorsenn’s presentation at the Truman Museum and Library during the 1948: A Year of Decisions Conference.
  • Gail Halvorsen interview July 18, 2008 by Mark Hoduski
  • Halvorsen, Gail.  The Berlin Candy Bomber. (USA: Horizon Publisher and Distributer, 1997)
  • Halvorsen, Gail.  Impression of a Berlin Airlift Pilot. (2007)
Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

Title: For Two Sticks of Gum…

  1. Background PowerPoint presentation on the Berlin Airlift
  2. Show video of Gail Halvorsen’s presentation at the Truman Library Conference
  3. Complete critical thinking worksheet
    1. Circle three words that best describe Mr. Halvorsen’s actions: Service, compassion, integrity, gratitude, innovation, patriotism, attitude, little, hope, risky, kindness.  Explain your choices.
    2. Answer: How did Gail Halvorsen’s action affect the Cold War?
    3. Answer: How did Gail Halvorsen’s actions affect his personal life?
    4. Answer: Identify three to four principles that you believe are essential to living a successful life.
  4. Collect and discuss student critical thinking assignment.
  5. PowerPoint presentation of Gail Halvorsen interview detailing the five keys of a successful life – service before self, gratitude, integrity, attitude, and little decisions matter.
  6.  Follow PowerPoint presentation with class discussion contrasting the student’s essentials for a successful life with Gail Halvorsen’s keys for a successful life.
  7.  Conclude with student’s identifying their two sticks of gum. (Gail Halvorsen remarked that for two sticks of gum he helped change history and his own life for the better.)  Each student will identify two small things they can do to make the world a better place.
Assessment: fully explain the assessment method in detail or create and attach a scoring guide
  • Students will take a unit test to identify their understanding of the Berlin airlift.
  • Students will complete the critical thinking assignment to demonstrate the ability to analyze and evaluate historical events.
  • Students will participate in class discussion to demonstrate an ability to synthesize their ideas with their peers, the teacher, and Mr. Halvorsen.
  • Students will identify in writing two actions they will take (application) that reflect Gail Halvorsen’s “service before self” model.