Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Berlin Airlift
Doug Jones
American History
Time Frame:
2 Class Periods
Berlin Airlift
Analyzing Primary Sources

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Individual and working with groups:  Using primary sources


The Cold War is a part of my curriculum and the Berlin Airlift was a key event early on in the Cold War.  It set a tone which would exist for the majority of the Cold War.  Therefore, it is an important event which should be covered for this class

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • Shawnee Mission School District:  3020.44: Analyze from primary sources the ideas and events created by individuals, groups, during the 1920-1945 period
  • Kansas Department of Education:  The student uses a working knowledge of significant individuals, groups, ideas, events, eras and developments in the history of Kansas, the United States, and the world, using essential researching and analytical skills
    • Benchmark 4:  The students engages in historical thinking skills

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

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • All primary documents used were taken online from Truman Library: See attached documents
    • Negotiation Document:  "State Department Press Release," September 26, 1948
    • Breaking Through Blockade:  "State Department Summary of Telegrams," July 13 and 20, 1948
    • Pulling out of Berlin:  "State Department Summary of Telegrams," June 28, 1948
    • Airlift:  "Summary of Berlin Airlift Developments,” October 21, 1948

  Berlin (PDF); Berlin Breaking Through (PDF); Berlin Breaking Through 2 (PDF); Berlin Negotations (PDF); Pulling Out (PDF)

Technology Required:

PowerPoint Projector 

Full description of activity or assignment.

This lesson will be taught using primary documents and PowerPoint.  I will attach the PowerPoint lesson.  Feel free to edit as needed. 

  • The day before the lesson begins, students will be assigned a homework reading over the Berlin Blockade from their textbook to help build background information
  • Background information over events leading up to Berlin Blockade.  This will be done on PowerPoint.
  • Students will be placed in groups of four.  They are to brainstorm possible solutions to the crisis.  In addition, they are to come up with two advantages and two disadvantages for each solution
  • Bring class together and discuss possible options:  record on board
  • Place students back into original groups of four.  Each group will receive primary documents over the four main options:  Negotiations, breaking through the blockade, airlift and evacuation/leaving of Berlin.  Each student will be in charge of analyzing one of those documents.  This is up to the students to decide.  Each student will fill out a "Written Document Analysis Worksheet" (see attached).  They are to go through and fill out the worksheet w. their primary document.
  •  Once all students have completed their analysis worksheet, they are to teach their group members about it.  Students should focus on type of document, intended audience, what option is covered, and what specifically the document said about that option.
  •   Students will be pulled together and as a class, we will go through the four options on PowerPoint
  • Individual Student Assignment:  Students will be required to write a one page paper defending the option they feel is in the best interest of the United States.  They need to defend their position, using at least three different arguments.  In addition, they need to predict what the Soviet response will be.  This should be taken into consideration when defending their answer.  This will be due the following class period.
  • The following day, the airlift will be discussed as a separate lesson.


Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Assessment will be based on their individual assignment.  This is worth twenty points.  Students will be graded based on their arguments.  They will need to have at least three different arguments and each argument must be reasonable and realistic.  Additionally, they need to accurately predict what the Soviet response will be.