Students have read about the Berlin Airlift and how it became a symbol of the
United States's fight against communism. In this activity students will examine
the circumstances just before the airlift to understand President Truman's choices
and the challenges of initiating a successful airlift.
Students will use information from the Berlin Airlift Web site to learn about
the circumstances leading up to President Truman's decision to proceed with
the airlift. Students will read about why some Americans supported withdrawal
from Berlin, what the original plan for the airlift entailed, what the dangers
of the mission were, and how the program supported containment. This Web site
also has many original airlift documents and photos. Students will then answer
four questions and apply this information by writing journal entries from the
perspective of a pilot preparing for his or her first flight in the Berlin Airlift.
- Students will explain the issues involved with the Berlin Airlift and analyze
how it helped support President Truman's containment policy.
- Students will be able to use this knowledge to write a journal entry from
the perspective of a pilot preparing for his or her first flight in the Berlin
Student Web Activity Answers
- Some Americans believed that it would be impossible for the United States
and British forces to defend Berlin from a Soviet invasion. They believed
that it would be better to leave voluntarily rather than to be forced out
militarily. It would be impossible, they assumed, to supply West Berliners
throughout the difficult winter months.
- Originally the plan called for the airlift to provide about 700 tons of
food per day and to last only until diplomatic methods could resolve the conflict.
It was generally thought that the airlift would last only a few weeks. The
airlift ended up lasting 11 months.
- In the beginning air traffic control was understaffed and ground operations
were uncoordinated. Pilots suffered fatigue from flying 2 or more 4-hour round
trips per day. They flew in all kinds of weather, 7 days a week, in World
War II planes that were not designed for cargo. On top of it all, the planes
had to land on dangerous, makeshift runways.
- If the United States had pulled out of Berlin, then the Sovietsóand
communismówould have been free to take control of the area. The Berlin
Airlift's success prevented Soviet expansion into West Berlin, and it demonstrated
that the United States could sustain a foreign program to halt the spread
of communism. In addition, the mission created a sense of goodwill between
West Berliners and the United States forces.
- Students' journal entries will vary.
Go To Student Web Activity