How a Cold War Airlift Saved Berlin With Food, Medicine and Chocolate

A Soviet blockade around Berlin cut the divided city off from the West. But in 1948 U.S. and British pilots began to fly food, fuel and medicine to the Allied sectors.

A Soviet blockade around Berlin cut the divided city off from the West. But in 1948 U.S. and British pilots began to fly food, fuel and medicine to the Allied sectors. That effort laid a foundation for international partnerships still in place today.

For teachers
  • Sr. Producer: Kit R. Roane
  • Editor: Cullen Golden

For Educators


This eight-minute video helps students understand the context of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan and tells the story of the Berlin Airlift, which shaped the beginning of the Cold War and contributed to the rise of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In explaining the geo-political struggle underlying the airlift, the video shows the desperation felt by the citizens of West Berlin in 1949 when the Soviets blockaded the Western-controlled portions of the city, cutting off supplies of food and coal. Useful for lessons introducing Cold War politics, the video also sets up a discussion about the ongoing value and function of the United States’ longstanding engagement with NATO.

This video was featured in an online class on The Cold War in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute’s History School and Joe Welch, a 2018 Gilder Lehrman National History Teacher of the Year and Master Teacher.

Lesson Plan 1: The Cold War: From the Truman Doctrine to the Berlin Airlift

Students will learn how the Berlin Airlift helped protect Berlin from Soviet control, contributed to the rise of NATO and set the tone for the Cold War.

  • How the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan affected Europe and created a showdown in Berlin in 1948.
  • How the United States responded to the crisis with the Berlin Airlift.
  • How the airlift helped to solidify American influence over Europe and contributed to the development of NATO.
Essential questions
  • What was the Truman Doctrine?
  • What was unique and challenging about Berlin’s situation in 1948?
  • What were the U.S. and USSR’s competing goals in Berlin and Germany in 1948? How was each country pursuing them?
  • How did the United States respond to Stalin’s blockade of Berlin?
  • How did the Berlin Airlift affect America’s popularity in Europe, and across the world?
  • Common Core State Standards
    • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RI.11-12.3:Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequences of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact or develop over the course of a text.
    • CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RH.11-12.7:Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework
    • D2.His.14.9-12.Analyze multiple and complex causes and effect of events in the past.
    • D2.Civ.13.9-12.Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
  • AP U.S. History
    • Period 8: 1945-1980
    • Topic 8.2: The Cold War from 1945 to 1980

      Skill 3.A: Identify and describe a claim and/or argument in a non-text-based source.

      Theme 6: America in the World (WOR).

  • AP Human Geography
    • Unit 4: Political Patterns & Processes