Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
Product Code: 93374
Binding Information: Paperback
Ages: 9 - 12
Availability: Out of stock Backorder policy.
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A true story of chocolate, bubble gum, and hope.
After World War II the United States and Britain airlifted food and supplies into Russian-blockaded West Berlin. US Air Force Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen knew the children of the city were suffering. To lift their spirits, he began dropping chocolate and gum by parachute.
Michael O. Tunnell tells an inspiring tale of candy and courage, illustrated with Lt. Halvorsen's personal photographs, as well as letters and drawings from the children of Berlin to their beloved "Uncle Wiggly Wings."
Back matter includes a biographical note, a historical note, a source list, an index, and a note from the author.
Click here to see a short film about the Berlin Airlift, created and narrated by Gail Halvorsen.
Read more about Gail Halvorsen, the other candy bombers, and other American heroes during the Berlin Airlift in Andrei Cherney's The Candy Bombers
This book is good for your brain because:
World History, Government, Genre Study, Non-fiction narrative
Download the Discussion and Activity Guide.
Download the cover image.
Check out the parachute challenge on the Growing With Science Blog!
If you like this book, you'll love these:
Biographies for Youth
Kirkus Reviews - June 1, 2010Who would guess that candy, handkerchiefs and one man would play a significant role in post-World War II Germany? As the subtitle indicates, Gail Halvorsen, a lieutenant in the U.S. Force, became the "Chocolate Pilot" when his face-to-face encounter with a group of starving children in Berlin led to a personal mission. Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum, which they all shared, and that was the start of Operation Little Vittles. Inspired by the children's willingness to forego Soviet-offered food in favor of freedom, Halvorsen and fellow pilots made numerous flights, dropping hanky parachutes that carried tons of candy and gum to eagerly awaiting children, who learned that the planes' "wiggling their wings" meant goodies were on their way. Illustrated with black-and-white archival photos, the six chapters convey Halvorsen's life, interjecting comments and correspondence from individual children. The abundance of war details aid in the transition from one chapter to the next but tend to overrun the telling, hampering narrative flow. Readers who stick with it, however, will gain a unusual perspective on the beginnings of the Cold War.
JLG Monthly - July 1, 2010Candy was so scarce in Berlin in 1948 that when American Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen gave a few sticks of gum to a group of German children, they tore the wrappers into strips to pass around so they all could have a chance to smell them. The children's excitement inspired Halvorsen to start "candy drops," parachuting down small packages of treats as the U.S. Air Force flew food into West Berlin.
JLG Reviewers say:
Booklist - June 1, 2010Curious about the city into which he ferried goods during the Berlin Airlift in 1948, pilot Gail Halvorsen stayed over to visit, met some children, and offered to drop candy and gum when he next flew over. This simple idea grew into a massive project with reverberations today. Tunnell tells this appealing story of a cold war soldier who made a difference clearly and chronologically, weaving in just enough background for twenty-first-century readers and illustrating almost every page with black-and-white photographs, many from Halvorsen's own collection. Opening the book with a shot of a nine-year-old boy looking for the plane that will wiggle its wings, the author captures young readers with the very idea of the "chocolate pilot" and keeps them with a steady focus on the German young people, including their letters and drawings. He concludes with a chapter describing Halvorsen's successful military career, his meetings with children who caught the candy, an anniversary drop, and more--highly satisfactory results from his spontaneous good deed. Halvorsen contributes a prologue; biographical, historical, and research notes add information; and selected references, including further-reading suggestions (though no source notes), close out this accessible and positive portrayal of a serviceman who wasn't on the battlefield. Irresistible.
The Fourth Musketeer - July 19, 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Michael O. Tunnell's inspirational account of how one person can make a difference in the world. Tunnell tells the story of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen, who was one of a group of U.S. and British pilots transporting food to the citizens of West Berlin in 1948 during the Soviet blockade of West Berlin. Tunnell provides concise and well-written background on what happened in Germany at the end of the war and how this blockade came about in the first place.
When Halvorsen first encounters the children of West Berlin, he is struck by their dignity and their commitment to freedom. After briefly conversing with a group of children on the other side of the airfield fence, he decides, on a whim, to give the children the two sticks of Doublemint gum in his pocket. Breaking them in half, he is sure that a fight over the four little sticks will break out among the candy-starved children. Instead, he is astonished to see that there was no fighting:
"The lucky four who had plucked the half sticks from his fingers kept the gum, but they ripped the wrappers into strips, passing them around so everyone could breathe in the sweet, minty smell." In all my experience, including Christmases past," he [Halvorsen] recalls, "I had never witnessed such an expression of surprise, joy, and sheer pleasure."
Suddenly, Halvorsen had an inspiration; why not drop some gum and candy on his next trip to Berlin? He told the delighted children of his plan, and they asked how they would recognize his plane. Halvorsen explained that he'd give them a signal--"When I get overhead, I'll wiggle the wings."
Halvorsen began his drops by asking his buddies to donate their personal candy rations, rations that were as valuable as currency in Germany. Not asking permission of his superiors, Halvorsen started his candy drops, using handkerchiefs to make parachutes in order to drop the candy in small packages. Soon mail began to pour in for Uncle Wiggly Wings or the Chocolate Pilot, and Halvorsen's superiors discovered his secret. Halvorsen was sure his candy dropping days were over, but instead the military was delighted with the terrific publicity the candy drops were generating. The Air Force adopted the name "Operation Little Vittles" for the candy drops and even hired two German secretaries to deal with all the incoming mail. The campaign soon spread, leading to candy drops all over the city, and donations of candy from individuals and companies in the United States, and as far away as Australia.
Lt. Halvorsen became a media celebrity, and became a hero to the children of West Berlin. It's hard for us to imagine today what these gifts of candy meant to the children of Berlin, and Tunnell has collected many anecdotes which allow us to experience their feelings. One Berliner remembered walking to school when he was ten:
"Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America," he recalled. "It took me a week to eat that candy bar...the chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn't the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope."
Halvorsen continued his career with the Air Force long after the candy drop ended, but he and the children never forgot. In fact, when he returned to Berlin in 1970 as Commander of the base there, he was deluged with dinner invitations from grateful children, now grown. Halvorsen was even given the honor of leading Germany's team into the arena in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The book concludes with a biographical note about additional humanitarian missions Halvorsen has participated in, including candy drops to other war-torn regions such as Kosovo. At 87, he was even able to attend a ceremony in Germany commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs and memorabilia from Halvorsen's personal collection, including some of the hundreds of letters he received from Berlin's grateful children. The author also includes a brief bibliography as well as a historical note providing additional background material on World War II and its aftermath.
This book would be an outstanding addition to school and public libraries, and could be read in conjunction with Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, a lovely picture book on the same topic by Margot Theirs Raven (Sleeping Bear Press, 2002). This picture book focuses on the story of one particular child and her encounters with Lt. Halvorsen, but also provides background on the entire chocolate bomber story.
A side note: Today's [July 19th, 2010] Los Angeles Times ran a front page article on Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, the airport used by the candy bombers and other pilots who airlifted supplies to post-war West Berlin. The airport is now used as a big, unplanned, and very popular park, according to the Times.
School Library Journal - July 1, 2010Tunnell brings to life a little-known post-World War II story. What started as a single pilot's car tour of bombed-out Berlin turned into an international campaign to help lighten the suffering of the children of West Berlin. The time was 1948, and the Soviet Union had closed all land access to the isolated Free World sectors of West Berlin in an attempt to starve the people into accepting communist rule. On an impulse, a C-54 cargo pilot, Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, shared the only two sticks of gum he had with a group of about 30 children. What started as a somewhat clandestine candy-dropping operation by Halvorsen and his buddies eventually became a USAF-sanctioned operation. As the airlift of food and fuel continued for almost two years, tons of candy were dropped (using tiny parachutes) for the children who waited in the flight path below. The text is liberally illustrated with black-and-white photos, copies of letters, and a diagram of how the flight patterns worked. Endpapers contain colored reproductions of a few of the many pieces of children's artwork that Halvorsen received as the "Chocolate Pilot," "Uncle Wiggly Wings," and "Dear Onkl of the Heaven." Vocabulary is relatively easy, but adequate for the topic, which makes the text flow easily. The book concludes with extensive biographical, historical, and author's notes. This is a real treat--a World War II title with a happy ending. Make it a first purchase.
The Horn Book Magazine - September 30, 2010Chocolate raining from the sky is something many children would love, but for children living in blockaded post-World War II West Berlin, the delivery of chocolate via bomber plane meant more than just a treat. It began when American pilot Gail Halvorsen noticed a group of German children and gave them the two pieces of gum he had. When he saw how they passed the gum around "so everyone could breathe in the sweet, minty smell," he began to deliver gum and candy, dropping them-attached to handkerchief parachutes-from his plane. Halvorsen persuaded his fellow servicemen to donate theirs, and eventually the candy drops became an institution. The copious photographs and the reproductions of the touching letters Halvorsen received bring the children and their gratitude to life. By beginning with these personal stories, Tunnell piques readers' interest in learning more about the background of the conflict between the Soviets and the Germans, information he provides in later chapters. With its story of the ongoing relationship between the American serviceman and the German children that lasts to the present day, this is not just a glimpse into history but also a look at promoting understanding between former enemies. Appended are an author's note, selected references, further reading, and an index.
Wrapped in Foil - August 9, 2010Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell is a real treat. It has everything you could want from a book: drama, roaring airplanes, human interest, history, and candy all mixed into a powerful true story.
Candy Bomber is about pilot Gail Halvorsen, who was assigned to fly food and supplies into West Berlin after World War II ended. West Berlin was under siege at the time by the Soviets. They were trying to gain control of all of Berlin by cutting off supplies to its inhabitants. The United States, Britain and France were working hard to overcome the blockade by flying in a stream of cargo planes filled with flour, potatoes, meat, and medicine, but not candy.
One day Gail Halvorsen decided to spend the day in West Berlin after flying in and out many times. At the end of the runway he met some children. Once he had talked to them, he decided to share the two pieces of gum he had in his pocket. When he saw what a rare and special treat it was to them, he realized he wanted to do more. He told the children to watch for a plane that wiggled its wings. The next day he wiggled the wings of his plane and then dropped candy in bundles tied to little parachutes.
The amazing thing is that immediately he began to receive letters and artwork from the grateful children. News of his kindness spread, and the candy drops became an official U.S. Air Force operation. Other pilots joined in and he began receiving candy donations to distribute. Even after Halvorsen moved on to another position, other pilots continued the candy drops. But the people of West Berlin would not forget his acts of kindness. Halvorsen continued to have contact with several of the children long after they had grown into adulthood.
Author Michael Tunnell has an obvious passion for his topic. He got to know Gail Halvorsen personally, because it turned out he lived in a Utah town not far away. The book is illustrated with actual photographs and letters from Halvorson's own collection, supplied by Halvorsen himself. Not many authors get to enjoy such access to primary sources.
This was not an easy book to write because, instead of rising conflict with drama at the end, most of the intense parts of this story come at the beginning. Yet Tunnell has overcome this obstacle to write a very compelling book that will appeal to both boys and girls of a wide range of ages.
Just like a piece of chocolate, once you get your hands on it, you will want to savor it.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - September 1, 2010The 1948-9 Soviet blockade of West Berlin left citizens in dire need of food and fuel; American and British troops took to the air to ferry supplies into West Berlin airports every few minutes for the duration of the blockade. United States Air Force Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen launched an unauthorized drop of his own: he tied donated candy rations into small bundles, attached them to tiny silk parachutes, and dropped them through emergency flare tubes in the aircraft as they flew cargo into the Templehof Airport. Sugar-starved kids and their parents quickly learned to scan the skies for Halvorsen's signature wing wiggle; his delivery service made the news, catching the attention of superior officers, who then turned the covert benevolence into an official mission, "Operation Little Vittles." Tunnell, who draws much of his information from personal interviews with Halvorsen, captures not only the excitement on the ground but also the popularity of the mission back in the U.S., where candy and handkerchief-parachute donations allowed civilians to make their own contributions to the Marshall Plan. Moreover, he makes clear to candy-sated twenty-first-century readers the almost unimaginable value of black-market sweets-one major shipment, for example, was placed in a locked jail cell under guard awaiting distribution. Heart-tugging prose occasionally gives the text a bit of a saccharine aftertaste ("The lieutenant's eyes panned the thirty hungry faces, and his heart skipped a beat. These were the children he was here to save"), but the grassroots goodwill operation can hardly be discussed without eliciting some warm fuzzies. Lots of black-and-white photographs, some from Halvorsen's personal collection, as well as references, an index, and updated information on Halvorsen himself, round out this valuable addition to the growing collection of children's literature on the Cold War.
Everday Reading - July 19, 2010Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" is a terrific non-fiction offering for older elementary students and middle grade readers. It was a story I've never heard before and it also explained the post-war occupation of Berlin more clearly than I'd understood it before.
I picked this book out of the Charlesbridge catalog based solely on the title and when it arrived earlier this week, Bart was with me when I opened the box. When I pulled this book out, Bart said, "Hey, that is my friend's grandfather!" Who knew?
Amusingly, when I opened the book and saw some of the pictures, the family resemblance between the pilot and Bart's friend (who I know quite well) is extremely strong, which made the book even more fun for me.
The story is about Gail S. Halvorsen, an Air Force pilot after WWII, who was stationed in Germany after the war. During a brief tour of Berlin, he met some children and handed them some gum (there were about thirty children and he only had two sticks), but felt badly that there wasn't enough for all of them. He told them he'd collect some candy and then drop it by plane over the fence where they were standing. They asked how they could identify his plane and he said he would wiggle the wings before he dropped it.
He thought he might get in trouble for it, so he didn't ask his commanders if it was okay to do so, instead asking his fellow airman to donate their candy rations to him. Despite the great worth of candy (which was practically non-existent in Germany), many of the men pitched in, and Halvorsen made little parachutes out of handkerchiefs so that the candy wouldn't hurt the kids when it dropped.
Over the course of a few weeks, he and a few other airmen a few more drops (the crowds of children getting larger each time), until he was called in by his commander who had been notified by the government after a reporter nearly got beaned by a candy bar and wrote an article that was spreading through Europe. The commander wasn't angry that Halvorsen was dropping candy, he just felt stupid that he'd been called with congratulations on the good publicity for the US military in Berlin and he hadn't known anything about it.
After that, donations started pouring in and the candy drops became larger and more frequent. And it just got bigger from there, as Halvorsen likes to say, "for two sticks of gum."
The book gives enough background to make the situation make sense, but not so much that it's distracting or that it drags. I didn't know anything about the Berlin Airlift project before this and it explained it in very clear terms.
The book is full of great pictures and images and it's a quick read (I finished it in less than an hour). This is a book that is definitely worth picking up.
Abby (the) Librarian - August 23, 2010In accessible text and with many photos and other visual aids, Candy Bomber tells the story of Lt. Gail Halvorsen, an American Air Force pilot who delivered candy to hungry children in West Berlin after World War II.
At that time, Berlin was divided, with the Allied Forces controlling West Berlin and the Soviets controlling East Berlin. Because Berlin was located within the Soviet territory of East Germany, the Soviets tried to force the Allies out of Berlin by blocking ground and water transportation. The only way to get food and supplies into West Berlin was by air, so the Allies manned hundreds of flights to bring in the necessary staples.
One day when Lt. Halvorsen was touring the city, he came across a group of kids watching the planes, hungry for any information about the outside world. Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum he had in his pocket and he had an idea - he would start dropping sweets for the children of Berlin. Many pilots were willing to give up their candy rations for the kids and the project snowballed into "Operation Little Vittles", with candy companies and people all over the United States donating candy and homemade parachutes.
To me, this is a great example of the best kind of children's nonfiction - an interesting story, possibly unknown by many kids today, brought to life with readable text and archival photos and other visuals. Author Michael Tunnell includes a great many photos, along with scanned-in letters and drawings from the kids who received the candy (and some who didn't!).
This is a story with great kid appeal. Not only is it about candy (who doesn't love candy?), but the fact that the story is about children will allow today's kids to put themselves in that place. The book's short enough that it's not overwhelming and the narrative moves along at a clip. It'll appeal to kids interested in World War II, but I think it'll have great general appeal, too.
What can I say? I just loved it!
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books - September 1, 2010The 1948-9 Soviet blockade of West Berlin left citizens in dire need of food and fuel; American and British troops took to the air to ferry supplies into West Berlin airports every few minutes for the duration of the blockade. United States Air Force Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen launched an unauthorized drop of his own: he tied donated candy rations into small bundles, attached them to tiny silk parachutes, and dropped them through emergency flare tubes in the aircraft as they flew cargo into the Templehof Airport. Sugar-starved kids and their parents quickly learned to scan the skies for Halvorsen's signature wing wiggle; his delivery service made the news, catching the attention of superior officers, who then turned the covert benevolence into an official mission, "Operation Little Vittles." Tunnell, who draws much of his information from personal interviews with Halvorsen, captures not only the excitement on the ground but also the popularity of the mission back in the U.S., where candy and handkerchief-parachute donations allowed civilians to make their own contributions to the Marshall Plan. Morever, he makes clear to candy-sated twenty-first-century readers the almost unimaginable value of blackmarket sweets--one major shipment, for example, was placed in a locked jail cell under guard awaiting distribution. Heart-tugging prose occasionally gives the text a bit of a saccharine aftertaste ("The lieutenant's eyes panned the thirty hungry faces, and his heart skipped a beat. These were the children he was here to save"), but the grassroots goodwill operation can hardly be discussed without eliciting some warm fuzzies. Lots of black-and-white photographs, some from Halvorsen's personal collection, as well as references, an index, and updated information on Halvorsen himself, round out this valuable addition to the growing collection of children's literature on the Cold War.
BayViews - August 1, 2010The fascinating true story of a U.S. Airforce pilot's attempt to bring candy to children in post-war West Berlin is brought to life with abundant b/w photos, letters, and a compelling text. After WWII, the Soviets blockaded food and other vital imports from coming into West Berlin. The Allied forces circumvented the blockade by flying in food and medicine in what was known as the Airlift, but luxuries were not allowed. Lt. Halvorsen started a project of dropping smal handkerchief parachutes carrying candy to the children, and this caught on with other pilots and eventually attarcted donations from the candy companies and U.S. civilians who wanted to help. Tunnell's text is inviting, with many quotations from Halvorsen, other pilots, and West Berliners, and the author makes it easy for school-age readersto follow the events with just enough historical detail to make sense without overwhelming. The book design is first rate: photos on every other page, letters and drawings from the children, further reading, and index (but no source notes). The book concludes with comments from Halvorsen (who is still alive) abd adults who were children in West Berlin at the time of the airlift. Although this describes a relatively small part of history, it is fascinating.
Kiss the Book - October 7, 2010After World War II, Lt. Gail Halvorson helped with "Operation Vittles," airlifting food, fuel and other essentials to the citizens of West Berlin, who were hemmed in by the Russians. Lt. Halvorsen saw another need and soon became known as the man with the candy, as his operation extended all over West Berlin, to bring a little joy and hope to the children, along with the food they needed to survive. Mr. Tunnell has written a wonderful book about one of Utah's own heroes. I would suggest that every school that teaches Utah history or looks at WWII have this book on hand as a way to bring the human element to this war. Even, or especially, elementary children should know about Gail Halvorsen, as he continues to participate in drops to places such as Kabul, Bosnia and Mississippi (after Hurricane Katrina).
Cindy Downes - October 16, 2010I'm always looking for children's books that help explain historical events in a kid-friendly way. Candy Bomber fits that criterion for World War II and its aftermath.
The book is set in 1948 and is about Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, C-54 cargo pilot. One day, on a visit to Berlin, he shared gum with a group of children. He told them he would drop candy and gum (using tiny parachutes) over the city next time he flew over, as long as they would share it. The kids agreed. He told them they would know which was the right plane because he would "wiggle the wings."
Each time he passed and dropped candy, more kids were waiting. Letters began to pour in to the airport thanking them for the candy. It was now public. Instead of being reprimanded, his candy airlift eventually became a USAF-sanctioned operation that lasted almost two years. In that time, tons of candy was dropped to the children who waited below.
The story is fun, the text is easy to read and the black and white photos are interesting for both kids and adults. There's a biography of the pilot and a historical note about World War II in the back of the book.
Candy Bomber is wonderful family reading, as well as independent reading for students who are in grades 4 and up.
Bookideas.com - October 14, 2010This is the story of "Operation Little Vittles", which occurred during the famous Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s.
Filled with black and white photos, the narrative explains how one pilot's drop of candy and gum to the city's children grew into a regular series of parachute drops by a number of airmen.
This gesture of compassion helped Berlin's families and their children weather the difficult days that followed the city's occupation and blockade by Soviet forces after the end of World War II.
Although written for young readers age nine and up, this is a book any history buff would find interesting.
Book Loons - October 18, 2010'I had so much fun on my first drop of chocolate to the Berlin children. When I flew over the airport I could see the children down below. I wiggled my wings and the little group went crazy. I can still see their arms in the air, waving at me. I was able to give them a little candy and a little hope, but they were able to fill me up with so much more,' writes Gail Halvorsen in the prologue to this book.
Halvorsen, a young pilot flying a C-54 into Berlin's Tempelhof airport as part of the famous airlift in 1948-49, became known as Uncle Wiggly Wings, because he always wiggled his plane's wings before he dropped candy and gum to the children below.
His compassion and private mission to give the youngsters of the war torn city a little happiness blossomed into the U.S. Air Force's Operation Little Vittles which involved a number of pilots dropping parachutes of candy and other donated goods to the Berliners.
This well illustrated book explains how the operation grew and how those involved in the air and on the ground never forgot these special auxiliary airdrops that are often overlooked in the general history of the Berlin Airlift.
A Junior Library Guild Selection, this fascinating book is aimed at youngsters age nine and older. It not only offers a way to interest youngsters in learning more about history and World War II, but it also shows the after effects of the event and how it still touched the participants' lives years after the airlift ended.
Many adults will also find this an interesting story and one they were not probably aware of. The fact that Gail Halvorsen collaborated with the author and shared his letters and photos makes this book all the better. His willingness to share enabled Michael Tunnell to craft a very compelling and heartfelt story.
A Patchwork of Books - November 1, 2010How appropriate a book for the day after Halloween when all the kids in your libraries/classrooms/houses are on a complete sugar high from all the candy they got in their buckets last night!
Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" is written by Michael O. Tunnell and tells us of Lt. Gail Halvorsen a pilot during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940's and his mission to bring some joy to the children of Berlin.
Halvorsen was a member of the United States Air Force and witnessed the poverty and sadness that filled children's lives at the hands of the Soviets after WWII. It started with bringing food amenities to the people of Berlin and on one particular stop Halvorsen saw the faces of the hungry and broken children and handed the crowd of them the two sticks of gum he had in his pocket. When Halvorsen saw the children break the two pieces of gum into enough pieces for everyone to have taste, rather than arguing and fighting over them, he knew he wanted to do something more.
Halvorsen turned an ordinary cargo plane and began dropping candy in small parachutes to the children, brightening not only their lives, but all those living in Berlin.
Written in a very readable and interesting manner, the author has mixed a lot of facts regarding WWII, the state of Berlin during the late 1940's, and the involvement of American troops with the Halvorsen's incredible "Candy Bomber" story.
Lots of photos are also included, as well as an author's note and an update sharing where Gail Halvorsen is now. Everything is in black and white, which isn't the most interesting to look at, but the story is amazing and the writing very well done. Schools and libraries should definitely have a copy of this and teachers should consider studying this fantastic story in their classrooms. It was so nice to read a WWII story with a happy ending!
Doc Kirby WTBF-AM/FM - November 10, 2010WWII ended with defeat of the Axis by the Allies, but it wasn't long before USSR showed its true colors. Their intention had never been to befriend the US, Great Britain and France. We were just a means to an end: defeating the closest enemy, Germany., which was divided into four separate sections by the victors. Berlin was deep within East Germany, controlled by the Soviets, and by 1948 they wanted the entire divide city for their own. They cut off access by rail and road to West Berlin, hoping to starve them into submission.
The Russians didn't give enough credit to the strength of the German people, and the determination of the US and Brittan to resist Soviet tyranny. We devised a way to fly food and coal into West Berlin, the "Berlin Airlift" beginning in June 1948. It was known by the Yanks as "Operation Vittles". One of the pilots, Lt. Gail Halvorsen, discovered how the children were bravely facing the challenge. He decided to bring them candy and gum, and to signal them, he would "wiggle" his wings and then drop little packages attached to handkerchief parachutes. (He called it "Operation LITTLE Vittles.)
It was a big success. More and more fellow American servicemen gave up their candy rations so Gail could drop them to the Berlin children. He had done so without getting permission from his commanding officer, just in case it would have been disallowed, but when his CO found out he encouraged him to keep making the drops. Candy companies donated their best, and Back home a group of supporters formed the Center for Operation Little Vittles. By Jan, 1949 they were shipping 800 pounds of to West Germany every other day, amounting to 18 tons of candy and gum, and 2000 sheets, 3000 hankies and 11,000 yards of ribbon for parachutes!
Even when Lt. Halvorsen was rotated back to the States (Mobile, Alabama), pilots continued to bring candy and gum as well as the food and coal the Berliners desperately needed. After May 1949, the Soviets realized they were beaten, and ended the blockade. Easter Sunday 1949, a plane landed almost every 60 seconds, setting a one-day record of 1,398 flights that transported 12,940 tons of food and supplies.
During the 16 months of the Berlin Airlift, 70 USAF and Royal Air Force personnel lost their lives in plane crashes and other accidents. They had saved millions of lives. They made 277,569 flights into West Berlin to deliver food, coal, and liquid fuel totaling 2,325,510 tons…not including the tons of candy and gum delivered by Operation Little Vittles.
As the years passed, Gail Halvorsen often heard from the German children he befriended in Berlin. In 1970 he returned there as Commander of Templehof AFB. In 2002 he was asked to lead the German Olympic Team in and out of Eccles Stadium. In-between he flew other compassionate missions, and in 2008 he returned at Berlin for the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. He's a real American hero who flew many missions for the USAF, but never in anger.
The 3 R's--Reading, 'Riting, and Research - January 9, 2011I just read this exciting book, Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's Chocolate Pilot by Michael O. Tunnell.
Remember The Berlin Airlift - that momentous event in 1948 and 1949 when America and its allies delivered tons of food, fuel, and coal to West Berliners because the Soviet Sector of Berlin cut off their supplies?
Sixteen months and nearly 277 thousand flights later the allies had delivered 2.3 million tons of supplies.
During that time, grateful Berlin children gathered at Templehof Airport to watch the flights come in. One day an American pilot, Gail Halvorsen engaged a group of 30 children in conversation and because they were so grateful for flour and powdered milk, he got an idea. Right then and there Halvorsen promised the children that very soon he would drop candy for them. He told them he'd wiggle his wings so they would know which plane was his.
Sure enough! On his next daylight flight, he dropped Hershey bars via 3 handkerchief parachutes.
The parachutes found their intended audience and one thing led to another so that by January of 1949, "Operation Little Vittles" was a busy enterprise with its own headquarters and plenty of community volunteers. It shipped eight hundred pounds of sweet supplies to Germany every other day. Businesses and individuals donated eighteen tons of candy and gum - also two thousand sheets, three thousand hankies, and eleven thousand yards of ribbons for parachutes!
Don't forget that just a few years earlier America was bombing the Germans, a fact that makes The Berlin Airlift and the Candy Bomber story that much sweeter! Halvorsen went out of his way to build relationships with the people of Berlin, especially the children. He responded to letters and requests from children who called him Uncle Wiggly Wings, The Chocolate Uncle, and The Chocolate Pilot.
Margot Theis Raven tells one child's true story in Mercedes and The Chocolate Pilot.
Over the years, Halvorsen has reunited with Mercedes and other Berlin children, participated in commemorative candy drops, and even led the Berlin athletes into the stadium during the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Somewhere along the way, ABC honored Halvorsen as their person of the week - hence this great clip. Watch it and be grateful. Because as Gail Halverson demonstrates, a little gratitude goes a long way!
ricklibrarian - January 29, 2011"Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America."
If you were a child in Berlin in 1948, you were already a toughened survivor. The Nazis had drained the city of everything it had to offer their war effort, and the Allies had bombed sections in its siege of the city. The occupying Soviet forces had blocked all land transportation into the city, trying to get the U.S., Great Britain, and France to cede their sections of the city to them. All the German citizens were hungry, and children had not seen candy in years. American, British, and French forces began flying food into the free sections of the city in an effort now known as the Berlin Airlift.
One of the airlift pilots was U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen. On his day off, he caught a ride into the city so he could tour its ruins. Noticing a big group of German children behind a fence watching the supply planes land and take off, Halvorsen went to talk to them. They knew more English than he knew German. They expressed their delight of watching the planes bring them food. Halvorsen had only two sticks of gum in his pocket, but he broke them and handed them to the closest children. Instead of the lucky kids grabbing the gum, they passed the pieces around for everyone to smell. Halvorsen was touched and promised that he would drop them candy on his next flight. Asked how they would know his plane, he said he would "wiggle" the wings. He thus became known as "Uncle Wiggly Wings."
In Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot", Michael O. Tunnell tells how Halvorsen's small gesture grew into huge effort involving many service personnel, civilian volunteers, and donors from around the world, all intent on bringing some cheer to the children of Berlin. At 110 pages, this generously illustrated history, which has been chosen a Junior Library Guild Selection, should appeal to boys and girls in upper elementary schools and to adults who like a good story. We have it in our children's room.
Yellow Brick Road - April 1, 2011When Russia blockaded West Berlin, the U.S. and Britain airlifted food and supplies. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen dropped chocolate and gum by parachute, as a support to the children affected by the crisis. Biographical and historic information, a resource list, index and note from the author are included. A reader's group guide is available at www.charlesbridge.com.
CCBC Choices - May 31, 2011In 1948, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen was one of the many pilots who ferried food supplies into blockaded West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. A group of inquisitive German children gathered near the landing strip inspired Lt. Halvorsen to offer to drop gum and candy out of his plane on his next flight. The drop went off as planned, in small packages suspended on handkerchief parachutes. After a few more drops, the group waiting for the bounty from the sky grew, and mail (some in thanks, and others requesting specific delivery locations) began to arrive at the airport, tipping off Halvorsen's superiors to his unsanctioned activities. Realizing the possibilities for positive publicity, the Air Force gave Halvorsen official orders to continue, and the project grew so large that additional staff was assigned to manage the correspondence from recipients, requests for candy, and contributions from individuals, organizations, and candy manufacturers in the United States, all eager to be part of Operation Little Vittles. Years later, Halvorsen still receives letters from German adults recalling the candy drops of their youth, and reunions and reenactments have taken place. The account of the Candy Bomber is generously illustrated with photographs and reproductions of letters sent by candy-seeking children.
The Spring Book Review, Kutztown University - April 12, 2011At the end of World War II, Berlin became an occupied city. It was divided up into the western section (split between the United States, Great Britain, France), and the eastern section controlled by Russia. Food had to be flown into the western part of the city when Russia put up a blockade. A U.S. Air Force Lieutenant, Gail Halvorsen, who was bringing food into the city, decided to bring candy to the war weary children. He put candy into little bags and attached them to handkerchiefs that acted as parachutes. This act of kindness brought happiness to hundreds of tired and hungry children and helped their parents understand that the Americans were there to help them recover. The book includes wonderful extras including a historical note, an author's note, and a great reference list.
This is a superb book that shows the human side of history and the basic decency that lives in people. It will bring delight to everyone who reads it.
"Language Arts Magazine" - November 1, 2011This inspiring story begins in 1945 after the end of World War II. Germany was divided amongst the victorious allies, and all of the Allied powers wanted a presence in Berlin, located within the Soviet-controlled zone. West Berlin was allocated to the remaining Allied powers, but the Russians cut off land and water travel to the city, so air transportation was the only way to deliver food and supplies. Gail Halvorsen, a pilot participating in the humanitatian airlift, was impressed by the enthusiasm of a group of children to whom he gave two pieces of gum. He promised to return with more sweets and told them they would know it was him because he would wiggle the wings of his airplane as he flew overhead. Local newspapers picked up the story of small bundles of candy falling from the sky in parachutes, and the donations poured in, turning the project into an official United States Air Force operation that lasted for almost two years.
The Author gives just enough historical background to inform but not overwhelm. The text contais numerous photographs--many from Halvorsen's own collection--and copies of heartwarming letters and drawings. The story flows chronologically, with Halvorsen contributing a prologue and back matter that includes fascinating biographical, historical, and research notes.