I 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.
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!
PBS also created a documentary about The Berlin Airlift. It's in my public library. Or will be when I return it! Maybe yours has it too.