A Brief History
On September 22, 1948, USAF pilot Lt. Gail Halvorsen began dropping candy via parachute to the children of Berlin. In 1948, the USSR tried to cut off West Berlin from supplies from the West, starving the population.
The US and its allies began an operation dubbed “The Berlin Airlift,” flying supplies of food, fuel, medicine, and other essentials to West Berlin surrounded by the Soviets and their East German lackeys.
Halvorsen was one of those pilots of cargo planes, and when he noticed hungry faces of children lined up by the West Berlin airport, he decided to do something about it, fabricating parachutes to drop candy to the kids at his own expense. When his superiors heard of his effort, they initiated Operation “Little Vittles” and made the drops official for the rest of airlift.
Halvorsen earned the names “The Candy Bomber” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” retiring as a colonel in 1974.
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For more information, please see…
Cherny, Andrei. The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour. Dutton Caliber, 2009.
Tunnell, Michael. Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot.” Charlesbridge, 2010.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess of Mike Rhodes, left, acting director, Administration and Management, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen unveiling a handkerchief parachute artifact that would be displayed in the Defense Humanitarian Relief Corridor, during a corridor dedication ceremony at the Pentagon, May 19, 2009, is a work of a U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.
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