Candy Bomber

The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
110p. 978-1-58089-336-7.
Chocolate 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. SUSAN DOVE LEMPKE
Gr 4—6—Tunnell 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 color 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.—Eldon Younce, formerly at Harper Elementary School, KS
American pilot Gail Halvorsen, along with his fellow servicemen, delivered candy to children in post-WWII West Berlin--dropping the treats from their bomber planes. Copious photographs and reproductions of letters bring the children's gratitude to life. By beginning with these personal stories, Tunnell piques readers' interest in learning more about the conflict between the Soviets and the Germans, information provided in later chapters. Reading list, websites. Bib., ind.
Michael O. Tunnell presents information about World War II and the postwar occupation of Germany with clear, interesting writing that informs the reader, yet keeps the focus on Lieutenant Halvorsen’s candy drops. Copious photographs show postwar Germany and provide a sense of what life was like for German children at the time. It’s inspiring to read about how Halvorsen’s idea grew from a whim to an official Air Force operation that received attention and support. The letters that children sent to Halvorsen are touching and funny. Along with heartfelt thank-you notes, he also received candy drop requests that included maps and instructions such as “I’ll be in the backyard every day at 2 PM. Drop the chocolate there.”

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing