Saturday, January 29, 2011

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell

"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.

Tunnell, Michael O. Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot". Charlesbridge, 2010. ISBN 9781580893367.

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