May 21, 2012
Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell
The German children came to know him as Onkel Wackelflluger (Uncle Wiggly Wings) or Der Schokoladen-flieger (The Chocolate Pilot). Lt. Gail Halvorsen was the young pilot who launched operation Little Vittles.
When Soviet Russia created the blockade to starve the people of Berlin into submission, the US was among the countries who flew food and other needed supplies into Berlin. Halvorsen was one of the US pilots assigned to this task.
He was so impressed with the gratitude of the German children that he decided to drop a gift, chocolate and any other candy he could gather, directly to the children.
He then collected chocolate rations from his crew and rigged little parachutes. When he flew over, he rocked his plane, wiggling the wings, so the children would know who was coming.
Halvorsen didn’t intend for this to be much more than a few drops. After all, it wasn’t sanctioned by his superiors. But they knew a good thing when they heard about it and soon he was speaking at a press conference. This brought donations from individuals and companies throughout the US.
What’s the big deal with candy? To the besieged Berliner’s it was more than gum or chocolate. It was hope. It was knowing that people outside were thinking of them and of their children. For one father, the chocolate bar he found on the roof of his home was the only birthday gift he could give his son. Remember, many Berliners were still living in bombed out buildings.
Halvorsen and the Americans made such a huge impact that when Berlin hosted the Olympics in 2002, they invited General Halvorsen to lead their athletes in the opening parade.
I picked this book up because it was recommended to me. As much as I love chocolate, I really wasn’t sure it would catch my attention. I read it in one sitting, only getting up to chase my husband and son around the house and read parts of it to them.
If you have a child who is interested in history and World War II, this book is in excellent choice. It is a tightly written fast read.
Do pay attention to the reading level. It isn’t so much the text as it is the concepts — this isn’t just about free chocolate, but so much more.