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Candy History: The Candy Bomber

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Gail Halvorsen Candy BomberIn 1948, Germany was being occupied by opposing forces: the Allies (including the United States and United Kingdom), and the Soviet Union. In one of the first events of the Cold War, the Soviet Union tried to gain control of Berlin by blocking the Western Allies from access to the city by train or road. The Allies began to drop food and other resources from planes to the blockaded parts of Berlin in what became known as The Berlin Airlift.

One pilot began to send his candy rations down to the children of Berlin, tied in tiny parachutes made of handkerchiefs. Gail Halvorsen, the pilot who dropped candy from his plane, would wiggle the wings of his plane as he flew over Berlin so the children would know there would be a candy drop. The German children began to call him “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” He would drop chocolate bars, gum, and raisins.

Halvorsen’s superior officers didn’t know what he was up to, but when they found out, they called him into the office. He was afraid he’d be court-martialed, but instead, his Lieutenant told him to keep doing his project, which became known as “Operation Little Vittles.” Eventually, the American public heard about Halvorsen and began to donate candy and handkerchiefs to the cause. The Confectioners’ Association of America donated large amounts of candy, and American school children tied candy to handkerchief parachutes.

Halvorsen has been credited with making a huge impact on German-American relations with his act of delivering candy to children, and for creating a positive perception of Americans to Germans, who had been at war with Americans during the years of World War II. Even recently, Halvorsen’s example has been emulated by the U.S. military, and they have dropped toys, teddy bears, and soccer balls to children in Iraq.

Image: Public Domain and made available via Wikimedia Commons

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