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The Candy Bombers and the Berlin Airlift

Updated on May 05, 2011

The Candy Bombers and Their Support of the Children of West Berlin

The Candy Bombers, also known as the Raisin Bombers, were a group of American pilots that dropped treats to children during the blockade of Berlin.

This wonderful book details the history leading up to and through the Berlin Airlift.

It's an amazing and wonderful story!

A Little About the Berlin Airlift

If you're not already familiar with the particulars of the Berlin Airlift, I'll now take the opportunity to give you a little background on it.


At the end of WWII, Germany was divided amongst the victors; those being the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France. The Soviet Union took control of the larger, Eastern half of Germany, including half of Berlin. The Western half was split between the US, Great Britain, and France.

Source: Truman Library

After World War II, the former allies, including the Soviet Union, were stuck in a delicate balance of power. Unfortunately, there were significant economic and political differences between the "West" and the Soviet Union. This, along with military concerns, brought about the beginning of the Cold War.

In 1947 Britain, France, and the United States merged control of Western Germany.

Due to serious disagreements, all train and truck convoys and ships into Berlin were blocked by the Soviet Union, in hopes of pushing the West out of the city. Berlin was facing starvation, as supplies were cutoff by the Soviet Union.

The West had decided to supply West Berlin by air, instead of using tanks and military force, in hopes of preventing World War III.

It worked, but some American pilots had bigger ideas. This leads us to the Candy Bombers.

About the Candy Bombers

The Candy Bombers were also called the Raisin Bombers, or Rosinenbomberby, by the German population of Berlin.


They got their start after Gail Halvorsen, an American pilot, decided to start dropping candy via handmade parachutes to the children trapped behind the Berlin Wall.

After a time, other American pilots joined in and it became officially known as Operation Little Vittles.

Eventually, the Confectioners Association of America began donating large amounts to the effort. In addition, American school children cooperated in attaching the candies to the handmade handkerchief parachutes.

By the end of the operation, around 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chewing gum, chocolate, and other candies over various parts of Berlin.

The important part about dropping the treats to the people trapped in West Berlin was that most of the children only knew the Americans as the ones that bombed and possibly killed some of their family. The effect of dropping candy was to give hope and a little joy to the most fragile people of the population; the children.

Candy goes a long way toward goodwill!

Children Playing "Airlift"

Children Playing "Airlift"
Children Playing "Airlift"

A Review of The Candy Bombers

The Candy Bombers starts off at the tail end of World War II and goes into great detail about the physical, emotional, and political climate of the period. Andrei Cherny does an excellent job capturing the emotions and struggle of people, both in America and Europe. It isn't until the middle of the book that we begin to really hear about Hal Halvorsen. Although, it is important to understand the background, so the reader can appreciate the risks that Halvorsen and his crew took in dropping candy. Also, the detailed beginning of the book showed just how important the dropping of candy was for the children and to encourage the adults to stand firm against the Soviet aggressions in the city of Berlin.

One of my favorite excerpts from the book:

"The Airlift had provided more than flour and coal; Halvorsen had shared more than candy. The kindness and determination of those who had once been Germany's enemies had brought, as the Berliners would invariably explain to anyone who asked, a sense of hope, of the possibility that after Nazism and war and its brutal aftermath, a better life might be possible, that a world still coming to grips with the horrors of the Holocaust might treat them not as pariahs but as heroes."

All in all, it is an excellent read. However, you should be prepared for a very detailed and fairly long read. I am sure, though, that you will enjoy it!

Videos: An Interview with Andrei Cherny - The Candy Bombers and the Berlin Airlift

Other Great Books on the Candy Bombers and Berlin Airlift

Gail Halvorsen: The Original Candy Bomber

Gail Halvorsen (born October 10, 1920 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is a former American pilot of C-47s and C-54s during the Berlin airlift ("Operation Vittles") 1948-1949.

Halvorsen came up with the idea after giving a few sticks of chewing gum to some children watching the planes from outside the Tempelhof base. Wanting to give more, he promised to drop more candy from his plane the next day. Because the planes would arrive every 90 seconds, the children naturally couldn't distinguish his from the others. However, Halvorsen promised to wiggle the wings to identify himself, which led to his nickname "Onkel Wackelflügel" ("Uncle Wiggly Wings").

The important detail here was the fact that he did this against orders and, once discovered, was threatened with court-martial!!

Gail "Uncle Wiggly Wings" Halvorsen connects candies to small parachutes.






Halvorsen's actions as the original candy bomber may have had a substantial impact on the postwar perception of Americans in Germany, and it is still pointed to as a symbol of German-American relations. He has appeared many times on German TV over the years, often paired with some of the children, now grown adults, who received his candy parachutes.

Gail Halvorsen has left a lasting legacy within the Air Force. Since then, the US Air Force has named its next-generation, 25,000-pound capacity aircraft loading vehicle in his honor. Also, they named the award for outstanding air transportation support in the logistics readiness career field the Colonel Gail Halvorsen Award. That's pretty amazing, because after he was originally discovered to be the Candy Bomber, he was initially threatened with a court-martial!

Reference: Wikipedia

Halvorsen with Candy

Halvorsen with Candy
Halvorsen with Candy

The Kids Waiting for Candy and Food

The Kids Waiting for Candy and Food
The Kids Waiting for Candy and Food

Young girl with one of the candy bags dropped over West Berlin

Young girl with one of the candy bags dropped over West Berlin
Young girl with one of the candy bags dropped over West Berlin

Halvorson dropping candy

Halvorson dropping candy
Halvorson dropping candy

Captain Halvorsen and his Fans

Captain Halvorsen and his Fans
Captain Halvorsen and his Fans

The C-47 Cargo Plane

The C-47 Cargo Plane
The C-47 Cargo Plane

Halvorsen and a C54

Halvorsen and a C54
Halvorsen and a C54

The End of the Berlin Airlift

The End of the Berlin Airlift
The End of the Berlin Airlift

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    • Charlino99 profile image

      Tonie Cook 8 years ago from USA

      Another fantastic source of information.

    • beeobrien lm profile image

      beeobrien lm 8 years ago

      This is great! I wasn't familiar with the Candy Bombers. Wonderful story.

    • profile image

      happy-jack 8 years ago

      Thank you every so much, this is a fine story.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Love it! The Candy Bombers was one story about WWII that's not in the high school history books. Its touching and "sweet." Your lenses are a pleasure to read.

      Lizzy

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      Interesting. Hershey's chocolate could make anything better!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      What a great topic! I read about this several years ago. A great story. 5* Faved and lensrolled to my Navy Nukes and Statue of Liberty lenses.

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 8 years ago

      Thank you so much Jeff! I really appreciate it. :)

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 8 years ago from Arkansas USA

      How very interesting! I'm going to show this to my husband, who is a big World War II history fan. Terrific lens, terrific history lesson!

    • profile image

      WhippetTalk 8 years ago

      Great lens! I can't think of anything better to bomb with. I wish all bombs were candy ones. 5 stars!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 8 years ago

      Lol! Good point WhippetTalk! :)

    • profile image

      chloecavanaugh 8 years ago

      Truly amazing! This is a wonderful topic, and an outstanding lens.

      *****

      ~Chloe

    • debnet profile image

      Debbie 8 years ago from England

      Very interesting Lens! 5* :)

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 8 years ago

      Wonderful lens!!

    • papawu profile image

      papawu 8 years ago

      I had never heard of anything like this. What an inspirational story of true love of kids and people. A joyous 5 star lens.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 8 years ago

      I just want to mention When I was a little girl in Germany after the war the Americans always gave us candy, I was not allowed to take it, however my love for sweets was too great and always excepted the gift...and then got punished...I don't remember the raisin drop, wonder if they where Sunmaids...hmmm that would have been interesting...5*

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Amazing story and a great lens about it. 5*s and a hearty SquidAngel Blessing. :)

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 7 years ago

      A Great Lens! I like the pictures and your writing!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      I love this story! Blessed!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 7 years ago

      ...and featured on Angels Unaware!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 7 years ago

      [in reply to stargazer00]

      Thank you!! :)

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 7 years ago

      What a lovely story!

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      OMG, this is such a cool story -- did I read it too fast to see if there is a MOVIE about The Candy Bombers? I'm thinking this might be the perfect book as one of hubby's Valentine's Day gifts -- he likes to read historical books.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      I had never heard of the Candy Bombers before. What a fantastic story! Angel Blessed.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 6 years ago

      Operation Little Vittles, a cute name, and proof that all it takes is one person to make a difference.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 6 years ago

      So glad you have brought attention to this bright spot in the checkered history of USA foreign involvement. Blessed!

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      That is fascinating. No, I had never heard of the Candy Bombers. Even in the craziness of war, on both sides, people are just human.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      What a wonderful review! I was not aware of the Candy Bombers or Operation Little Vittles. American soldiers have the biggest hearts, don't they? Blessed by a Squid Angel today!

    • triathlontraini1 profile image
      Author

      triathlontraini1 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you!

      I read it after hearing about it on NPR.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Now how did I ever miss this! Your excellence is showing again! I love the picture of the little girl with the candy bag ~ a picture does paint a thousand words in this case. For a moment I swear felt like that little girl.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      Dropping back in to give this thought-provoking historical piece a SquidAngel blessing.

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 6 years ago

      Hi,

      It is a new year and I am still getting to bless lens. I miss this one before but not now! Blessed :)

    • profile image

      referencement 6 years ago

      very good article : I search a séjour linguistique Berlin and I appreciate this part of history

    • profile image

      huvalbd 5 years ago

      I didn't know about this. I'm grateful to you for the education!

    • Michelllle profile image

      Michelllle 3 years ago

      Great lens. Wonderful story.

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