Week 28 Monday Motivation
Piute County School District,
We have to have two consecutive weeks of World War II pilots. Earlier this month the most famous pilot from Utah passed away at 101 years old. His name was Gail Halvorsen and his nicknames were “The Berlin Candy Bomber” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”
After World War II the city Berlin was in rough shape. Years of war had taken a toll on the city and its people. The city became subject to the will of the Allied Forces and the Soviet Union. There were many disagreements about the future of Germany and the Soviet Union was not supportive of establishing the democratic government that the western countries had in mind. During the debate the Soviet Union blockaded all land travel into west Berlin in an attempt to force the allied forces to leave. The two million residents of west Berlin became hostages with very little ability to take care of themselves. President Truman insisted that Berlin would not be abandoned and “Operation Vittles” began. The operation included taking hundreds of tons of food and other supplies into the city of Berlin every day by plane.
Halvorsen was to be one of the pilots delivering food to the residents of Berlin. He had mixed feelings about flying into the city. Not long before the city had been full of enemies and many of his friends had lost their lives in the conflict. Any animosity he felt disappeared quickly when he was met by a group of children at the airport fence. He talked with them and offered them all the food he had, two pieces of gum. He was touched when the children passed the wrapper around the whole group to smell it. He told them he would bring some for all of them the next day. They asked how they would know which plane was his. He said he would wiggle his wings on the approach.
From that day he began collecting any candy he received and any candy his friends would donate to give to the children. He started tying the candy to handkerchiefs and other little parachutes to drop for the children. The more he did it, the more other pilots joined in the operation. He received letters requesting drops in different parts of the city. When newspapers started picking up the story, he began receiving donations of all kinds to parachute down to the children of Berlin. Halvorsen had been a child at the time of the Great Depression and might have known the uncertainty the children were feeling. Many of the children didn’t catch any of the candy but went everyday to see the candy dropped, feeling that it was a symbol of hope.
Eventually the Soviet Union realized the blockade of the city was a futile endeavor and began allowing supplies in by land. The operation had proven a great success. The Allied Forces had proven they could, by peaceful means, keep the entire city of Berlin from becoming part of the Soviet Union.
For Halvorsen the candy bombing of Berlin was only the beginning of a long career of humanitarian service. Anytime the military was charged with a large humanitarian project for many years after, the candy bomber was to be part of it. In 2014, in addition to all of his military honors, he received the Congressional Gold Medal (The highest honor congress can give a civilian) for his compassionate humanitarian work.
Many of the children found Halvorsen as adults and thanked him for his service. A very small act of compassion can have very long lasting effects. Thank you for the small acts of kindness you perform in our schools everyday.
Have a great week 28,
Note: As a missionary in Georgia in 2008 I saw the 87 year old Candy Bomber in action. He flew over a field and reenacted the Berlin candy drop by dropping hundreds of candy bars for the children of the community there. He performed many of these reenactments over many decades all over the world.
2nd Note: One 7 year old girl in Berlin was frustrated that she was never able to catch one of the parachute candy bars from the candy bomber. So, she wrote him a letter and asked him to drop one at her house. Not only did Halvorsen receive the letter, he responded with a personal letter back to her and a package of sweets. Decades later as a married adult, she wrote to him again to thank him. He visited her home and they became lifelong friends.