In 1948, the Soviet Union decided to blockade all rail, road, and water communications between Berlin and the West in an attempt to get the Western Allied powers to abandon their post WW II jurisdiction in West Berlin. The U.S. and Britain airlifts kept supplies going to the beleaguered West Berliners until the blockade was lifted 11 months later.
At this time, U.S soldiers who shared their chocolate candy with hungry German children were much beloved in Berlin; and nobody did it better than U.S. pilot Col. Gail Seymour Halvorsen, alias “The Berlin Candy Bomber.” While stationed in Berlin in 1948, Halvorsen shared two sticks of gum with a group of young children and was struck by the fact that they did not fight each other for it. He decided to enlist the help of other airmen to buy candy and attach it to homemade, handkerchief parachutes so he could air drop it to them. He acquired the name “Uncle Wiggly Wings” because he promised the children he would wiggle the wings of his C54 when he flew over so they would know he was about to drop the candy. When the airlift commander first heard about the illegal drops, he was not happy but, realizing the potential for hope and goodwill, he expanded the air drops into the “Operation Little Vittles” program.
As well as participating in other goodwill, air drops including Kosovo and the Micronesian Islands, Halvorsen went on to distinguish himself in many other ways. He earned degrees in aeronautical engineering and counseling and worked in Research and Development and operational duties in the Air Force Space Program, to name a few. He also served as the Commander of Tempelhof Central Airport in Berlin. Besides having two schools in Germany named after him, several prestigious honors include the Legion of Merit, the service cross to the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and a Congressional Gold Medal.
Gail Halvorsen’s story is further documented in Tom Brokaw’s book, Christmas from Heaven: the True Story of the Berlin Candy Bomber and Halvorsen’s, The Berlin Candy Bomber.