Veterans

November 15, 2013

Candy Bomber drops in 65 years after Berlin Airlift

Candy parachutes drop out of a vintage C-47 Skytrain Nov. 9, 2013, near the South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas. More than 250 members of the community and servicemembers participated in the event.

It was 1948, World War II was over and the Cold War had begun. For many German families, living conditions were tough and food was scarce. But for the children of Berlin, there was a glimmer of hope, and it came from the sky.

Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, a C-47 pilot stationed in Germany in support of the Berlin Airlift, handed two sticks of gum to local children peering through a fence near a local airport. That small gesture at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport led to Operation Little Vittles, a humanitarian mission that continued for 15 months.

After that first meeting with the children, Halvorsen decided to collect his candy rations and fasten them to parachutes made with cloth and string.

“The look in their eyes, I could see their appreciation for something so small,” Halvorsen recalled. “I wanted to do something more so I told them to come back later.”

His plan was to fly over and drop the candy to the children.

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen gives thumbs up to the crowd prior to boarding a vintage C-47 Skytrain Nov. 9, 2013, at the South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas. More than 250 community members and servicemembers attended the event which featured rides on vintage aircraft, performances from the Texas Children’s Choir, the U.S. Air Force Band of the West, and a candy drop.

“They asked how they would know it was me,” Halvorsen said. “I told them I’ll wiggle the wings.”

From that point on, he was known to the children as “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” To the rest of the world, he would become the “Candy Bomber.”

On Nov. 9, at age 93, retired Col. Gail Halvorsen took part in a re-enactment of the Berlin Airlift at the South Texas Regional Airport in Hondo, Texas. The community and service men and women gathered to participate in the event, watching as more than 160 children ran to gather the 2,000 candy bars, which descended from a vintage C-47 Skytrain.

Among the crowd was a special visitor, Berlin-native Heike Jackson. Jackson, who lived in Germany during the Berlin Airlift, remembers what it was like to see Halvorsen’s plane approach and the candy drop from above.

Children rush through a field picking up candy dropped from a vintage C-47 Skytrain Nov. 9, 2013, near the South Texas Regional Airport, Hondo, Texas. Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen re-enacted a candy drop known as Operation Little Vittles, a 15-month humanitarian mission that took place during the Berlin Airlift in 1948.

At age 6, Jackson, like other children in the local area, would anxiously await the plane with the wiggly wings.

“He was our savior,” Jackson said. “We had nothing to eat; we would’ve died.”

Jackson later married a Army soldier and moved from Berlin to the United States while he was still in the service.

Jackson never thought she’d come face-to-face with “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” but 65 years later, she did. What did she do to commemorate the event? She brought some candy along.

“It’s kind of like déjà vu,” she said. “The feeling is hard to describe. To see that wonderful man alive is amazing. It’s a full circle somehow. I’m very touched and overwhelmed.”

“I did it for the children, to see the smiles on their faces,” Halvorsen said.

And 65 years later, halfway around the world, he managed to get one more smile from a surviving child of the Berlin Airlift.

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen speaks in a hangar, at the South Texas Regional Airport Nov. 9, 2013, prior to the Berlin Airlift re-enactment in Hondo, Texas. More than 250 members of the community and servicemembers participated in the event.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 30, 2014

News: Software to power F-35 running as much as 14 months late - Software needed to operate Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system, may be as much as 14 months late for required flight testing, according to a Pentagon review.   Business: Lockheed will turn on JLTV production line In August; 6-D truck...
 
 

News Briefs July 30, 2014

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,197 As of July 29, 2014, at least 2,197 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,819 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

F-35B successfully completes wet runway, crosswind testing

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds F-35B aircraft BF-4, piloted by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Dan Levin, starts down the runway as part of wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. In an important program ...
 

 
boeing-chinook

Boeing delivers first U.S. Army multiyear II configured Chinook

Boeing July 29 delivered the first multiyear II configured CH-47F Chinook helicopter to the U.S. Army one month ahead of schedule. The delivery was celebrated in a ceremony at the production facility in Ridley Township, Penn. ...
 
 
Army photograph by SSgt. Angela Stafford

Engineers developing safer, more accurate tracer round

Army photograph Tracer rounds enable the shooter to follow the projectile trajectory to make aiming corrections. However, the light emitted by these rounds also gives away the position of the shooter. Engineers at Picatinny Ars...
 
 
NASA photograph by Carla Thomas

Katherine Lott awarded NASA Armstrong employee scholarship

NASA photograph by Carla Thomas Katherine Lott, the recipient of the 2014 NASA Armstrong Employee Exchange Council Joseph R. Vensel Memorial Scholarship, is congratulated by NASA Armstrong center director David McBride. Flankin...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>