Gail Halvorsen had talked for an hour with 30 German kids at a barbed wire fence inside the Templehof airport in war torn Berlin. Halvorsen just flew in with 20,000 pounds of flour and other essential supplies in his C-54. As he was heading back to his aircraft, it struck him that the kids didn’t even ask for candies – something they wouldn’t have had for more than 2 years.
At the end of WW2, Berlin was split into 4 by the allied powers. But in 1948 relations strained between Soviet Union and others. The Soviets imposed severe restrictions on West Berlin by cutting off access to the rest via rail, road and water. The ‘Berlin Blockade’ was starving the women and kids to death.
Gail now pulled out two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint, broke them into half and passed the four pieces to the kids. There was no fight. The kids who got the gum now tore the tin foil and passed it to others, who were thrilled to just smell it. The stunned pilot promised that he would return with more the next day.
‘How do we know the airplane you’re in?’
‘I would wiggle my wings as I land’ he said.
The next day he wiggled his wings as he landed. And his crew which packed the candies in hankies dropped them down like parachutes to the ecstatic kids below.
Halvorsen would go on to drop more than 20 tons of candies in the next 14 months. An act that clinched an ideological battle and earned him everlasting affection of a free West Berlin.
On Halvorsen’s 100th birthday in 2020, those young Berliners now in their 80s sent thank-you cards and video messages to their favourite ‘Uncle Wiggly Wings’
It is now my faviourite story of WW2. Dan Lews’s Now You Know Newsletter pointed me to it first. You can look up into it here.
Read this interview with the man himself which appeared in Historynet.com. A man who earned much gratitude from not just Germany but the whole world and became a cultural icon of the WW2.