Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's

Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"

by Michael O. Tunnell


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World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force pilot Gail Halvorsen wanted to bring some happiness to the children of the city-but what could one man in one plane do?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580893374
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication date: 07/28/2010
Pages: 110
Sales rank: 86,314
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile: 1130L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Michael has served on the Newbery Award Committee and on the selection committee for the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. He has also published many professional books, including THE STORY OF OURSELVES: TEACHING HISTORY THROUGH CHILDREN'S LITERATURE (Heinemann) and CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, BRIEFLY (Prentice Hall), and has written articles for a variety of educational journals. He and his wife, Glenna, live in Orem, Utah. They have four grown children.

Read an Excerpt

Candy Bomber

The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"
By Michael O. Tunnell


Copyright © 2010 Michael O. Tunnell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58089-337-4

Chapter One

Bread from the Heavens

Nine-year-old Peter Zimmerman searched the sky for airplanes. It was 1948, and Peter stood in his uncle's yard in West Berlin, Germany. There had been a time, three or four years earlier, when the droning of American and British bombers would have sent Peter running for cover. But World War II was over, and things had changed. Now the aircraft didn't frighten him. In fact, he longed to see a particular American plane—one that would fly over and wiggle its wings.

In the same city seven-year-old Mercedes Simon was amazed that her wartime enemies—the Americans and the British—were now her friends. She peered out the window of her apartment, watching US Air Force planes swoop by to land at nearby Tempelhof Central Airport. The pounding of their mighty engines filled the air day and night. Like Peter, Mercedes was watching for a special plane—one she hoped would fly closer, rocking its wings back and forth.

West Berliners were excited to see the steady stream of great silver birds crowding their sky. Instead of bombers come to destroy, these aircraft were cargo planes that had come to save West Berliners from starvation. Each plane was filled with flour, potatoes, milk, meat, or medicine—even coal to heat homes and generate electricity for the city. Of course, there were hundreds of American and British military aviators flying into the city, but Peter and Mercedes were waiting for just one pilot. And they weren't the only ones. Every youngster in the city had an eye on the sky, waiting to spot Lt. Gail Halvorsen's plane.

But why was this pilot, along with the others, flying food into West Berlin? And why was it coming in on airplanes at all? It would have been much more efficient to transport the food with trucks and railway cars.

The answers lie in what happened to Berlin when World War II ended in 1945. The Allied powers—Great Britain, the United States, France, and the Soviet Union (Russia)—defeated Germany and then divided it into four occupation zones. The Soviets took the northeastern part of the country, which included Berlin, the capital city. Although Britain, the United States, and France (the Western Allies) each occupied a zone, they still wanted a presence in Berlin—even though it was located 110 miles (177 kilometers) inside the Soviet-controlled zone. Therefore, the Allied powers agreed to divide up the city: the eastern part of Berlin would go to the Soviets, and the western part would be split into three sectors, one each for the Western Allies.

The Soviet Union had been on Germany's side earlier in the war. When Germany unexpectedly turned against Russia, the Soviets switched their allegiance and joined Britain, the United States, and France. But Russia's Communist government was a dictatorship, and it did not trust democracies. When the war ended, the Soviets distanced themselves from the democratic governments of their former allies. Soon Russia's leaders made it clear that they wanted Britain, the United States, and France out of Berlin. When they didn't leave, the Soviets cried foul by claiming that the Western Allies were forcing their democratic, capitalistic ideals on everyone in Germany.

Finally the Russians decided to drive the Westerners out by blockading Berlin—not allowing trains, cars, trucks, or river barges to reach the city. By cutting off land and water travel across the Soviet zone, the Russians intended to stop all food shipments to West Berlin. Surely after a few miserable weeks, West Berliners—who were already suffering in their war-ravaged city—would beg the Western Allies to leave so they could be fed by the Soviets. The Russians were certain Britain, the United States, and France would have no other choice but to go. As it turned out, there was another choice.

Although the treaty dividing Berlin did not guarantee travel over land and water, it did allow for several air corridors into Berlin. With this avenue of travel still open, the Western Allies decided to fly food and fuel into West Berlin in a concerted effort called the Berlin Airlift. The task was daunting. To feed over two million people seemed difficult if not impossible—certainly the Soviets thought so.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) launched its airlift of supplies on June 26, 1948, calling it "Operation Plainfare." The RAF flew its cargo planes into Gatow Airfield in the British sector. Besides regular aircraft, it also used flying boats named Sunderlands, which had marine fuselages resistant to their corrosive payloads of salt. They landed on lakes along the River Havel in West Berlin.

The US Air Force (USAF) began its airlift on the same day as the British and dubbed it "Operation Vittles," after the vittles, or food, it was flying into West Berlin. Douglas C-47 Skytrain and C-54 Skymaster aircraft flew into airfields in the French, British, and American sectors of West Berlin: Tegel, Gatow, and especially Tempelhof Central Airport. The cargo planes dropped out of the sky to land every few minutes, twenty-four hours a day. US pilots made as many flights as possible before fatigue required new flight crews to take over. One of these pilots was Gail Halvorsen, a young lieutenant who had just arrived in Germany.


Excerpted from Candy Bomber by Michael O. Tunnell Copyright © 2010 by Michael O. Tunnell. Excerpted by permission of Charlesbridge. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Prologue vii

Chapter 1 Bread from the Heavens 1

Chapter 2 "Vhat Is Viggle?" 13

Chapter 3 Operation Little Vittles 31

Chapter 4 From Little Things Come Big Things 41

Chapter 5 "Dear Onkl of the Heaven" 51

Chapter 6 Ties That Are Never Broken 69

Biographical Note 87

Historical Note 95

Author's Note 101

Selected References 105

Photo Credits 107

Index 109

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Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Rainy1954 More than 1 year ago
I felt the book was very moving. It really had the human element about WWII that is often missing in the battles that are fought. This story about the Berlin airlift I had never heard before. I especially liked that the pilot found kids were kids even in a war torn country. We are all just people. I would highly recommend reading it as an adult or a child. It would be a great read aloud book for a classroom and for a family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A captivating true story, The Candy Bomber tells of the berlin airlift and Lt. Gail Halvorsen's part in it. A must read for all ages.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As far as historical non-fiction is concerned, this was one of my all-time favorite reads. The mix of pictures, primary documents, and written background were a perfect mix to make this is quick read, but an informational and inspiring read. Honestly, this story really touched me, and although I already knew it thanks to a college friendship with one of Halvorsen's relatives, it was nice to have the details of these candy missions to Berlin. The idea of giving hope to those who should have essentially been our enemies was really touching. Rather than just washing their hands of these German citizens, these soldiers saw a need and did all in their power to fill it. Halvorsen went on to keep in touch with some of the children that received his sweet treats, and has gone on to speak across the globe about his sweet-treat missions that brought such hope. It's always amazing what true human kindness can do to break down walls of misunderstanding, despair, and anger between people or countries. Reading this history and about the lives it touched, it is easy to see the good it has done for generations after the event. If you're looking for an engaging piece of history for young readers or adults, this short piece of nonfiction is a must read. The positive message of the book will stay with you long after it is finished. In fact, I walked away wanting to figure out a way that I could do something good for someone else!
KarenBall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After defeating Germany in World War II, the Allies divided the nation into four zones. The capital city, Berlin, was in the Soviet Union's zone, and the city was also divided into west and east in the same manner that the country had been. When the Soviets decided to force the other Allies out of West Berlin by blockading the city and starving its people, the Berlin Airlift was born. The British, French and American governments coordinated a massive effort to fly in food, fuel and supplies to the people of Berlin, since they could not use ships or trucks to move the supplies. Cargo planes were scheduled for flights landing minutes apart, 24 hours a day. Pilots flew as many missions per day as possible. One of those pilots was Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who discovered a small group of somewhat ragged children looking through a wire fence at the end of a landing strip. After talking to the children, Halvorsen gave them the only sweets he had: two sticks of gum, which they divided, and then passed the wrappers around to share the minty scent... without arguing or grabbing or fighting. He told them that if they agreed to share equally, he would drop candy out of his plane, and that they'd know which one because he would "wiggle the wings". His plane crew agreed to share their candy rations, and they made parachutes out of handkerchiefs for three boxes of Hershey bars and other candies. That first drop led to more, and the word quickly spread about the generosity of the pilots, who realized something as simple as candy and childhood delight brings hope to all. Candy companies like the LifeSaver company in Port Chester, NY, donated thousands of bars and rolls of candy to the effort. The airlift went on for 16 months, delivering over 2 million tons of necessary supplies... and several tons of donated candy, dropped by Halvorsen and the airlift pilots who participated. Historic photos from the National Archives and the US Air Force, as well as personal photos, letters and documents saved by Gail Halvorsen bring a deeper sense of personal history to the book. This the story of kindness, thoughtfulness, and someone who saw a need, and did something about it -- even if it started as only two sticks of gum. Everyone should read this.
Aaron.Korff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book about Gail S. Halvorsen. It was written by Michael O. Tunnell but it is about Halvorsen aka. the "Chocolate Pilot". This book is about what Halvorsen did after Berlin was destroyed and split up into East and West. He went to Berlin and landed at Tempelhof. He talked to some kids, but had to leave. Then he thought that the kids probably didn't have any candy. He reached into his pucket and pulled out 2 sticks of gum. The kids split up the wrappers so everyone could smell the gum. Then he got an idea when another plane landed. He could drop gum or chocolate onto the other side. He got donated candy and began to drop it. The kids knew it was him because he wiggled his wings. This book is also about Mercedes, Irene Oppermann, Elly Muss, and many more people. I liked this book. It was educational and fun to read. It really makes you thank what it would be like to go for years without candy then some stranger gives you a lot of candy. I got this book when Gail S. Halvorsen came to visit my school. He talked to us about his experience. I got it signed by him and a lot of other people in the book like Mercedes. It was an amazing thing that he did. It would be nice to have more people like him in the world. This is a great book that anybody who wants to learn about Berlin after the war should read.
BobbyHoffman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought that this book told the truth about what happened during the Berlin Airlift. I thought this was a good book for people that want to learn about the history of world war 2 and what happened after it. It tells how Germany was divided into 4 sections the American side, the French side, the British side, and the Russian side. This book tells how one man made a difference in thousands of kids lives, and started something that made people think about other people that were thousands of miles away. I think the fact that it is a true story makes it even better.
mekenna.hooper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Candy Bomber tells the story of Lt. Gail Halvorsen, an American Air Force pilot who delivered candy to hungry children in West Berlin after World War II. All of this started of two pieces of gum. At that time, Berlin was divided with the Allied Forces controlling West Berlin and the Soviets controlling East Berlin. The only way to get food and supplies into West Berlin was by air, so the Allies fly hundreds of flights to bring in the necessary In boxes. One day when Lt. Halvorsen was touring the city, he came across a group of kids watching the planes, hungry for any information about the outside world. Halvorsen gave them two sticks of gum he had in his pocket and he had an idea - he would start dropping sweets for the children of Berlin. Many pilots were willing to give up their candy rations for the kids and the project snowballed into 'Operation Little Vittles', with candy companies and people all over the United States donating candy and homemade parachutes.
likesbooksrs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A true story of the Berlin Air Lift and a special person, the pilot Gail Halvorsen, who dropped parachutes filled with candy from his plane for the children of Berlin. This is a story of hope and of a man who, through a small act, made a great difference in the lives of millions of people.
prkcs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"World War II was over, and Berlin was in ruins. US Air Force Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen knew the children of the city were suffering. They were hungry and afraid. The young pilot wanted to help, but what could one man in one plane do?"
crochetbunnii on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal Response: The narration is divided up into manageable chapters that are broken up by images and letters. The text provides just enough information without overloading a younger reader. My favorite aspect is the reproduction of actual letters from kids in Germany thanking him for chocolate or making special requests for drops.Curricular Connections:This story would be a great lesson in compassion and the difference one person can make. It can be used in conjunction with a program to prepare and send care packages to struggling countries or soldiers overseas. Children can also think about some of the luxuries they take for granted that other children around the world do without, such as water, electricity and chocolate bars.
Katya0133 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of learning about history from the stories of individuals and this book is a great way of learning about the Berlin Airlift. It's also a humorous and touching story about small kindnesses leading to great acts of generosity between former enemies. The first chapter (which gives the historical background) is a bit dry, but I'd say that the rest of the book could be enjoyed even by young children. (It doesn't hurt that the story is largely about Lt. Halvorsen's interactions with children.)Highly recommended.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I had never heard of the Candy Bombers before so when I heard about this, I knew I had to read more about it. The idea of the Candy Bombers occurred after WWII when Berlin was divided amongst different countries and an American pilot decided to take matters into his own hands. This one individual started a movement, a movement to bring some happiness to the children in the area. His one small act touched the lives of many. In this novel, you get the full story. The author explains the division of Germany after WWII, the strategies that the Russians were creating to push other countries out of Germany and how these countries fought back. Gail Halvorsen was one of the pilots who fought against these plans and he flew supplies into West Berlin. One day while taking a side trip, Gail noticed some German children watching him from behind a wire fence. He had visited some sites in Germany and had returned to the runaway. He thought the children would be curious about the plane but these children had other concerns and stories to talk about. The children spoke freely and Gail listened. The war had been hard on these children but now, the life that they were living was just as hard. Gail was moved by these children and he knew he had to do something. Returning back to base, Gail sought out help from his crew and soon donations of candy and parachutes which were made from handkerchiefs were being dropped from his plane to children throughout different parts of Germany. This was a fabulous story! I enjoyed reading how Operation Little Vittles started out with donations from his crew and then grew to a much bigger operation. What a sight that had to be, to see those parachutes coming out of the sky with little bits of treats attached to them. This story warmed my heart and to think that one individual started it because he cared. The book contains many black-and-white photos taken from this time period which was a fantastic bonus. This really is a wonderful novel to read and one that I highly recommend.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the firt chapter i couldent stop reading and its a charlemay simon book to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks good
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What is this about?