“Not one of almost 30 kids, most of whom hadn’t had any gum or candy for two or three years, was willing to become a beggar and ask … Instinctively I reached in my pocket. There had been no preparation for such a moment. All there were was two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum.”
Gail S. Halvorsen’s one quest was to escape the sugar beet fields in Texas and fly. He found a way to take lessons and after Pearl Harbor was attacked, he joined the military. His path took him to being part of the Berlin Airlift, delivering food and supplies to Berliners who were barricaded in their city by the Russians. Knowing he would be sent home at the 6-month mark or when the airlift was over, he plotted a sightseeing tour of Berlin by Jeep on the side and that trip changed his life forever.
I’ve known the story of the Berlin Candy Bomber for a long time and when I saw a book written by the man behind the entire idea, I bought it right away. It’s one thing to read about history, but another to read it by the person who was there and lived it.
Halvorsen tells his story in a humbling way. While waiting for his Jeep to arrive for his tour, he went to the airfield fence and started talking to some children who were watching the planes land and take off. When he turned to leave, he realized the children hadn’t had any candy in years, yet they didn’t even ask him if he had any. He turned and gave them the two pieces of gum he had and soon an idea was born to toss them candy and chocolate when he flew back next. He would wiggle his wings so they would know it was his plan. When leadership found out about it, there was so much good will that the Berlin Candy Bomber became his official job. His life, and the lives of the children who found the treats, were forever changed.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves history, especially since it is a first-hand account. It’s neat to read how a small idea turned into something that affected so many people. Halvorsen even met some of the children later in life and heard their stories. You’ll never look at candy the same again!