American Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen, a WW2 veteran and C54 pilot flying supplies into Berlin Tempelhof airport in the American sector remembered the events which saw him earn worldwide fame as the ‘Candy Bomber’.
On my first flight in all the buildings looked very stark and most were destroyed, we would get there and turn around real quick and I wanted to get pictures so after my third round trip one day my buddy was going instead of going to bed, I went back to Berlin. I landed at Tempelhof, jumped into a jeep and ended up at the barbed wire fence at the end of the runway. All of a sudden, about 30 kids came up to me and they were very friendly which was very surprising as just a few years before we had been fighting their brothers and sisters.
I really wanted to shoot a movie of these planes coming in and these children were there for about an hour talking to me. They said, ‘don’t worry about us, we don’t have to have enough to eat, just don’t give up on us. Some day we will have our freedom’. I just stood there dumbfounded.
Not one of those boys or girls asked me for anything. When I realised that, I reached in my pocket and found I had two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint chewing gum. I went back to the fence, broke these pieces in half and here came the rush, but no pushing or shoving. They even shared the wrapper out and smelled it. I thought, for $10 I can really help them out.
“We don’t have to have enough to eat, just don’t give up on us. Some day we will have our freedom’.”
So, I said ‘Hey kids, if you stand here when I come in tomorrow, I will drop enough chocolate bars for all of you to have some’. I started to leave, and they yelled ‘come back, come back, we have got to know which aeroplane you are in, there is one every five minutes’. So, I said ‘look, when I come over, I will wiggle my wings’.
My co-pilot and engineer gave me their ration and so we made these little handkerchief parachutes and attached them to this candy. Next day we got over Berlin about 11am and there were those kids, I wiggled my wings and they went crazy. Week by week more kids turned up and we kept dropping these candy bars.
One day I came back and I got a message ‘Halvorsen, the Colonel wants to see you right now’. I thought, ‘Oh boy, I’m gonna get court-martialed for this!’ He said ‘General Tunner called me and wants to know what’s going on’. When he found out, he said, ‘well, tell him to keep doing it!’ All my pilot buddies started doing it and over the next nine months two sticks of gum turned into nearly 20 tonnes.
The Hershey Candy Bar company even wrote to me and sent me tonnes of this stuff. We had so much we couldn’t tie enough parachutes so a school in Massachusetts offered to do them all for us. In the end we had so much we had to scatter it all over Berlin from the back out our aircraft. I used to get a huge number of letters from kids in Berlin thanking us.