When American and British forces embarked on a massive airlift mission to get food and other needed supplies to West Berliners in 1948, one young U.S. pilot came up with a way to sweeten the operation for German children.
Retired Air Force Col. Gail S. Halvorsen was a 27-year-old lieutenant in Cold War Germany when he noticed the conditions the children of Berlin were living in and wanted to help.
At first, he handed out gum and candy from his ration pack, but then began attaching handkerchief parachutes to chocolate bars and dropping them from his aircraft to the children below.
He would rock the wings of his aircraft during his airlift missions to signal to the children which plane was carrying the chocolate. Widely known today as the Candy Bomber, German children called Halvorsen “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”
Soon, Halvorsen’s idea was expanded into “Operation Little Vittles” and received public support and donations. By the end of the Berlin airlift in 1949, 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum and other candies over Berlin.
Halvorsen, who died earlier this year at age 101, is remembered for a life and career that centered on helping others.