"Rosinenbomber" or in English Candy Bomber. It must seem a strange thing to equate the word 'bomber' with the spirit of Christmas giving but that is exactly what Lt. Gail Halvorsen accomplished during the Berlin Airlift back in 1948-1949. During what is called 'Operation Little Vittles'.
From an article by Phil Scott, "They were ragged and starving, these kids who had gathered, amid the ruins, to watch airplanes bring food to Berlin. It was mid-July 1948. Twenty-seven-year-old Lt. Gail Halvorsen had been on the airlift for two weeks, flying an exhausting three round trips each day. Sure that the Russians couldn’t take the heat much longer, he decided to tour Berlin while he still could. So instead of going straight to bed after the day’s flying, Halvorsen picked up his camera and borrowed a jeep. His first stop was the approach end of Runway 27, to watch the landing C-54s. That’s when he saw the kids."
“They could speak a little English,” Halvorsen says. “Their clothes were patched and they hadn’t had gum or candy for two or three years. They barely had enough to eat.”
As he turned to walk back to the base, Halvorsen felt the gum in his pockets. “I had only two sticks, so I broke those in half and handed them to the kids through the fence,” he says. “They chewed the gum and passed around the wrappers and licked them.”
Halvorsen told the kids to come back the next day and he’d drop candy from his C-54. How would they know him from the other transports landing every three minutes? He would rock his wings, he told them.
“The same kids came back the next day. They kept the numbers down by not advertising,” says Halvorsen, who kept his end of the bargain by dropping bundles of candy tied to handkerchief parachutes. More kids showed up the next day, and more the next. Halvorsen kept on delivering, picking up nicknames like “The Chocolate Bomber.”
Lt. Halvorsen tried to keep this operation a secret but soon his commanding officer called him into the office, for what he thought was a court marshall, to commend him on his efforts.
As the word spread about his activities donations of candy started pouring in. 17 tons of candy from American candy makers and another 3 tons from private donations. Candy arrived in boxes already attached to small parachutes. “Then boxes started coming from the States with candy and parachutes attached,” Halvorsen said. “All we had to do was cut the boxes open and dump them outside.”
The spirit of giving is an amazing healing tool. In this case it helped heal the wounds of war. Giving, even little things, can be a gift that improves a life.
To quote Lt. Halvorsen's father, "From little things come big things". Lt. Halvorsen proved that with two slices of gum.
PS...You can read more about this in the book, 'Candy Bomber~The Story Of The Berlin Airlift's Chocolate Pilot', by Michael O. Tunnell.