Raisin Bombers Remembered
Contributed by Virginia Brooke, Museum Docent
During the occupation of Germany after World War II in 1948 and 1949, the Soviet Union blocked allied supplies from getting into populated sections of allied-controlled Berlin, Germany. The allied forces could not sit back and watch the innocent German citizens get caught up in the political unrest of the country, so it was decided that they would fly in food and supplies, and thus the Berlin Airlift began.
The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa banded together to fly and drop supplies into this area of Berlin that was off limits, to an airport in Tempelhof, Germany. This is when “Operation Little Vittles” began.
A 27 year old C-47 pilot, Army Air Corps 1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, saw that there were children gathering to watch this humanitarian mission. As a goodwill gesture, on his next approach to Berlin, he dropped some candy attached to a parachute made of handkerchiefs to the children. As the days wore on, the number of children increased.
This caught on, and other pilots began dropping candy and other items, and even U.S. children sent handkerchiefs and candy to help the cause! Soon, candy manufacturers joined in and donated candy. All-in-all, over 23,000 tons of candy were dropped, and the aircraft were named “candy bombers” and “raisin bombers" by the German children.
In 1949, the blockade ended, and the airlift ended soon thereafter. But the story of Lt. Halvorsen and the candy-filled parachutes lives on. In 2013, Retired Air Force Col. Halvorsen re-enacted his mission, 65 years later and at the ripe old age of 93! http://www.aetc.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123370615