Hi friends! I hope your weekend is off to a great start!It is really beginning to green up around my neighborhood, and that is a welcome change! Trees are blossoming and people are beginning to plant flowers, and all is well!
So, as we go into this Memorial Weekend, I wanted to share one of my favorite stories from history. This one has always captured my heart. And it involves Doublemint Gum and chocolate bars! Sweet! I first learned about this story when visiting the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. If you enjoy history, I can’t recommend this place highly enough. It will really touch your heartstrings and it is absolutely free.
After the end of WW2, Germany was divided into zones that were occupied by France, England and the United States on the western half and by The Soviet Union on the eastern half. Berlin, the capital of Germany which was located within the Soviet controlled portion was also divided among the 4 powers. In order for the Allies to bring in food and supplies, they had to go through Soviet controlled areas.
Three years after the end of WW2, Stalin initiated a blockade to Berlin, so no food or supplies could go into the city, unless it was flown in. Over 2 million people resided in the war torn city. And so the Allies quickly organized the Berlin Airlift, and essentially began flying in supplies to the people of Berlin, all day everyday, plane after plane bringing flour, medicine, coal, food, whatever was needed. It was called “Operation Vittles”.
One pilot who flew with these missions, Lt. Gail Halvorsen from Utah had flown in and stopped to take some photos of the massive undertaking. He looked and saw several children on the other side of the barbed wire fence all watching. And he walked over to them and talked with them for awhile. They asked all kinds of questions. But they never asked for a thing for themselves. They were so grateful for the pilots flying in, and most importantly for hanging on to their freedom. They even told him not to worry if the weather got too bad to fly in. They could live on the little food they had. They just did not want to lose their freedom.
His heart was so moved by their sincerity. He reached his hand in his pocket wanting to do something for them, and all he had was 2 sticks of Doublemint gum. And there were about 30 of them. He gave them the gum through the fence, a little worried they might fight over it. But they didn’t! They split the gum, and then for those who did not get any gum, they carefully passed the wrappers from one child to the next, each pausing to sniff the sweet wrapper and enjoy the fragrance.
Gail Halvorsen wanted to do more for these kids, so he told them he would come back the next day and drop some gum and candy to them from his plane as it came in. The kids were so excited! But planes were landing every couple of minutes, they asked him, “How will we know its you?” And Gail said, “I’ll wiggle the wings of the plane as I am coming overhead.” And oh the kids were ecstatic!
So he bought all the candy he could, gum and chocolate. But he got to thinking it might hurt them to drop it in a box from the sky. So he came up with the idea to create little parachutes using handkerchiefs, and to tie some chocolate bars or gum to the little parachutes. And that is what he did! He released “little candy parachutes” over the city and boy oh boy talk about a shot of encouragement for those kids!
Well, how could he stop? So for 3 weeks he would make parachutes of candy but they were really parachutes of hope dropping in, telling these kids they matter! And a London newspaper picked up the story and he was nicknamed “The Candy Bomber”.
Can you imagine what a beautiful symbol of hope that was for those kids? Parachutes with chocolate bars floating with the wind coming down from the sky! Can you imagine the smiles on those precious faces and shouts of excitement and laughter in a war torn land?
Soon, all kinds of folks wanted to help out! Donations came from candy companies, handkerchieves, organizations and even school kids back in the States rallied to help. Many pilots wanted to help. Over the length of the Berlin Airlift, until the Soviets lifted the blockade, some 250,000 sweet parachutes came in reminding these children that someone out there remembered them, and cared.
So what became of Gail Halvorsen? He retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1974, and has been back to Germany some 40 times participating in anniversaries and events, and being awarded honors of the highest kind for his deeds. He speaks to groups all over the country and the world sharing his story. He has also been on other humanitarian airlifts. And this month, on May 12, 2019, the 70th anniversary of the day the Soviets lifted the blockade to Berlin, at the age of 98, he was invited and went back to Berlin for yet another celebration with the people of Germany. At 98, he is still living a life of service.
It was the hearts of the kids that first day at the barbed wire fence that moved him. And he acted on it. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the 2 sticks of Doublemint gum. And the ripple effect of that tiny action gave hope and rallied the hearts of people around the world.
I hope you have a fantastic weekend!
I’ll be back Tuesday for another Tasty Tuesday!
No act of kindness no matter how small is ever wasted. ~Aesop