Friday, February 10, 2012

Review: Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot"

Synopsis:  Based on the true story of a WWII pilot who served in Europe after the war was over, the book tells the story of the air force pilot who saw a need in the people and children of Berlin, and filled it.  Often not told are the stories of starvation and repression by Germans left in Berlin after the war ended, held impoverished and surrounded by rubble.  Blocked off from the allies by their Soviet captives, many of the citizens of Berlin suffered extreme poverty.  To this came the answered prayer of an American air force pilot, Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen and his comrades, who began to drop gum and candy over the city as a way of renewing hope to the children of Berlin.  Halvorsen was then flooded with pictures, cards, and letters from young children in Berlin, thanking him for his sweet treats and even giving him directions to their homes so he could drop more on his next visit.  Known as Operation Little Vittles, these missions seemingly affected American relations with Germany and gave hope to generations of children that has spanned the years. 

Review:  As far as historical non-fiction is concerned, this was one of my all-time favorite reads.  The mix of pictures, primary documents, and written background were a perfect mix to make this is quick read, but an informational and inspiring read.  Honestly, this story really touched me, and although I already knew it thanks to a college friendship with one of Halvorsen's relatives, it was nice to have the details of these candy missions to Berlin.  The idea of giving hope to those who should have essentially been our enemies was really touching.  Rather than just washing their hands of these German citizens, these soldiers saw a need and did all in their power to fill it. 

Halvorsen went on to keep in touch with some of the children that received his sweet treats, and has gone on to speak across the globe about his sweet-treat missions that brought such hope.  It's always amazing what true human kindness can do to break down walls of misunderstanding, despair, and anger between people or countries.  Reading this history and about the lives it touched, it is easy to see the good it has done for generations after the event.   

If you're looking for an engaging piece of history for young readers or adults, this short piece of nonfiction is a must read.  The positive message of the book will stay with you long after it is finished.  In fact, I walked away wanting to figure out a way that I could do something good for someone else!  

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a personal copy of the book.


  1. I knew about the airlifts to Berlin with food and other essentials but didn't know about the candy drops. This is a special story that deserves more publicity.

  2. I did not know anything about this, and I cannot wait to try to find a copy of this. Thanks so much for the review and for bringing it to my attention.

  3. I've heard about this guy, but I didn't know there was a book about him. Nice!

  4. Every time I think there is nothing new in WWII books, sure enough something new does pop up. I've heard about these candy drops but never have seen a book about them. Sounds like a good one to pick up!