Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

 Chocolate Flier
 AirBridge to Berlin
 Road to Confrontation
 Who's Who During Big 4
 Political Activity Resumes
 Who's Who in New Berlin Governments
 Background on Conflict with USSR
 Eye of the Storm
 Marshall Plan
 The Airlift Begins
 Pilots
 Chocolate Flier
 Grateful Berliners
 Lighter Side (Cartoons)
 "Operation Vittles" Gets Organized
 Winter Campaign
 Blockade Lifted
 Aftermath 1949 -- 1959
 Photo Collection
 

 

A group of Berlin children try to express their appreciation to Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen, the orginator of

A group of Berlin children try to express their appreciation to Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen, the orginator of "Operation Little Vittles," for the thousands of packages of gum and candy he and his friends dropped over Berlin in tiny parachutes.


Miniature parachutes can be seen dropping from Halvorsen's C-54 as he brings the plane in for a landing at Tempelhof.

Miniature parachutes can be seen dropping from Halvorsen's C-54 as he brings the plane in for a landing at Tempelhof.


Halvorsen's bunk becomes a factory for miniature parachutes weighted with Lyons chocolate bars.

Halvorsen's bunk becomes a factory for miniature parachutes weighted with Lyons chocolate bars.


Berlin children scramble for Halvorsen's tiny presents.

Berlin children scramble for Halvorsen's tiny presents.


 
A young girl with one of the estimated 150,000 Schokoladenflieger gifts dropped over Berlin.

A young girl with one of the estimated 150,000 Schokoladenflieger gifts dropped over Berlin.


 

 

 

 

 

The Chocolate Flyer
Chapter section from:
Airbridge to Berlin --- The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath
By D.M. Giangreco and Robert E. Griffin
1988
(Used with permission)

 

 

 The airlift pilots and crews were especially captivated by the children who waved to them on their final approach into Tempelhof. The most celebrated pilot of the airlift became Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen, "the Chocolate Flyer." Halvorsen had been assigned to 17th Air Transport Squadron, Mobile, Alabama, when he got his airlift orders so suddenly he only had time to park his car under a tree in Mobile and hide the keys. After flying the "Vittles" run for two weeks in July 1948, Halvorsen got permission to make a personal trip to Berlin.

 Halvorsen, a veteran of the North African and Italian campaigns of World War II, had experienced the children of these war-torn countries begging for candy, gum, and cigarettes. When he met a group of Berlin children, he was taken aback by their reserve and recalled at the time. . . . "I got in the middle of these kids, and what do you think happened? None of them jerked at my pants. . . . They wanted to hold a polite conversation and try out their English on me. Their English is about as bad as my German. After about one hour, in which I gained considerable stature as an airlift pilot, I noticed something was missing. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it nagged me. And finally I realized what it was. Those kids hadn't begged for a single thing. . . .it wasn't lack of candy-hunger that held them back; they just lacked the brass other kids have. So I told them to be down at the end of the runway next day and I'd drop them some gum and candy. That night I tied up some candy bars and gum in handkerchiefs and had my chief sling them out on a signal from me next day. Day by day the crowd of kids waiting for the drop got bigger, and day by day my supply of handkerchiefs, old shirts, GI sheets, and old shorts, all of which I use for parachutes, gets smaller."

 Halverson's philanthropy was picked up by the Berlin press and then the American newspapers. He became so famous he was sent back to the United States where he was interviewed by radio, newspaper, and magazines. Halvorsen was followed by a series of "chocolate fliers," who served as some of the best good-will ambassadors the US Air Force ever had.


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