View Full Version : Little Known Legacy of the Berlin Airlift -- LONG

April 20th, 2015, 03:33 AM
Following WWII, the city of Berlin was divided into 4 sectors: French, British, American, and Russian. The Russian Sector became East Berlin, and on 1 April 1948, the Russians blockaded the entire city, trying to force the allies to give up their sectors. In response, the allies created 3 air corridors -- two in, one out -- and began delivering supplies to the besieged city. One pilot, in between flights, walked to the end of the runway and conversed with a group of 11 children there. They thanked him, and the other pilots, for helping them. Their only complaint was there was nothing sweet. The pilot, Gale Halvorsen, said he'd drop candy bars out of his plane the next day, using string and a handkerchief for a parachute, but told them not to tell anyone else because he would only have enough for them. They'd recognize him because he'd wiggle his wings as he flew over.

The next day there were 25 children, more the day after that, and the day after that. He used all his ration tickets and his buddies' ration tickets to keep dropping candy. The children of Berlin started sending thank you notes to "Uncle Wiggly Wings", and returned the string and handkerchiefs so they could be reused. One of the letters he received was from a young girl named Mercedes. (paraphrased) "Dear Uncle Wiggly Wings, Every day you fly over my chickens and scare them and now they won't lay eggs. I can't get to the airport to get the candy you're dropping. This is where I live, in the house with the red roof. I hope you can drop some for me." He sent her a special care package with a letter that read, "Dear Mercedes, I'm sorry about your chickens. I can't find your house, so I'm sending this package just for you." Eventually, his CO found out and Halvorsen went "official", and had all the resources he needed, because this was seen as a HUGE, positive PR opportunity.

In 1969, Halvorsen returned to Berlin, with his wife and 5 children, to become the director of Templehoff Airport, where he had landed and taken off countless times during the airlift. He and his wife were so busy with official business and dinners they rarely had time for their children, so they decided not to accept personal invitations that did not include their children. One invitation came countless times, and one day they ran into Peter Wild, the issuer of the invitations, who begged them to come and bring their children. They accepted. After dinner, Frau Wild retrieved something from a glass case and handed it to Halvorsen. It was a yellowed letter which started, "Dear Mercedes." He looked up at Frau Wild, who said, "I am the same Mercedes, this is the same house, and we still have chickens in the back yard." This began a life-long friendship between the two families.

In 1979, the Wild family came to Utah to visit the Halvorsens. At one point, Halvorsen said, "Peter, you teach at a German high school. I have a friend who teaches German at a high school here. You should meet. Peter was duly introduced to Brent Chambers, and the two hatched this crazy plan for an exchange program between their two schools.

In 1980, I had the opportunity to go with the first group that traveled either direction. As you can see, it was a VERY small group, 7 total. Just enough to get the group discount on airfare. Two of us were from my high school, one was Brent's nephew, one was the nephew's friend from church, one was Brent's friend and fellow teacher, and the last was her daughter, Marti. A few months later, the German students came to visit us. I was blessed to go again in 1982, and Marti and her mom went with us again. The results of that visit was a 20+ year exchange. It became so popular and important that when Berlin celebrated it's 500th anniversary as a city, our German teacher, Brent Chambers, was invited to bring a special group over to be part of the celebration.

Marti became my best friend and heart sister. I'm infertile, and she shared her children with me; I am their "Other Mama". And over the years, Brent Chambers became a dear friend. I visited him in February, and he was still laughing about all those trips to Germany. Brent passed away last week, and his funeral was the 18th of this month. I met his daughter for the first time, and when I introduced myself she grabbed my hand and said, "Oh! You had such a special place in Dad's heart!" I will miss my friend, but I am so grateful to him for the chance to go to West Berlin twice, and for introducing me to my heart-sister, who has been a true anchor in my life.

Here's our group (minus the nephew, who was taking the photo) standing in front of our trusty ride. I'm the one with the camera around her neck. 35 years later, I'm still the one with the camera around her neck!


Granny Judy
April 20th, 2015, 03:44 AM
Amazing story... life is so full of surprises. One little act of Kindness can become a world changing event.. And I do believe it is a Miracle... Thank you for sharing.

April 20th, 2015, 03:50 AM
What a wonderful story, Meli. An experience you'll never forget. Thank you for sharing this with us. It just goes to show that even during the worst of times there are always some truly wonderful experiences that come out of all the turmoil and strife.

April 20th, 2015, 05:57 AM
How touching and special. thank you for sharing this.

Sandy Navas
April 20th, 2015, 10:19 AM
Heart-warming. What a tribute to a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing this story!

April 20th, 2015, 10:36 AM
Beautiful story - thanks for sharing with us!!

April 20th, 2015, 10:39 AM
What a great story! I'm a bit of a world war history buff and I had read about this candy bar story! So awesome! So sorry for the passing of your friend but what great memories you have!

April 20th, 2015, 11:02 AM
I really enjoyed your story. Thank you for sharing. So sorry for the passing of your friend.


April 20th, 2015, 11:18 AM
What lovely memories you have of remarkable people. Such a blessing, and now you have shared it with us to enrich our days. I'm sorry you lost your friend, but you have many memories of his generosity and dedication to the education of young people to continue to inspire you. And now you have inspired us. Thanks for giving me something lovely to think about today. A chain of kindness, starting with Mr. Halverson.

April 20th, 2015, 11:21 AM
My Grandfather was station in Berlin during the airlift years with his family, including my mother (as an infant). My grandmother often told stories about that time. Thank you for bringing back those memories!

April 20th, 2015, 12:14 PM
My uncle was a pilot for the Berlin airlift! Great story.

April 21st, 2015, 02:33 AM
Thank You for sharing your story it is a great story.

April 21st, 2015, 05:49 PM
Love History and even more - loved reading your story. Thank you for sharing it with us.