It’s only rarely that you find a story that transcends time, in this case over a half century, and yet is still relevant today.
Such a story was published in this month’s edition of USNI Proceedings1.
The story begins by describing how hundreds of small parachutes, made from handkerchiefs, started falling from the ceiling of the Mormon Tabernacle, into the congregation below, while a 90-year old former pilot, “Hal” Halvorsen, stood on the stage before a standing ovation, where many in the audience had tear-streaked faces
“Hal” Halvorsen had been a pilot during the Berlin Airlift. On an early flight into Tempelhof Airport, “Hal” taxied the plane to where it could be unloaded, and then decided to walk over to the fence surrounding the airfield while the ground crew did its work.
At the fence, he saw German children staring through the chain-link fence at the planes and their cargoes of coal, food and medicine.
It was then “Hal” realized he could do more, a lot more to help raise the spirits of the children of West Berlin.
The Russians had blockaded West Berlin by cutting off all land routes, roads and rail, into the city. Only the air route remained open, and it was by this route that West Berlin, “an island of freedom in a great sea of communist misery”, was supplied with coal, food and medicine for nearly an entire year.
On his next flight into Tempelhof, “Hal” and his crew took the action “Hal” had decided upon at the chain-linked fence where he had given some candy to German children while talking with them.
His actions became widely known among other aircrews, and it wasn’t long before many other pilots and aircrews followed in “Hal’s” footsteps, throwing handmade parachutes with candy bars attached, from their planes as they approached Tempelhof.
Please read Uncle Wiggly Wings for the entire, heart warming story.
The Berlin Airlift started in June 1948, and ended in May 1949. It had been hugely successful and saved West Berlin from Russian aggression.
A strong President Harry Truman, risked a shooting war by standing up to Russian aggression when the United States had largely demobilized after WWII.
It was a gutsy call that rings true today as we again confront Russian aggression in the Ukraine.
- Uncle Wiggly Wings, by Lt Commander, Thomas J Cutler, USN, (retired).
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