As Russian bombs rain down on Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine in Putin’s effort to expand his rule, let’s remember when another Russian President, Joseph Stalin, tried to freeze and starve out most of divided Berlin in 1948 in his attempt at expanding his rule. Perhaps more importantly, let’s remember Gail Halvorsen, the justifiably famed “Candy Bomber,” an Air Force pilot who gave joy to the kids of Berlin, and hope to the adults, by parachuting–parachuting candy in enormous quantities to the children of bombed out post WWII Berlin. Children who had little or nothing, and were simply hoping to survive. Stalin failed in his effort. Let’s work and pray that Putin also fails. And work and pray that future bombs are like candy, not explosives–nuclear or otherwise. And work to be one of the candy bombers.
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In 1948, three years after the end of WWII, Russian President Joseph Stalin closed off land and water routes to war-torn Berlin in an attempt to drive his erstwhile war partners, the US, Britain and France, out of divided Berlin so that he could have the entire city to himself. This was one of the major–and cruel–Russian moves in the First Cold War. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the major–and cruel–Russian moves in the Second Cold War. I hope and pray that it stays cold.
Then Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen made history by being part of the heroic Berlin Airlift, a seemingly hopeless response to Stalin’s attempt to steal Berlin from his Allied partners. The Allies, primarily the US under President Truman, made the decision to fly in everything the citizens of blockaded Berlin needed to survive: Coal, food, clothing, medicine–everything. A flight every 30 seconds for 18 months, totalling 300,000 flights in all. In cold, drafty propeller driven planes which were forced to fly in a narrowly defined air corridor. During a record cold winter. After a year and a half and against all odds, flying in 23 million tons of critically needed supplies, the Berlin Airlift succeeded, and Stalin was forced to lift his blockade.
At the same time, C-54 Skymaster pilot Halvorsen made a different type of history by also becoming the Candy Bomber, giving joy, laughter and reasons to celebrate just being alive to tens of thousands of kids in devastated Berlin. And hope to all of Berlin. Halvorsen and the other pilots he recruited dropped candy from tiny, handmade handkerchief parachutes from their Airlift planes. We can all do the same in our own way today.
Halvorsen noticed a need, and found a way to meet it. We can all–and should–do the same in our lives. His first encounter with the children came when he noticed a group of them standing behind the wire fence blocking entry to Tempelhof Airfield. When he approached them, he was disheartened to find that he had only two sticks of gum in his pocket; breaking each of them in two, he handed out four half sticks. The kids who got gum, handed the empty wrappers to other kids, who sniffed and licked the wrappers to get as much flavor as they could. “They came right up to me, speaking in English. Those kids were giving me a lecture, telling me, ‘Don’t give up on us. If we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ American style freedom was their dream.” The Berlin airlift gave them their freedom. And this was the start of Operation “Little Vittles”, the goodwill mission that Halvorsen conceived on the spot that gave them joy. “Operation Vittles” was the whimsical name given to the massive airlift itself. It is estimated that Operation Little Vittles was responsible for dropping over 23 tons of candy from over 250,000 handmade handkerchief parachutes.
What can we do? Berlin does not need our help. Ukraine does, but we are not there. Yet we can take effective action, we can be Candy Bombers without the need for a pilot’s license and 46,000 pounds of candy. All we need to do is change our mindset. Look to distribute verbal candy, instead of verbal bombs. Look to encourage, not criticize. Look to love, not to be right.
Some specific examples include not taking one’s self so seriously over issues like masks–regardless of whether we are pro or con. There is nothing heroic about marching down the aisle of an airplane maskless. And your fellow passengers are not acting like sheep by complying with the rules that everyone agreed to when they bought their tickets. And there is something terribly wrong about roughing up a flight attendant thinking that you are defending freedom and the Constitution. No, that’s a violation of law and a violation of the Constitution.
People. Strangers. And try not to let them stay strangers. One day while waiting for my car at the wash, I met Joe the former 82nd Airborne paratrooper, and Joyce the RN. Joe was wearing an 82 Airborne hat, so that made starting a conversation easy. He was also wearing a safety vest of some kind. I did not notice until he walked away that the vest announced that he was a school crossing guard. And proud to wear both the hat and the vest. Joyce was proud to be a nurse, and loved being a traveling nurse. Her husband was physically not able to work, so she was the sole support for the two of them. She was proud, not complaining. And both of them loved it when I used their names, and listened to their stories. For all of us, hearing our names is like hearing the sweetest music. I have to be very careful not to jump into other people’s stories, looking to top them. I do that sometimes. Shame on me.
On another visit to the car wash (In Colorado in the winter, cars get very dirty, and quite often), I found myself sitting between a single woman, Kim, and a couple, Fred and Sandy. The three of them loved cruising. I have never been on a cruise, so I sat back and listened. They had a grand time talking about their various trips. And there was no way that I could top them with a story of my own.
Social media is hard for me. So many people post things that are factually incorrect and utterly devoid of logic of any kind. I find it hard to walk away. When I respond, I am not happy with myself. Sometimes simply not dropping bombs is the closest we can come to dropping candy.
Washing the dishes without asking for credit is candy. Doing much of anything without asking for credit is candy. Allowing others to take credit is also candy. Loving without making it a trade is candy–in a big box. Serving others without expecting anything in return is the whole candy store.
And like Gail Halvorsen, we don’t have to quit our day jobs in order to be Candy Bombers. Use the comments to give the followers of Revolution 2.0™ your ideas about how we can all be candy bombers.
Retired Air Force Colonel Halvorsen died last month, February of 2022, at the age of 101. His legacy as a good man, father and husband, military leader and the Candy Bomber lives on.
We all have the personal responsibility to be our own version of a Gail Halvorsen candy bomber. Speaking of personal responsibility, this principle does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
1. Personal Responsibility; take it, teach it and,
2. Be Your Brother’s Keeper. The answer to the biblical question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is a ringing, unequivocal “Yes.” There is no other answer.
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:1.
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This is Will Luden. We’ll talk again soon.