After World War II, the Western Allies (Britain, France, and the United States) and the Soviet Union (now Russia) divided Germany between them. Although located entirely in Eastern Germany, the capital city of Berlin was divided between the Soviet Union and the Western Allies. But the Soviets were unhappy with this arrangement. Since they controlled all of the land and water routes to the city, the Soviets began a blockade and would not allow any food or supplies to reach the West Berliners. The Soviets thought that after a short time, the people would be so hungry that they would beg the Soviet Union to take over West Berlin and give them food. But the Soviets didn’t count on the bravery and determination of Lt. Gail Halvorsen and the many other British and American Air Force pilots who flew almost continuously all day long for over a year carrying literally tons of food and fuel into West Berlin. The Berlin Airlift would ultimately prove so successful that the Soviets would give up the blockade.
After sharing two sticks of gum with some German children on one of his trips, Halvorsen realized how much a little bit of candy meant to these children who had suffered so much in the war and its aftermath. He decided to begin collecting candy donations from the other men and tossing them out of his plane with little handkerchief parachutes for the children to collect. The gratitude of the children was so great that the air force decided to make the candy project an official, full-scale operation: Operation Little Vittles. Halvorsen and the pilots who dropped candy from the sky became a symbol of hope for the Berlin Airlift.
In Candy Bomber, Tunnell provides a glimpse of what life was like for people living in the Berlin Blockade, but he focuses on the community of hope and happiness that Operation Little Vittles created on both sides of the Atlantic, as the sharing of something as universally valued as chocolate connected and inspired people in different parts of the world. Personally, I found this book fascinating and uplifting. I would highly recommend it to middle grade readers who like learning about history.