Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Camarena Elementary. Camarena Elementary Wonders, “Why did World War II start? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Camarena Elementary!
In the wake of World War II, the world was a very different place than it was when the war began. As people around the world breathed sighs of relief when peace finally came, new threats were already on the horizon.
For the United States and other Western countries, the rise of the Soviet Union and its communist ideology posed a significant threat. Lines were drawn all around the globe as the U.S. tried to stop the spread of communism.
For example, after World War II ended, Germany was eventually divided into West Germany (controlled by the West) and East Germany (controlled by the Soviet Union). The capital, Berlin, was a divided city within this divided country.
Although Berlin was entirely within what would become East Germany, the city itself was divided in two just like the rest of the country. In June 1948, the Soviet Union began the Berlin Blockade, an attempt to cut off all access routes to West Berlin.
More than two million people in West Berlin immediately became dependent upon the Western Allies to survive. The U.S. coordinated with Great Britain to launch Operation Vittles, an around-the-clock airlift that supplied food, coal, and fuel to West Berlin throughout the blockade.
Those weren't the only things that were dropped over West Berlin, though, thanks to a pilot named Gail Halvorsen. Halvorsen, struck by the plight of the children of West Berlin, launched his own operation — Operation Little Vittles — by dropping candy for the children below.
Halvorsen became known as the "Berlin Candy Bomber." He also had another unique nickname: "Uncle Wiggly Wings." This latter nickname resulted from the fact that he would rock the plane back and forth to let the children know which plane would be dropping candy.
Halvorsen became a hero to the children of West Berlin, and the U.S. capitalized on his fame by using his story in public relations campaigns. Before long, people and companies were donating tremendous amounts of candy to be dropped during the ongoing airlift.
Over the course of the year-long airlift, Halvorsen and other pilots dropped more than 25 tons of candy, including chewing gum, chocolate, and raisins. The appreciative children of West Berlin began to call the planes "Rosinenbomber," which means "raisin bomber."