The Candy Bomber

C-54 lands at Tempelhof Airport in June 1948. Photo: Wikipedia.

The most impressive and improvised airlift in European history started on 24 June 1948. Germany was divided in four occupation zones after the defeat in May 1945. ‘West’ Germany was controlled by the United States, Great Britain and France. ‘East’ Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union.

The city of Berlin was divided in four allied zones. East Berlin was occupied by the Soviets. On 23 June 1948, after the introduction of the new currency in the Western section, the Soviet Union attempted to control all of Berlin by starving out the population.

President Truman initiated a daily airlift which brought food and supplies into the city until the end of September of 1949. The Truman doctrine was born. The communist dictatorship was well established in other East-European countries and the last act was the strike against the Czecho-Slovak democracy in February 1948.

East-Europe had to wait until 1989 before democracy prevailed. Why did the allies saved Berlin in 1948? There was no oil, the city was devastated, it used to be the capital of the former enemy.

The allies wanted to save Berlin from dictatorship and they were ready to fight for it. About 70 crew died, 2,3 million ton supplies were transported in 280 000 flights.

The history of the ‘candy bomber’ or the ‘Rosinen bomber’ is related to the story of democracy, humanism and individual initiative. The American pilot Gail Halvorsen saw the undernourished children of Berlin from his airplane (the main airport Tempelhof was in the centre of the city) and he decided to parachute candy’s, using small parachutes.

His superiors could not appreciate, but soon supported this initiative. These small humanitarian gestures showed magnanimity and respect for human life.

The Cold War was not just a conflict between two ideologies. It was a conflict between an expansionist, inhuman, nihilistic and bizarre dictatorship and parliamentary democracy, free market, free press and respect for the individual on the other side.

Communism didn´t just destroy the economy, but also civil society, moral, human dignity and rule of law. ‘Rosinen’ or candy will not do this time.