The Generosity of Uncle Wiggly Wings: Delivering Chocolate to Children During the Cold War

During the Cold War between 1948 and 1949, Uncle Wiggly Wings, a kind-hearted pilot, shared sweets with children. This was a time when the world was facing one of the first major international crises of the Cold War with the Berlin Blockade, where the Soviet Union blocked railway, road, and canal access into the Western controlled parts of Berlin.

In response, the Western countries began a massive airlift of food, water, and medicine to the citizens of the besieged city, known as the Berlin Airlift. One American pilot who participated in relief efforts was Gail Halvorsen. When he was on leave, he spent his time in Berlin making movies with his hand-held camera.

One day, Halvorsen went up to a crowd of children who had gathered to watch the aircraft land at the airstrip, eager to answer their questions. As a gesture of goodwill, he handed out his last two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum to the kids, who then divided it best they could to share around them. They even passed the wrapper to the kids who didn’t get any just so they could smell it.

Impressed by the children’s gratitude and willingness to share, Halvorsen promised that next time he returned, he would drop off more sweets. Before he left, one of the kids asked how they would know it’s him flying over, to which he replied, “I’ll wiggle my wings.”

The next day, as Halvorsen approached the Berlin landing strip in his C-54 Skymaster, he rocked his aircraft and dropped out a load of chocolate bars he’d attached to handkerchiefs as parachutes. Every day after that, the crowd of children grew bigger and bigger.

Soon after he started, there was a stack of fan mail at the Base Ops addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” “The Chocolate Uncle,” and “The Chocolate Flier.” Halvorsen’s Commanding Officer was initially annoyed when the story broke the news. However, then-General Officer of the USAF, William H. Tunner, thought it was brilliant, and he instantly set in motion Operation Little Vittles, a dedicated service to drop chocolate and candy to the children waiting at the runway.

When the news reached the States, children all over the country started donating their own sweets to the Air Force to drop over Berlin, and not long after that, major candy manufacturers also joined in. In the end, over 23 tons of candy were dropped over Berlin, and Operation Little Vittles gave the U.S. one of their biggest propaganda successes. The German children at the airport came to nickname the planes “raisin bombers.”

FAQ

1. Who is Uncle Wiggly Wings?

Uncle Wiggly Wings is a nickname for a pilot named Ernest K. Gann who delivered chocolate to children during World War II. He was a famous aviator, author, and screenwriter who flew for various airlines and served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during the war.

2. Why did Uncle Wiggly Wings deliver chocolate to children?

Uncle Wiggly Wings delivered chocolate to children as part of a morale-boosting program called “Operation Little Vittles” which was initiated by the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation. The program aimed to provide candy and other small gifts to the children of Berlin who were suffering from food shortages and isolation during the Soviet blockade of the city in 1948-1949.

3. How did Uncle Wiggly Wings deliver the chocolate?

Uncle Wiggly Wings delivered the chocolate by dropping it from his airplane as he flew over the city. He used small handkerchief parachutes to make sure the candy reached the children safely. He also wrote messages of hope and encouragement on the parachutes to lift the spirits of the children.

4. How many children received chocolate from Uncle Wiggly Wings?

It is estimated that Uncle Wiggly Wings delivered chocolate to over 23,000 children during the Berlin Airlift. He made over 250 flights and dropped over 23 tons of candy during the operation. His efforts were greatly appreciated by the children and their families, and he became a beloved figure in Berlin.

5. Did Uncle Wiggly Wings receive any honors or awards for his actions?

Yes, Uncle Wiggly Wings received several honors and awards for his actions during the Berlin Airlift. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Truman in 1949, and the Federal Aviation Administration named him “Father of the Year” in 1950. He was also recognized by the city of Berlin and the German government for his contributions to the relief effort.

6. What was the significance of Uncle Wiggly Wings’ actions?

Uncle Wiggly Wings’ actions were significant because they demonstrated the power of kindness and generosity in times of crisis. His efforts to lift the spirits of the children of Berlin helped to foster goodwill between the United States and Germany, and showed that even small gestures of compassion can make a big difference.

7. What is the legacy of Uncle Wiggly Wings?

The legacy of Uncle Wiggly Wings is one of inspiration and kindness. His example has inspired many people to perform acts of charity and kindness, and his story continues to be told as a reminder of the importance of compassion and generosity in times of need.

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