The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour


The Candy Bombers is the true tale of the ill- assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who saved millions of desperate people from a dire threat. By feeding and supplying West Berlin by air for nearly a year, these brave men won the hearts of America's defeated enemies, and inspired people around the world to believe in America's fundamental goodness. Their valor and kind acts helped the country avoid World War III, and won the greatest battle of the Cold War-without ...

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The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Aircraft and America's Finest Hour

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The Candy Bombers is the true tale of the ill- assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who saved millions of desperate people from a dire threat. By feeding and supplying West Berlin by air for nearly a year, these brave men won the hearts of America's defeated enemies, and inspired people around the world to believe in America's fundamental goodness. Their valor and kind acts helped the country avoid World War III, and won the greatest battle of the Cold War-without firing a shot.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In 1948, West Berliners were suffering and hungry, existing on food rations transported by trucks, trains and barges primarily by the occupying American forces. The Russians, trying to control the divided city, blockaded the transports on June 24, 1948, and American and British pilots risked their lives to airlift in 4.6 billion pounds of food and supplies until the blockade was lifted in May 1949. Pilot Hal Halvorsen won Berliners' hearts by secretly dropping his and his buddies' candy rations by parachute into the waiting hands of the city's children. In the process, says Cherny (The Next Deal), Berliners became devoted to democracy, and Washington foreign policy and military brass learned that the Cold War needed to be won not primarily with bullets but by appealing to hearts and minds. This book could have been cut by a third for better effect; Cherny's prose and his references to 9/11 are manipulative, and his subject, particularly the nuts and bolts of the airlift, will appeal primarily to WWII buffs, who should still find much to savor in this exhaustive, often absorbing and lucid account of America's successful standoff against the Soviets. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 17)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal

After World War II, as the Cold War began poisoning international relationships, the United States had to figure out what its postwar role would be. Its greatest army had largely disbanded, an unpopular President was still struggling to articulate a world policy, and a newly nuclear-armed foe, recently an ally, was occupying half of Europe. Cherny (The Next Deal), a former speechwriter for Al Gore, spends much of this book explaining how postwar Berlin became a crisis point and the reaction of the Western Allies to the Soviet threat and blockade of West Berlin. In immense, mind-deadening detail, he recounts the successes of the Berlin Airlift (June 1948-May 1949) in response to the Soviet blockade. He covers its management by Gen. William Tunner, who had run the great Chinese airlift in the final year of World War II, as well as the experiences and concerns of some of the pilots and the technical problems that arose. The political story is interwoven with the story of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal's mental and physical collapse, the disagreements between George Marshall and Truman, and the ambivalence of the American public. Recommended for subject collections, particularly where related resources are available.
—Edwin B. Burgess Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
Writing with the flair of a novelist, Cherny (The Next Deal: The Future of Public Life in the Information Age, 2000) tells the story of the Berlin Airlift. The author sets the scene with the dramatic meeting of Russian and American troops at the banks of the Elbe on April 25, 1945. "The forces of liberation have joined hands," announced the BBC; only Berlin remained to be subdued to end the war in Europe. The Red Army was first into the bombed-out city, which it vengefully pillaged and raped. Within three years, the Soviet Union had methodically expanded its hegemony in Eastern Europe, and relations with America were dangerously strained. In Berlin, the Russians manipulated elections in their sector and rejected the Western currency. Closing entrances into the American, British and French sectors of the city on June 25, 1948, the Soviets hoped to push out the West for good, in the process consigning 2.5 million Berliners to starvation. The U.S. airlift of coal and food into Tempelhof was initially intended to buy time during the standoff, but over the course of 11 months Operation Vittles would employ an armada of Skymaster C-54s and deliver millions of tons of cargo. Cherny dramatically weaves together the conjoined fates of numerous characters: Gen. Lucius Clay, newly appointed head of military government of Germany; Secretary of Defense James Forrestal and his nemesis, Secretary of Commerce Henry Wallace, who ran against Truman in 1948; Col. Frank Howley, instrumental in managing the airlift; and pilots Curtis LeMay, Bill Tunner and Gail Halvorsen, the last-named celebrated for dropping little parachutes of candy for Berlin children. The author skillfully delineates the airlift's rolein dramatically improving Germans' and Americans' attitudes toward each other, with significant consequences for the Cold War. His account amplifies and vivifies material presented in a more bare-bones fashion by Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell in Berlin Airlift: The Salvation of a City (2008). Lively, densely detailed and unabashedly enthusiastic. Agent: Raphael Sagalyn/The Sagalyn Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425227718
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 285,199
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrei Cherny is editor of the idea journal Democracy. A former White House speechwriter and Senior Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, he is the author of The Next Deal</>, and has written on history, politics, and culture for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Cherny is an officer in the Navy Reserve.
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Table of Contents

Prologue September 2001

Introduction June 24, 1948 1

Pt. I The banks : spring 1945

1 The end 11

2 Tombstones 20

3 Visions 44

4 Flight 57

5 The descent 70

Pt. II The bend : spring 1948

6 Chasm 115

7 March 159

Pt. III The bridge : 1948-1949

8 June 225

9 July 262

10 August 324

11 September 362

12 October 408

13 November 451

14 December 483

15 Spring again 504

Afterword Coming home 535

Epilogue October 1990 549

Notes 551

Bibliography 595

Acknowledgments 605

Index 611

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  • Posted July 7, 2009

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    The Accidents of History

    This book is an amazing telling of the combinations of accidents that made the Berlin Airlift. The experts thought that it was impractical and saw retreat from Berlin as the Allies only option. It was begun as a face-saving stopgap until the politicians could figure out a graceful was out of an impossible situation. It is also the story of how the compassion of one man for children he did not know became one of the brightest spots in American history.

    Everything was against the Allies in 1948 when the Soviets closed off all land and river traffic to the city of Berlin. The airlift began as a short term solution until we could formulate an exit strategy. It would have to stop entirely when winter came. Yet seeminly by accident all of the right people came together in the right place to create one of the most moving stories in human history. It is also the story of how the conqueror and the conquered came to see each other as human beings and finally come to identify with each other in the struggle against tyranny. The parallels between Berlin and democracy in 1948 and the struggles going on today in the Middle East are compelling. It makes one feel proud of the past and gives hope for the future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Depiction of American Heroism, Lousy Geopolitical Analysis

    Cherny, who is Czech by origin, claims Truman was one of the tough Democrats who stood up to totalitarism. Fact is, Truman allowed the Soviets to put their Czech puppets in power by the threat of brute force. In fact, the "workers police" led by Communist revolutionary and Spanish Civil War veteran Josef Pavel (ironically later jailed by his fellow Stalinists for "revisionist tendencies") had taken to the streets, smashing the offices of Democratic parties and arresting those courageous enough to stand up to the Soviet-Puppet putsch. Throughout all this, Harry Truman did NOTHING.

    He did NOTHING even when a month later, the courageous pro-West Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk was thrown out of his apartment in Czernin Palace by NKVD and Czech Secret Police thugs. Only when the Soviets, emboldened by the Czech Coup, threatened to seal off the Western-held sectors of Berlin, a miscalculation on the part of then General Dwight Eisenhower (it has been proven since that U.S. forces could have ACTUALLY gotten to Berlin ahead of the Soviets), did Truman act, sending in the airlift. Cherny is pretty much on the mark there, but since he claims to be an expert on Truman and Czechoslovakia, he's shockingly out of depth there. Cherny is a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and supposedly an adviser to Barack Obama, as well as the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party - and like Gottwald, Slansky, Reicin and those in the Czech CP who toed the Stalin line, he's a Liberal Democrat who toes the Obama line to a tee.

    While there's some exciting narrative and he's pretty much on the mark in his description of the heroism of the American pilots who flew on the Berlin Airlift, there's not much that hasn't already been covered. His Czech observations and claims that Truman was a tough Dem need to be taken with a grain of salt. Truman proved how tough he was two years later, by not responding with decisive force against the Chinese Communists and allowed Korea, like Germany, to be divided, with the North bristling with nukes and causing millions to suffer and starve.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I was surprised by why this story is so historically significant.

    I read mostly books on World War II. When I saw this book I thought technically it is not about World War II so maybe I will not take the time to read it. I am so glad I read it.
    At times I felt like maybe the book is too long for the story. But at some point late in the book I seemed to come around to the idea that the length of the story helped me develop a stronger empathy for the people of Berlin. It helped me understand the changes that took place in their attitudes toward Americans and of American's attitudes toward Berliners and how Berliner's outlook on the importance of freedom and survival changed.
    Where can you find a story where one day American flyers are dropping bombs on their enemy and months later they are giving 110% to keep those same people alive? Enemies have become friends and friends have become enemies.
    This story has a little of everything, a tremendous struggle against the odds with big historical significance, and of course the best children and candy story I have ever read. But bottom line it is about people helping people and enemies becoming friends.
    No movie yet? Come On! Candy on a plane beats snakes on a plane any day.

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    Posted November 8, 2011

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    Posted April 1, 2012

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