the Berlin Candy Bomber

December 3, 2009

I wish I knew why I find all things Cold War Americana so fascinating. At any rate, it’s a science and tech history extravaganza.

Operation Little Vittles” airdropped candy to children in West Berlin during the Berlin airlifts. The deliveries were the brainchild of Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen, who scattered candy tied to scraps of cloth and handkerchiefs. Nicknamed “Uncle Wiggly Wings2, the “Chocolate Flyer” and the “Berlin Candy Bomber” Halvorsen soon began receiving thousands of pounds of candy and handkerchiefs collected by American school children. By 1959, he’d sent out 250,000 parachuting sweets.

Also, fantastic NPR story goes back to Town Meeting of the Air archives on ‘single national health service.’


I got to work on Thursday and was handed a carton of Cold-War era radio transcripts to go through (paradise). America’s Town Meeting of the Air was broadcast on Sundays on the ABC radio network from 1935-1956. Subscriptions to the program’s Bulletin in the 1950s cost $5.00 a year, 25c a copy.

The topics are a portrait of the 50s. “Desegregation: Law and Practice” (February 13, 1955) or “Are We Becoming a Nation of Conformists?” (April 24, 1955)

Then there’s “How Can We Clean up College Sports?” broadcast March 13, 1951, following “tragic scandals recently revealed in the bribery of some of the best basketball players in the country for fixing the big games in Madison Square Garden” and of course, “Does Modern Art Make Sense?” (April 10, 1951). Perennial debates.

Other broadcasts…

“American Family Life: Chaos or Character?” (July 6, 1954)

“What Remedy for Teen-Age Terror?” (September 21, 1954)

“The Army McCarthy Hearings: Intention and Effect” (July 13, 1954)

“Is the Federal Government Running Our Lives?” (Nov 3, 1954)

“How Can we Break Down Community Prejudices” (December 14, 1954), with speakers Jackie Robinson, Fred Brown and Mary Beauchamp

“Is Franco Spain a Dependable Ally?”” (January 16, 1955)

“Should College Education Require Four Years?” (January 23, 1955)

“How Can We Resolve U.S. – French Differences?” (August 10, 1954) (because some things never change)

“Does Youth Want Social Security from the Cradle to the Grave?” (May 4, 1944)

“How Can we Avert World War III?” (May 20, 1952)

“Eisenhower or Stevenson? (November 11, 1952)

“Should the Communist Party Be Outlawed?” (November 18, 1952)

“Have We Weakened the True Meaning of Christmas?” (Dec 9, 1952)

“Do We Overemphasize the Value of Competition in America?” (Jan 20, 1953)

“How Can We Convince the World of Our Belief in Brotherhood?” (Feb 17, 1953), speakers including James Michener–yes, that James Michener, broadcast during national brotherhood week.

“Is World Government a Realistic Goal?” (March 24, 1953)

“What Shall We Do With the American Communist?” (April 14, 1953)

“Are Our Immigration Laws Too Restrictive?” (April 21, 1953)

“Modern Woman–Companion or Competitor?” (April 28, 1953)

“Are We Losing Our Moral Courage?” (May 12, 1953)

“What is Happening Behind the Iron Curtain?” (July 28, 1953)

“What Makes Prosperity—Man or Machine?” (Oct 6, 1953)

“How Can We Stay Alive On the Highway?” (December 8, 1953)

“Flying Saucers: Fact or Illusion?” (Dec 29, 1953)

“Does Wire Tapping Violate the Right to Privacy?” (January 5, 1954)

“Are We Trained to Think for Ourselves?” (Feb 9, 1954)

“Is War Impairing Our Moral Standards?” (May 3, 1945)

“Is Total Mobilization a Threat to Democracy?” (Sept 26, 1950) Speakers include Albert Gore

“Are You Worried About the Atomic Bomb?” (April 24, 1951)

“Alaska’s Role in National Defense” (October 3, 1950)

Alaska’s Governor Gruening: “Alaska’s role in national defense should be a major one.  The reasons are chiefly geographic.  If you have any doubt about it, look at a map of the world….Yet while Congress has unhesitatingly poured billions of dollars into Europe to halt the advance of communist imperialism on our Eastern front four thousand miles from our shores, it has denied much lesser requested appropriations to our Western front on our own soil, which, moreover, lies within naked eye view of Siberia.”

img via UMW Centennial