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The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour Hardcover – April 17, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From 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)
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From Booklist

Accounts abound about the Berlin crisis and airlift of 1948–49, when the West thwarted the attempted Soviet takeover of the entire city. To distinguish his book from the pack, Cherny places his emphasis on the episode’s political effects in Washington, D.C. Ultimately, argues Cherny, Harry Truman’s decisiveness, above all his rejection of high-level advice to retreat from Berlin, contributed to his victory in the 1948 presidential election, a case he makes in recounting junctions between the political campaigns and players in the Berlin crisis. Sufficient as this would be for book-level treatment, Cherny augments his text with the organization of the airlift operation. Perhaps justified because of the airlift’s tremendous material and propaganda success, which drew the West’s line against further Communist expansion in Europe, including the airlift narrative nonetheless competes with Cherny’s announced angle on the impact of the Soviet blockade on American politics and foreign policy. Emphasizing figures prominent in the crisis—military governor Lucius Clay, Truman critic Henry Wallace, and pilot Gail Halvorsen––Cherny readably synthesizes this milestone cold-war confrontation. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (April 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154966
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,150 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrei Cherny is co-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. He, his wife, and son live in Phoenix.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Brad4d VINE VOICE on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
-Just wanted to add another well-deserved five-star review for this book. I have just finished it and didn't want it to end, but was cheered to have read it.

-Candy Bombers describes how the Berlin Airlift not only became a strategic victory for democratic ideals, but a positive and uplifting victory for the human spirit. Cherny begins by describing the events preceding the Airlift, including the almost unspeakable devastation and hopeless forecast for recovery in Germany at the time. The War largely destroyed Berlin, rebuilding was painfully slow, and not only did the Germans and the Allies despise each other but by 1948 the distrust between the Western and Soviet allies allies threatened to bring another major conflict to the area. That year, the Soviets blockaded the land routes to Berlin, and Cherny then rivetingly describes how the airlift became "THE Airlift" -- how it grew from a chaotic makeshift, ridiculous patchwork effort into one of the most efficient resupply efforts the world has ever seen. This did not have to happen -- indeed, few people even though it could be successful and the nay-sayers were won over only slowly. This development was itself an act of kindness and persistence. Along the way, Cherny describes how the Airlift helped show Germans and the Western Allies that yes, they actually did care for each other and were both willing to sacrifice deeply for democracy and community. This beautiful transformation was hastened by a kind-hearted pilot who decided to drop pieces of candy to some hungry and kindness-needing kids along his flight path (candy was amazingly scarce after the war, and was happily received).
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Alan Fishman on April 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I just picked this book up and once I started reading I could not put it down. The book is fascinating and covers a critical but now mostly forgotten turning point in world history. One aspect of the book I found most interesting was how the blockade of Berlin impacted the direction of Truman's presidency and changed the direction of U.S. policy to halt Soviet expansionism. It seems clear now that had there been no blockade and no airlift, Truman's winning a second term would have been highly unlikely.

My only complaint is the choice of title. It's not the first book about the airlift using 'Candy Bombers' in the title. But really, why quibble. This is much more than a book about nice guy pilots, 'The Candy Bombers', throwing chocolate from their planes as they flew into Berlin (though a heart-warming story it was). I hope we will be seeing more books from Mr. Cherny in the not too distant future. He is the same caliber of writer and historian as David McCullough, Douglas Brinkley and the formidable Stephen Ambrose
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Casey Dué on May 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have to admit I am not a "history buff" and generally choose novels for my summer reading. Moreover, I somehow never once got to the end of World war II in any of the history classes in my 22 years of education, so this book was not a natural pick for me. But The Candy Bombers felt like a novel, it was so dramatically told and wonderfully written. As others point out, this book is about an event that gains more and more relevance to contemporary events every day, as we debate how to move forward in the "war on terror," as we take more and more prisoners in this "war," and as natural catastrophes devastate countries in distant lands. The question of how to treat a defeated enemy, even one so horrifically evil as Nazi Germany, is profoundly moral. How we answer it in many ways defines who we are as a nation. Mr. Cherny notes in his blog that all four of his grandparents were concentration camp survivors, and that he had struggle with this question as wrote his account of the airlift. The result of his struggle is an extremely impressive and visionary book.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By R. Swanson on April 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Andrei Cherny's new book shares such amazing and vivid details about historic events that you'll feel like you've been transported in time as you turn the pages and it all unfolds before you. Every student of history -- and of life -- should read this book. It will no doubt be heralded by book critics and historians alike because it is important, compelling and a great read!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jean E. Pouliot on July 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Berlin Airlift always seemed to me to be a sideshow to the much more colorful World War II era. Until "The Candy Bombers," the airlift rated a single photo or illustration in histories -- not worth a read in the period prior to Korea. But "The Candy Bombers" shows how vital was this time in world history, and how meaningful -- both symbolically and materially -- was the airlift as the Cold War started. Author Andrei Cherny starts his study as the war in Europe is ending. American and Russian forces are converging on the Elbe in an air of shared joy and triumph. But celebration soon begins turning sour as the Russians show increasing signs of freezing their erstwhile allies -- the Americans, British and French -- out of the action. Berlin -- surrounded by the bulk of what would become East Germany -- was supposedly ruled by the four powers. But the Russians' first move was to shut down the city to their fellow fighters while their soldiers went on a hellish rampage. Soon, the Soviets were beginning to ramp up the kind of antidemocratic mob action and intimidation that had toppled regimes in Eastern Europe. It seemed that Berlin was next. The question was not whether, but when the war-weary Allies would call it quits and leave the city to its fate.

"The Candy Bombers" sets the Berlin crisis against world and America politics. At the end of WWII, Americans rightly expected to be able to demobilize the armed forces and return to a pre-war normalcy. The Soviets had other ideas. Tactics of intimidation were being foisted on the democratic governments in France, Italy, Germany, Greece and other places.
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