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The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour Paperback – June 2, 2009
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Why is this book so very relevant today? Quite simply if today’s weaseling, whiny politicians here and Europe cared a damn beyond their own re-election they would read this masterpiece and see it as a model for humanitarian action. The result could be war-free zones throughout the Middle East and an airlift that could bring life and hope to desperate millions, fight terrorism with love and solve the terrible refugee problem that has engulfed the world.
Read it and weep.
Gen. Clay: "Yes, that's what I said. Coal."
Gen. LeMay (after a long pause): "The Air Force can deliver anything." (pg 252)
For three years following the end of WWII, Germany was an occupied country and lived at the mercy of its occupiers. But when the Soviets began overthrowing Eastern European countries and making attempts to push the Americans, British, and French out of Berlin, the situation grew tense. And when they closed the supply roads leading into Berlin (which was over 100 miles inside the Soviet partition of Germany), everyone thought it was only a matter of time until the Soviets gained complete control. It was also widely feared that the world was on the cusp of WWIII and that atomic weapons would be used again. But an amazing thing happened that summer of 1948. The American commander, General Lucius D. Clay, asked for the city to be supplied by air. It was a ridiculous suggestion that 2.25 million people could be supplied by air, but he thought if they could send a message that America would not be pushed around it might at least buy them some time. But as the Soviet blockade dragged on, the Berlin Airlift kept going. Initially it was a haphazard "cowboy" operation with little organization and failing to deliver anywhere near the needed amount of food and supplies, but under Maj Gen William Tunner's command the airlift became streamlined and efficient.
Cherny explains that many Germans were willing to capitulate to the Soviets in the face of starvation, but the change in attitude for both Germans and Americans came when one of the pilots, Gail Halvorsen, began dropping candy attached to handkerchief parachutes to the children gathered at the end of the runway – which was against the rules. But as news of the candy drops spread among the children and other pilots it eventually became sanctioned by Gen. Tunner, and "Operation Little Vittles" became a widespread campaign to win the hearts of Berlin.
As Cherny tells this inspirational story foremost among the many heroes are Clay and Halvorsen. Even though the Blockade extended throughout a brutally cold and foggy winter, the Airlift showed the determination of the Americans to keep Berlin and Germany from falling in the face of Communist intimidation and violence. And he shows that even though the suffering was intense that winter, it was their trials during this stand for freedom that changed both German and American hearts. This is a very uplifting and inspirational story of when America built a tremendous amount of goodwill around the world.
What I thoroughly enjoyed was the actual story of Hal Halverson and his exploits with Gen. Tunner and as the Chocolate Bomber. Those parts were entertaining and would make for a great movie. For me, I didn't enjoy the incessant descriptions of politics at play in America, Russia and Washington throughout the book. While the title is moderating, I thoroughly enjoyed Andrei's writing style and descriptive storytelling. A good book that reached me at the end with some unique - and lengthy - depictions of the Berlin Airlift.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyed the book so much I have decided to read it again.