Seventy years later, Gail Halvorsen is still remembered in Germany. In those dark days following WWII, the Soviet Union and its allies, cut off road and water access to Berlin–known as the Berlin Blockade.
Residents were left to fend for themselves, do without necessities. The Berlin Airlift was formed to send relief supplies, from Rhein-Main Air Base, near Frankfurt, W. Germany to Templehof Airport, Berlin.
Supply planes came and went as fast and efficiently as air traffic control would allow. In a year, the blockade was broken–roughly, 1948-49. This year, 2019, marks the seventieth anniversary of the blockade’s end.
One of the pilots, Gail S. Halvorsen, tied candy and sweets to little parachutes. These were dropped before he landed at Templehof. He signaled his intentions, in advance, by wagging his plane’s wings.
That was how he became known as the “Candy Bomber” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” Gail Halvorsen went on to other pursuits–family man, student, rocket scientist, military commander, educator, mentor for youth, and man of faith.
Mr. Halvorsen was back in Germany recently to commemorate the daring aviation feat known as “Operation Vittles” seventy years before. The site, a public park where Templehof Airport once stood. He was his usual modest self–gave credit to all participants.
The Berlin Airlift is considered the Western powers first blow in the Cold War. Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Foundation has more information.
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.” –Douglas MacArthur–
April 23, 1944
I guess I got too many letters from you last week as I didn’t get any this week.
The weather has certainly been getting a lot warmer here the last few days. I dread this season too, as it so uncomfortable.
My little two hills of corn are still growing. It’s up to a foot high now or a little better. I’m wondering if it’s going to have a thin stalk like it appears to be. If it doesn’t start to spread out pretty soon it’s going to be like popcorn only taller. If I remember correctly it is only two weeks old.
The sprouts of banana trees (young banana trees come right up out of the ground like an asparagus shoot) grows amazingly fast. At certain stages they grow as much as two or three inches in twenty for hours. You have to cut weeds and grass every work here in order to keep them own. In a week’s time they get to be foot high. Anything you cut off doesn’t die (at the roots, I mean) but just starts to grow right back up again.
I see that they intend to start drafting the youngsters up to 26 years off the farm now. That should catch several of the boys around home like Leach, Sarginson, Woods and so on.
Well, I’m hoping that this thing will be finished by the end of next year. If everything goes like it looks at the present time it could be. Of course too many factors can enter in to change the course of the war. The sooner it ends, the better off we’ll all be, because the cost is enormous and we’re going to have to pay for it.
The future at best looks none too rosy. the post war world is going to be one grand mix up unless the right people can hold of things and straighten them out. That’s one big job to do.
I hardly know what’s in stock for the farmer. He has boosted production for the war but as soon as peace comes there’ll be no need for such a large amount of farm products as these war-torn countries will start raising their own food as quickly as possible. The only thing that’ll save the farm prices will be government control of production. That’ll mean a cut in production.
Editor’s note: Dad’s mention of farm overproduction leading to post-war governmental involvement was on target. The Department of Agriculture still buys surplus commodities. Farmers are sometimes paid not to plant certain crops to stabilize prices.
That’ll help some farmers and others that have had to already cut down due to shortage of labor, will have to cut down still further. To me it looks like about all a person can expect to make off the farm will be a living and that’s all.
He sure won’t be able to buy more land and figure on the land paying for itself. Unless something is done about it, there is going to ba a shift of the moneyed city man to the farm and common farmer with small capital will have to move into the city to find employment or work for the “gentleman” farmer. The farmer that owns his own land and has it debt free may be able to slide by all right. He’ll still have to compete with “big time farming.”
I’m just wondering if I’m going to get the chance to get situated before the break comes. It’ll take a couple of years after the war probably for food production to catch up to normal, but after that it means either low prices or less production.
I think the farm will be the most secure place to be, providing he has the right set up. I don’t think anybody is gong to make very much money. The fellow that can make his money now and invests it properly is the one that’s going to be on top.
Taxes are going to be enormous. That’s what is going to hit the service man so hard when he comes back into civilian life and tries to go into business. Very few are going to have the money to pay cash for everything. The majority will have to depend on finding jobs. That’s a big job for somebody to figure out.
Well, I suppose you both are pretty busy now with spring work. Hope you are well.
Wish I could see your chicks. I won’t know the place around there when I see it again with the garden changes around and converted to a chicken yard.
Write as often as you can.
April 24, 1944
I received your V-mail today and was glad to hear you got the box. I was a little worried about it as I wasn’t able to get it insured and I’d heard that some of that stuff had been lost.
I hope it arrived intact and that you were able to get it divided up OK.
I guess the weather by now has warmed up enough now so that your chicks are out of danger of getting chilled. What I would like to know is why are you raising so many chickens if they don’t pay? I’d thing you could find plenty else to do. As far as those powdered eggs are concerned, I’d just as soon they keep them.
Editor’s note: I’ve had the displeasure of being served powdered eggs and completely agree. There aren’t enough onions or ketchup to disguise the dreadful flavor.
I wrote you a regular letter yesterday and am just writing this in response to your V-mail.
April 26, 1944
Mother’s Day Greetings
So many things I’d like to say
To gladden and brighten your day
All your dear heart can hold
As the days and the years unfold
And many joys along life’s way
To you, Dear mom,
On Mother’s Day.
April 30, 1944
This has been my day off again and I started the morning off by washing out my dirty socks and handkerchiefs. Then I cleaned out some jungle behind the tent. Then I shaved and tidied up the tent a bit.
This afternoon I wrote a letter and reread some of my old ones. This afternoon we got paid once again. Pay doesn’t mean much anymore except that it means a few more rupees to the collection. PX day is the most important now as that is when the beer flows freely, but not for long as it is soon drunk up.
I received your letter, Dad of the second of March. It seems that the mail gets sort of mixed up as I’ve gotten considerable later than that.
I was glad to hear about the livestock and how things are going around the place. If the weather permits, you’ll be thinking of planting corn as tomorrow is the first of May.
Dad on leave at the home place
I probably won’t know the home place the next time I see it as there have been so many changes made.
Yes, I imagine that it is hard to get repairs for any kind of equipment anymore. I’ve read a few articles on how Washington has messed things up by making it almost impossible for a farmer to get machinery.
Well, I don’t know much to say. The weather is about the same, only more so.
May 9, 1944
I received your letters of April 16th. I didn’t write a letter yesterday as I figured I would be getting one from you and then I would answer.
You seem to be having a late spring again this year.
I’ll bet it’s sure pretty around there with the fruit trees in bloom. Are the cherry trees still there? I remember one year when we had all kinds of cherries I’ll bet you still have some cans of them in the cellar.
The strawberries haven’t hit recently have they? I could sure go for some strawberry shortcake or cobbler. Occasionally we get some strawberry jam to put on our bread. Most time it is marmalade or apple butter. I don’t car for the marmalade at all anymore.
I was sort of commenting on the prospects in Alaska after the war. I don’t suppose that it’s very likely that I’ll wind up there as I’m getting a little too old to do something like that. I do think that it will offer good opportunity for a young man starting out.
I hope to settle down on the farm if I don’t have to stay in the army too much longer. That is something a person should start at before he gets too old to come out. It takes quite a while at that for a person to realize anything. I do think a farm is a good place to raise kids. I hope that I can farm on Uncle George’s place for a few years. l I wish it were possible that I could buy the place, but that’s out of the question now.
How’s Uncle Pete coming with his place? I guess he’s having a time of it since he has his sick spells. Do you still have in mind taking over the place sometime? That would be nice if we could combine the two places. I’ve often thought how nice it wold be to combine the two places and then if a person could get hold of the old Wooley place cheap enough when the place sells (some day it will) it would make a nice sized place to make room for a herd of cattle and still have plenty of cultivable land. This is only a dream but it sounds good. I always wanted to farm a place that had plenty of pasture land suitably located and adaptable to grazing with enough cultivable land.
I always thought it would be nice to have a herd of cattle growing up on a place without having to depend too much on buying stock cattle at the yards. If a person could build himself a herd to raise his own calves and then follow them through until they were finished for market. Of course it would take several years, lots of capital and patience to build up something like that. Maybe someday I can do that or maybe it’s just an idle daydream. It all depends on how everything worked out in the next few years.
I’m going to have to sort of keep my nose to the grindstone trying to get set up. I’ll have to buy quite a bit of machinery at the start. I want to get by on as little as possible at the start but then again it takes good equipment to do a good job of farming. Nowadays it takes more and more expensive equipment to compete than it did when you started out. Dorothy and I have (or should have by then) enough put away in a special account to set up our home. She’s saving the allotment from me and also what she can from her job. We should be able to furnish our home very nicely. Naturally she wants it fixed pretty nice and I want her to have it that way as she is helping save for that purpose. I’m satisfied on that angle.
The most “scratching” is going to come on the business end. If we have a few good years at the start we’ll come out OK.
I’m glad to hear that you are getting your debts whittled down. I would say that now is the time to do so. Then when I get back, you two can sort of settle back and take things easier without too many worries. I’ll need lots of advice on running the farm as it’s been so long seems like since I’ve been off. I feel confidant that Dorothy and I can make a go of it. She seems perfectly willing to give it a try. I think she’ll be all right if someone doesn’t discourage her. I’ve noticed that if a person says the wrong thing, that she gets discouraged, so I know I’ll have to be careful bawling her out. I’ll have to use discretion and not do that.
Dad, I’m glad to hear that the cattle on the home place did so well. You should realize a little clear money on them.
It the weather clears soon enough you may stand a good chance of having a good corn crop this year as you haven’t had one lately.
My two little hills of corn are coming along fine. It has quit growing any taller at the present and the stalk is getting heavier. So maybe it’ll grow to normal size after all. It sure grew in a hurry at the start. I suppose that was due to the warmer climate. I never did plant anymore as there really isn’t a suitable place without grubbing out stumps, etc. I’m anxious to see how this turns out. Maybe if we can stay in this location long enough I’ll have some roasting ears Illinois style?
We’ve been getting a vitamin tablet a day here lately and I seem to feel better and have a better appetite.
Well, if this rotation policy works out maybe I’ll be seeing you about the first part of next year. I sure hope the situation both in Europe and over here keeps on the up grade and maybe the future will be much brighter by then.
I’ll have to close for this time. Hope you are well. Keep writing.
May 14, 1944
Here it is Mother’s Day again and it’s the second one I’ve spent in India. I hope I can spend the next one at home. It was a much prettier day last year that it is this. I sent some money to Dorothy to buy some flowers for our mothers.
I washed out some socks and handkerchiefs this morning, but they won’t dry any today. I went out and pulled some grass away from my two hills of corn while ago. It’s up to pocket high (not quite waist-high yet).
I cut out some more weeds as they deep growing up. The grass is taking over now where the weeds are kept down and there is nothing else to interfere. It is a crab grass just like you find at home during the wet season. If grows fast at all the joints. I should have a good milk goat. There’s plenty of grazing for one and I cold have fresh milk. I suppose the main trouble would be trying to find one that was free of disease. I sure would like to have some good cold milk to drink and some fresh butter.
I suppose your chicks are getting at the size now where they are pretty lively and eat a lot. Do you have any goslings or ducklings? Young fowl should do good over here as there are lots of insects for them to catch. There are lots of wild animals, too, to catch the fowl. Something finally killed our duck mascot. He was an old fellow anyway and lived his time I guess. He didn’t seem to get around much.
Monitor lizard, native to India
I saw the largest lizard over here a while back that I ever saw or expect to see. It was actually, without exaggeration, four feet long and its body at the largest part was big around as my leg below the knee. When he first saw us (some of my tent mates) he didn’t waste time in getting away. He sounded like a horse running through the brush. Before he knew we were around, he stayed still in our spot for several minutes so we got a good look at him. I wouldn’t have believed that they grew that large if I hadn’t seen it myself. It reminded of those prehistoric monsters that you read about.
Editor’s note: Was it a coincidence–the presence of a large lizard and one missing duck?
So Bob Duckels made captain. I didn’t even know he had gone to O. C. S. I guess his folks are right proud of him now. Whatever happened to Clarence? Is he still around Chesterfield?
Sometimes I wonder just how much longer this war is going to last. Sometimes I get so discouraged that it all seems hopeless. I sometimes wonder if I’ll be satisfied anywhere after I get out of the army. I certainly am not satisfied in the army. I never was and don’t suppose that I ever will be. All I can do is hope that is sometimes domes to an end. I’ve done that so much that I get tired of it. I suppose a person can endure it though. I guess it is the monotony that makes it so hard. I only wish I could spend a week or so on the farm during spring or early summer. I guess I’m a little homesick.
Well I guess I’ll close for this time.
May 24, 1944
After about a week and a half of doing without mail I finally got a flock of it. Right now I’m about ten letters behind on my writing.
There is no need for you to worry about me over here. I’m in no more danger than if I were in the States. There are as many people killed accidentally back there every year as there are killed in the war. The situation is well in had over here now so there’s no need for worry.
Chances are fairly good that I may be getting home sometime the fore part of nest year. Of course that isn’t definite yet.
While school was going on, Dorothy didn’t have much spare time. She kept telling me how busy she was and she would say that she was taking time out to write me a letter before going to bed and it would be near midnight then. School activities and her course at Blackburn [College] with the household duties kept her pretty well occupied.
No, so far I haven’t heard from Chas. Sanders. I heard from Harvey Clark once and Lee Clark [two brothers-in-law] a couple of times. Aunt Mary still writes. She sent me an Easter card. I got it a couple of days ago.
How do you like the Dawson’s for neighbors?
It looks like Arthur Hall got his new wife in time to take care of him. That is some pair. I can’t hardly feature it.
I’m not worrying too much. When a person gets a family of his own he has to do a little worrying to figure how to make ends meet. A person has to have a few worries or he isn’t happy. A person that has no responsibilities is the one most likely to get into devilment.
I received the radish seeds OK. I’ll have to clear off a place to plant them. They should grow all right once I get them in the ground. The corn is up waist-high but has sort of a yellow cast. I guess there’s too much moisture for it over here.
It seems funny to think of Cora Francis and Charles Preston Clements [cousins] going to high school. It seems only yesterday when they were just little tykes.
Uncle Pres sure has had quite a time getting settled. It looks like I’m going to be just like him as I’m getting such a late start in life.
Cleanup after Mississippi River flooding Spring ’44, Cape Girardeau, MO
It looks like the farmers are going to be way behind in getting their crops in again this year because of the wet weather. It’s funny how it’s wet every year like that. I suppose though, it is better to have too much rain than not enough, as you always have something when it’s wet, but when it’s too dry everything dries up. I read where the old Mississippi went on a rampage. I guess Floyd was flooded out in the bottom again. It’s lucky he didn’t have corn in.
Editor’s note: Because of Mighty Mississippi spring rampages, the Pick-Sloan Flood Control Act of 1944 was passed. A number of dams and levees were constructed on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The legislation was named for Brigadier General Lewis A. Pick of the Army Corps of Engineers. He was also in command of Ledo road construction under Gen. Stilwell. As Stilwell and his troops drove the Japanese out, road construction followed closely behind. The new road was referred to, as “Pick’s Pike.”
Well, I’m getting these letters answered gradually. I’m now answering one of yours which was written May 3rd.
I’ll bet it is pretty around there now. this time of the year when nature took on a new always was pleasant. Over here the vegetation is too much the same the year around. Things do grow more now than they do during the cooler season, but they are always green. You speak of cherry trees blooming. Maybe there’ll be cherries this year.
Speaking of garden I could sure go for a big bowl of lettuce the way you used to fix it. We had some asparagus for chow the other day and I sure gobbled it up. I didn’t know that I did like it so well. I thin the main reason was that it was something green. I find that onions make a good appetizer, bu the only drawback is that they sometimes disagree with me afterwards. So far we’ve never had any green onions. They are too hard to handle for the army. There wouldn’t be much greenness left in them by the time they reached us.
Editor’s note: Dad’s favorite [and mine too] was wilted fresh garden leaf lettuce with hot sweet and sour hot vinagrette dressing poured over it. Of course it wasn’t low-calorie–made with bacon grease.
I suppose George and Delbert Duckels are still plugging along together.
So Uncle George is going to sell the place. That is sort of disappointing to me although I sort of halfway expected that to happen some day. I was hoping that I could farm it for a couple of years first. It’s good land and a person could make money there. Whoever gets it will have a nice place. Of course it’ll take some fixing up, but not too much.
If I had the money, I sure would have bought the place. I suppose there are places better though. It’s probably mostly sentimental because it was the first place that I really started to take an interest in farming. I suppose that if Bill Rigsbey should get the place, he would put Floyd there.
The Frank Dams place would be all right to start with I guess, although the improvements aren’t so much. There’s no silo on the place and only one small barn. The land isn’t too good. How many acres are there? What kind of rent would they want? It would be hard to know what to do about it, as it’s so indefinite when I’ll be able to start farming. They’ll probably want someone in the house as soon as possible.
If you want me to farm the home place, I’ll have to have a place close enough where I can handle them both. I’ll have to more or less leave it up to you to keep on the lookout for an opening.
Of course if there is no other alternative, I’ll have to find a job somewhere for a while until you give up the place at home and move off and I have enough capital to help myself and get by on that much land. I would rather start right out farming at first.
If I should get back to the States by the time things are pretty settled in Europe, I might stand a chance of getting out of the army to farm.
Well,I’d better bring this letter to a close. I’ve sort of went on a writing binge. I had four of your letters to answer and I had the time and everything was quiet so that I could concentrate. Usually when I try to write there just doesn’t seem to ba anything to write about.
For goodness sakes don’t work too hard. Like is too short to overdo it.
5-28-44: My corn is shoulder-high now and beginning to tassel. The stalk is very small. I don’t believe that it’s going to amount to anything. The rumor is out that we are going to get compulsory furloughs. We’ve been told to conserve our money.