The Candy Bomber; The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”: Living History in Language Arts Class
Back in the summer, Wayne County Middle School Teacher Leah Turner was handed a book at the Adolescent Literacy Project that piqued her curiosity. The name of the book was Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”. Dr. Diana Porter from Eastern Kentucky University had given Turner the book to look over to see if it might be something she wanted to incorporate into her classes for the coming year. Having been a language arts and history major, Turner knew a little about post World War II history of Germany but had never really studied it, until Dr. Porter introduced her to this book.
From the opening chapter of the book, Turner knew that the lessons and the positive qualities the book exhibited were things that her middle school students needed to understand.
"So many times when we think of history, we remember only the darkness and not the light," said Turner.
This book was a fragment of light in what was a dark era. One of Ms. Turner’s favorite quotes from the book is simply, “Without hope, the soul dies.” Col. Gail Halvorsen’s efforts were the hope that helped Berliners survive the Russian oppression.
From the moment Turner’s students began learning about post World War II Germany and the divisions of power within the country, they were hooked. Factor in, a then USAF Lt., breaking rules to help a group of children and you have them looped in and ready to see what happens. Through their reading, the students experienced the sadness of watching young children just smelling the wrapper of a stick of Doublemint gum because that was all Lt. Halvorsen had to the elation of seeing those same children raise a handkerchief in thanks for candy that he had been dropped out of an airplane for them.
"As the students were reading, I could see the expressions of their faces of what they felt as they read,” explained Turner. “In their discussions of the text, I heard them ask questions about why something had happened a certain way, or how could Lt. Halvorsen be able to continue his mission? I could tell that their admiration for his mission was real and that they had a sense of empathy for the children of Berlin.”
Reading the book was not the only thing the students did in connection with the book. They had the opportunity to email questions to retired Col. Halvorsen who is now 97-years-young and were able to read his replies to their questions. The children were also inspired to create their own candy drop of sorts. They put together bags of candy and visited nine classrooms at Walker Early Learning Center to share season cheer with the little ones.
"We really appreciated their visit to our kindergartners," said Walker Early Learning Center Principal Angela Ballinger. "It's amazing what our youngest children pick up on. Sometimes, we do not think they have been able to take everything in and we underestimate their abilities. But, they really understood the purpose behind the middle school students' candy drop."
They still have a couple of things to do second semester like Skype with the author of the book, Mike Tunnell, and retired CW4 William Inman will be coming to speak to them about his experiences in post World War II Germany and what he witnessed when the Berlin Wall came down.
The book Dr. Porter gave Ms. Turner in the summer has led to great things in and out of the classroom for her students. The comments by students below echo those experiences.:
“Always give back to people.”-Alyssa Beagle
“Be generous and help people. Even a little piece of candy can bring them joy.”-Haley Gregory
“Share you love with other kids.”-Jericka Flynn
“The book inspired and encouraged me to make my mark. It will warm your soul.”-Summer Canseco
“After reading the book, I realize how truly blessed I am to be living in America with freedom.”-Autumn Commer
“Sharing is caring.”-Summer Denney
“This book made me thankful and grateful for where I am and what I have because not everyone is blessed with the things we have.”-Malachi Brown
“This book was so inspirational, and Lt. Halvorsen was a good man for putting a smile on children’s faces.”-Gracie Horton
“There are good, kind, caring people in this world.”-Sofia Upchurch
“Giving back is the best thing to do.”-Andrew Ford
“The Candy Bomber taught me to put others before yourself and to see someone unfortunate happy is worth my effort.”-Kayden Shrum
“The Book Candy Bomber influenced my thinking by giving me a message. The message is you don’t have to do something because you need to but because you want to. I say this because he chose to make people happy and I began to think of ways I could do the same.”-Helen Kern
“Even though life can be rough, you can always find a way to enjoy it.”-Kaitlin Carroll
‘The book alone melted my heart and moved me in a great way. The activities we did with it have changed me for the better.”-DeShay Baird
“Reading the book has inspired me to go on a mission trip.”-Mackenzie Bolen
“After reading Candy Bomber I appreciate what I have and will gladly make a few sacrifices to give to ones who don’t have much at all.”-Lucas Crabtree
“I want to learn how to spread joy to the world.”-John Brumley
“It is better to give than it is to receive.”-Aileen Dominguez Pena
“Sometimes doing what you think is best is better than what other people think is best.”-Riley Bell
“We should learn to appreciate what we have.”-Bryar Brummett
“Little things matter in life.”-Sophie Brammer
“This book taught me two things. Listen to your heart and sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.”-Shelby Smith
“Be generous and help as much as you can.”-Jaylon Gregory
“Always be kind.”-Kelsey Patton
The students preparing to deliver treats to a class at Walker Early Learning Center