November 11, 2014

Gail Halvorsen Gave Hope to a City with his Candy Bombing

I hope you watched the movie "Meet the Mormons."  We saw it twice!  It was wonderful!  Since it's Veterans Day,  I wanted to highlight more about the Candy Bomber, one of the Mormons in the film.  He is such an interesting man, and has done so much for our country.

Gail Halvorsen was born in Salt Lake City in 1920.  He grew up on farms in Salt Lake and in Idaho and learned how to work hard.  He was always a devout Mormon and learned how to be a Christian from his family and church teachers. 

As World War 2 was shaping up, Gail was learning how to pilot aircraft in a small program called the Civilian Pilot Training Program.  After passing the course, he enlisted in the Air Force.  He flew missions during the war.

When the war ended, Germany was divided into sections.  Russia claimed half and the rest was divided up among the Allies (United States, Britain and France.)  Due to an agreement made before the war ended, the city of Berlin was also divided up similarly, even though Berlin was deep in the heart of Russia's section.  Russia ruled it's sections harshly with Communism and the others were democratically governed due to their Allied hosts.  The Germans in the Communist sections began to leave, moving to the free areas.  This began to cause friction between the Russians and the Allies because Stalin didn't want his people to leave.  So he started a blockade, which became the beginning of the 'Cold war.' 

Stalin blocked all railways and roads into the free part of Berlin.  Food became scarce and the Berlin people began to suffer.   Electricity was cut off to the city except for a few short hours in the day.  News reports to the people gave the idea that these sanctions were the fault of the British, Americans and French Allies to encourage the people to want Communist rule. Stalin offered to stop the blockade if Allies would bow to their numerous demands.   

The one thing the Communists didn't stop were the airplanes flying into West Berlin.  How can you block the sky?  If Stalin ordered attacks on the airplanes, it would start another world war.  The Allies began bringing food into the city by cargo airplanes.  They didn't use fighter planes so that they could not be seen as an aggressor.  To feed the city, they needed to bring in 5000 tons of food and supplies daily!  The Allies added planes to the fleet and tonnage to their cargoes and stayed busy bringing food to the people of West Berlin.
Gail was assigned to pilot flights loaded with these supplies into Berlin.  As you see in the movie, he saw how grateful the children were to get the food and saw how carefully they shared the little bit of gum he gave them through the fence at the landing field.  He wanted to help them more.
Listening to the Spirit, he decided he'd put handkerchief parachutes onto his candy rations and drop them to the children the next day when he made his daily delivery.  He told the kids about his plan and that they could tell it was his airplane because he'd 'wiggle' his wings up and down.  He talked his buddies out of their candy and the idea spread.  The children loved the candy and looked forward to the drops daily from Gail, who they dubbed 'Uncle Wiggly Wings.' 

Gail's actions could have gotten him in terrible trouble with the Air Corps.  But fortunately, his commanding officer saw the good it did and let him alone.  It was good for public relations and went against the propaganda that was everywhere about how it was the Allies fault that Berliners were hungry. 

A reporter saw this and wrote about it in America and Britain.  Children from these countries wrote letters to Gail and enclosed their candy to give to the children.  Later candy companies donated tons of candy to add to the effort.  Soon many pilots were dropping food and goodies to West Berlin children.  'Operation Little Vittles' became well accepted and even supported by the Air Corps and gave families hope and helped them feel encouraged through this food blockade.

In time over 23 tons of candy was dropped to the children of West Berlin by Uncle Wiggly Wings and his cohorts.  Almost a year later, Communists lifted the blockade and food became more plentiful again.  Citizens of West Berlin were grateful to Gail and honored him by naming 2 schools in his honor.  The government also awarded Gail the highest award given.  In America, the new generation of large transport airplanes were named in his honor. 

I honor Gail for his service during the war, but especially because he acted on an impression to do something above and beyond his job to help.  It was such a great idea that it caught hold and gave hope to a whole city.  He's a great example of one who followed the Savior's example of love and service, even when it might get him in trouble in his profession.


"Meet the Mormons" movie, 2014.  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Spencer Johnson, general war information.

Wikipedia, "Gail Halvorsen."  22 Oct 2014,

Wikipedia.  "Berlin Blockade."  7 November 2014,

November 4, 2014

Disadvantaged Sonya Carson Helps Sons Reach Potential

I have been thinking about Ben Carson's mom Sonya lately.  Elder Tad Callister spoke about her in his General Conference talk on Saturday afternoon session a few weeks ago.  (To read it, click here.Talk ) 

From the talk, we learned that she made her boys read 2 books a week and 'book report' them to her.  Because of that seemingly harsh rule, Ben got a Yale education and became a doctor.  That is remarkable because she had only a 3rd grade education herself and was raising her kids alone in the ghettos. 

I had to learn more about Sonya.  I found out that she had been raised in foster homes her whole childhood and married at age 13 to a much older man.  He pulled her out of poverty and abuse, and gave her a better life.  He treated her like a china doll, lavishing her with gifts and kindness.  Sadly, after her two sons were born, his attention to her waned and Sonya left the marriage. 

That left Sonya alone to raise her boys.  Sonya prayed, "I don't have any friends.  I don't have anyone else to turn to.  God, you're going to have to be my friend, my best friend.  And you're going to have to tell me how to do things and give me wisdom, because I don't know what to do."  She moved her family to Boston and moved in with a sister and brother in law.  She relied on God to help her.  She remembered praying, "Lord, if you can take nothing and make a world out of it, You can take my situation and make it work-- for the boys sake.  I don't care so much about myself, but the boys need help. They deserve a chance."  Her mantra became "Do your best and let God do the rest." 

Sonya worked two jobs in order to take care of her boys.  She cleaned homes and noticed that the wealthy families had lots of books on their shelves.  While she worked, Ben and Curtis (Ben's brother) watched TV after school or played with friends outside.  But they weren't doing well in school.  Ben had gotten a zero on a test; not one answer was correct.  Sonya prayed for several days, then presented the rule about book reports.  She said, "The Lord's told me what to do.  You aren't living up to your potential.  So I'm going to see that you do."  They were to read two books a week, write a book report on each and turn them in to her.  Only 2 TV programs were allowed per week, and homework had to be done before they went outside to play.  That was it.  No argument could budge her.  None of their friends had such strict rules, but the boys obeyed.

Ben had been the dummy in his 5th grade class.  One day his teacher asked a question about something he had just read about for one of his 'mom book reports.'  No one in the class knew the answer.  He was surprised and raised his hand.  The kids snickered, thinking that Ben wouldn't know the answer!  After all, he was the dummy!  Well, Ben surprised them all, detailing the answer so much that he stunned the teacher too. 

Ben described this moment, "I was the one most astonished in the class.  That day-- for the first time-- I realized that Mother had been right.  Reading is the way out of ignorance, and the road to achievement.  I didn't have to be the class dummy anymore."  Ben set out to be the best student in class.  By the time he reached 7th grade, he was the top student in his class.  His love of learning grew, leading him to his extensive education and successful medical career.

Curtis also excelled in school, becoming a manager for Honeywell Corporation.  He works in the aircraft landing division.

Heavenly Father heard Sonya's pleas for help.  He gave her the answers to her problems, which blessed her family abundantly.  He will always help us as we do our part. 


Callister, Tad.  "Parents-- the Prime Gospel Teachers of their Children."  Ensign. November 2014.

Carson, Ben and Cecil Murphey.  Think Big-- Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence. Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Zondervan.  1982.

Komancheck, Wendy.  "Sonya Carson, Mother of Famous Neurosurgeon Ben Carson."

Photo courtesy of Wendy Comancheck.