“Uncle Wiggly Wings” Is Alive And Well And Living In Green Valley by Dave Falkner

Uncle Wiggly Wings was a pilot.  His real name is Colonel Gail Halvorsen.  After WWII, Germany was divided among the countries that won the war against Germany.  The Soviet Union took control of the eastern half of Germany, and the western half was divided among the Allied Forces of the USA, Great Britain, and France. Beginning in June 1948, Russia built road blocks and would not let supplies reach the city of Berlin. More than two million people were hungry. The United States sent pilots to help fly food and supplies into Berlin.

On one of the flights into Berlin, then young pilot, Captain Gail Halvorsen, saw a group of children at the end of the runway.  They were watching the planes land and take off. They were obviously hungry, but they were not begging for anything.  At the time, Col. Halvorsen had two sticks of gum in his pocket.  He asked himself, “How do you share two sticks of gum with all these children?”  He did not realize at the moment that there were close to 30 children.  He did offer them the gum, and the children took the two pieces of gum and tore the gum and the wrappers into enough pieces that every child had a small taste or smell to hold. There was no arguing or fighting.  There were only smiles of joy at having even a small piece to savor.

Seeing how thrilled the children were over the gum, Col. Halvorsen, nicknames by some, ‘Uncle Wiggly Wings,’ promised to bring them candy the next time he flew into the airport.  He said he would drop it from his plane.  One little girl asked how they would know him and he replied, “I will wiggle my wings when I fly over.”  The next day he did fly over and dropped many small parachutes made from handkerchiefs to the children at the end of the runway behind the barbed wire. Each handkerchief had sweet treats in them.  This soon became “Operation Sweet Vittles.”  How amazing that this little effort soon resulted in the dropping of over 20 million tons of candy. By the end of May 1949, the Berlin Blockade stopped. Col. Halvorsen’s philosophy is that everyone needs hope.

Col. Halvorsen continues to be a ‘recognized local Veteran.’   At age 95, he lives in Green Valley and still travels all over the US, but especially in Tucson to schools, and various organizations, telling everyone how important serving others is.  “Service Before Self” is his motto.  His story is remarkable, as are the stories of so many other Veterans in our community.  Read more about the ‘Candy Bomber,’ Uncle Wiggly Wings, and grow to appreciate our Veterans for their service and sacrifice to our country.   There are so many ways to show our appreciation to Veterans. If you would like to volunteer to help a select group of Veterans, contact Julie Stafford, Volunteer Coordinator at Emblem Hospice, 2292 W. Magee Rd,  297-1460.    Watch for more articles about our local Veterans and how they serve us.  We can certainly help to serve them in different ways.

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