The Candy Bombers
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The masterfully told story of the unlikely men who came together to make the Berlin Airlift one of the great military and humanitarian successes of American history. On the sixtieth anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Andrei Cherny tells a remarkable story with profound implications for the world today. In the tradition of the best narrative storytellers, he brings together newly unclassified documents, unpublished letters and diaries, and fresh primary interviews to tell the story of the ill-assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who not only saved millions of desperate people from a dire threat but changed how the world viewed the United States, and set in motion the chain of events that would ultimately lead to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall and to America's victory in the Cold War. On June 24, 1948, intent on furthering its domination of Europe, the Soviet Union cut off all access to West Berlin, prepared to starve the city into submission unless the Americans abandoned it. Soviet forces hugely outnumbered the Allies', and most of America's top officials considered the situation hopeless. But not all of them.

Customer Reviews:

  • Reads Like a Novel
    This is such a wonderful book that I gave it to my boss as a Christmas present this year. I think the author did a great job of telling the stories of the numerous people involved at all levels of the Berlin Airlift. Although the book is long, it reads fast and well and I found myself feeling sad that the story had ended. I not only earned a great deal about the Berlin Airlift from this book, but also used it as a basis from which to learn more about some of the people in the book through further reading and also about Berlin itself through the Cold War years. Although I probably shouldn't admit it, I think my favorite part of the book is about the Berliner who was sobbing during a gathering that occurred shortly after the September 11 attacks. When asked why, she said that "I love Americans" and that she had been a child during the Berlin Airlift....more info
  • Finally, a satisfying history
    I've always had an interest in the Berlin Airlift, but never could find a really satisfying history.
    The best read up until now was Leon Uris' "Armageddon".
    Finally, the story gets told in a most impressive and readable book.

    Andrei Cherny does a really great job of making the whole story readable and enjoyable. This will be the standard reference from now on.

    With a perceptive take on host of personalities, Cherny brings them to life and gives a sort of life to forgotten hero's.
    It's a crime that today, no one even knows the name of Bill Tunner, and while many have heard of "The Chocolate Flier" no one remembers the name of Gail Halvorsen.

    A master work of a book on an absorbing story. Forget the overblown Cuban Missile Crisis, here's where America shown the brightest and where the free world was almost certainly saved.
    ...more info
  • A fantastically written history of a critical moment
    I have to admit I am not a "history buff" and generally choose novels for my summer reading. Moreover, I somehow never once got to the end of World war II in any of the history classes in my 22 years of education, so this book was not a natural pick for me. But The Candy Bombers felt like a novel, it was so dramatically told and wonderfully written. As others point out, this book is about an event that gains more and more relevance to contemporary events every day, as we debate how to move forward in the "war on terror," as we take more and more prisoners in this "war," and as natural catastrophes devastate countries in distant lands. The question of how to treat a defeated enemy, even one so horrifically evil as Nazi Germany, is profoundly moral. How we answer it in many ways defines who we are as a nation. Mr. Cherny notes in his blog that all four of his grandparents were concentration camp survivors, and that he had struggle with this question as wrote his account of the airlift. The result of his struggle is an extremely impressive and visionary book....more info
  • Illuminating Look At A Turning Point In American Foreign Policy.
    My interest in this period of American History was sparked by watching an account of the Berlin Airlift on Public Television. Only a few highlights of this momentous event could fit into the limits of a 60 minute run time. This book admirably fills that gap.

    America has always been conflicted about its role on the world stage. Time and again, we have wanted desperately to withdraw from the unlimited troubles on the international scene and concern ourselves with exclusively domestic concerns. Time and again, events have conspired to compel this country to shoulder the burden of international leadership. Such a situation arose after the end of World War 2. The mightiest military force ever seen was rapidly depleted into almost total disarmament. Emerging signs of Soviet agression were ignored in a nation exhausted by war and determined not to again mount a global struggle in defense of our principles.

    This book illustrates how a few courageous men saw the hideous danger facing Western Civilization and were eventually able to rouse the forces of democracy to face down this challenge. The contributions of James Forrestal in this regard are well noted in this text. However, the great impact on American foreign policy of Winston Churchill's recognition of the Soviet menace are almost completely ignored in this account. How his famous "Iron Curtain Speech" could not merit inclusion in this account is a huge oversight, in my opinion.

    One of the distinctive traits of the American fighting man is his instinctive love of children. During World War 2, the huge number of our forces stationed in Britain in preparation for the Normandy Invasion were often involved in major efforts to aid or entertain the local children suffering the privations of rationing and the Blitz. That tendency was carried over after the war ended by our occupation troops in Germany. Their instinctive desire to give aid to the local populace was often blocked by hideously counterproductive directives promising dire consequences for any serviceman who provided any such assistance. The animus of our officials toward the German people only bred more distaste and resentment between the conquered and their new masters. The very mistakes the Germans made in their treatment of conquered peoples were repeated by the Western Allies, admittedly in a milder form.

    One topic covered in the television program was entirely ignored in the book. There were many romances between the occupation troops and the local young ladies. Perhaps this was not considered relevant by the author. However, these activities were entirely voluntary on both sides and were a sure sign that the perception of the occupying forces were growing far more favorable.

    This book describes how a few key figures in the American Occupation leadership were able to realize how misguided was their initial harsh agenda toward the German people. The formerly obscure transport pilot Gail Halvorsen instinctively recognized the dreadful plight of the children of Berlin and carried out his first few drops of candy in great fear of official reprisal for his initiative. Fortunatly, his superior General Tunner was able to realize the immense value of this activity and made tremendous accomodations to allow it to continue and grow. Eventually it dawned on our foreign policy leadership that the most efficient manner of defeating an enemy is to convert him to a friend and ally.

    Another area hardly mentioned in the book is the substantial contribution of the Royal Air Force toward the success of the Berlin Airlift. Approximately 30% of the total tonnage of the airlift was provided by their contribution to the effort.

    The legacy of the Berlin Airlift continues to influence American Foreign Policy. During the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, our transport aircraft dropped emergency rations to devastated regions to help win local support for an American presence in the area.

    This book has a few strange concepts. The most glaring of them notes that in 1948 the Hell's Angels bicycle club was first organized. I can just visualize these bad boys entering a town pedaling away on their schwinn balloon tire bicycles.

    Reading this book made me aware of how narrow the margin of political victory for continuation of the airlift actually was. President Truman really demostrated how an uneducated man from Missouri was able to rise far beyond the paltry estimation of his contemporaries to become one of the greatest men who have occupied the White House....more info
  • An uplifting, well-told analysis
    -Just wanted to add another well-deserved five-star review for this book. I have just finished it and didn't want it to end, but was cheered to have read it.

    -Candy Bombers describes how the Berlin Airlift not only became a strategic victory for democratic ideals, but a positive and uplifting victory for the human spirit. Cherny begins by describing the events preceding the Airlift, including the almost unspeakable devastation and hopeless forecast for recovery in Germany at the time. The War largely destroyed Berlin, rebuilding was painfully slow, and not only did the Germans and the Allies despise each other but by 1948 the distrust between the Western and Soviet allies allies threatened to bring another major conflict to the area. That year, the Soviets blockaded the land routes to Berlin, and Cherny then rivetingly describes how the airlift became "THE Airlift" -- how it grew from a chaotic makeshift, ridiculous patchwork effort into one of the most efficient resupply efforts the world has ever seen. This did not have to happen -- indeed, few people even though it could be successful and the nay-sayers were won over only slowly. This development was itself an act of kindness and persistence. Along the way, Cherny describes how the Airlift helped show Germans and the Western Allies that yes, they actually did care for each other and were both willing to sacrifice deeply for democracy and community. This beautiful transformation was hastened by a kind-hearted pilot who decided to drop pieces of candy to some hungry and kindness-needing kids along his flight path (candy was amazingly scarce after the war, and was happily received). No matter what your political views, this story is amazing -- how a simple but persistent act of decency can transform the spirits of innocent children and can set the conditions for a similar transformation in adults. Compassion is the source for hope, and its exercise can make one proud to be human. Cherny then describes how the Airlift invigorated Western foreign policy and how the Soviets never again succeeded in gaining another inch of territory in Europe. Indeed, it was a singular peak for democracy, before the Russians exploded an atom bomb, the Korean stalemate began, and materialism became a dominant factor in American culture.

    -The author writes exceptionally well -- this was a most interesting and well-coordinated tale, with excellent (if not always archival) documentation and internal consistency. I am sure someone will point out an inaccuracy here and there, but this book succeeds at its purpose and I would place it among the upper echelon of uplifting, well-told books I can remember reading. The book combined the right elements of realism and idealism, and made me prouder to be a human being.

    -The author is a journal editor, former White House speechwriter, and senior research fellow.

    - I hope this helps and hope you will enjoy this wonderful book about a uniquely wonderful episode in world history. We can all use such a story!...more info
  • Van in Saratoga
    I gave this book to my 89 yr. old father for Christmas. He could not put it down, absolutely loved it. ...more info
  • Great Book
    One of the best books I've read in a very long time. the book really makes you proud to be an American. I also could not put this book down. Mr. Cherny really made this period of history come to light for me...more info
  • A piece of history most missed.
    This book sets in place, much of what many have missed. The years between the end of WWII and the Korean war were more harrowing than I ever realized. The author has written a classic, a text book example of great history writing....more info
  • A candy bar can be more effective than a fighter jet
    A fast and interesting read -- it reminded me of The Rising Tide in the way it presented a large amount of historical detail in an easily accessible format. I really enjoyed the subtle message that it contains for current foreign policy. America became a model for the world in the aftermath of World War II by showing not just strength but compassion. Sometimes a candy bar is a more effective tool of foreign policy than a fighter jet. Anyone responsible for our nation's foreign policy should be required to read this book. ...more info
  • Saving Berlin
    I wish I could share the enthusiasm of some of the other reviewers, because I will acknowledge the Candy Bombers has a lot of very fine points, but it is badly overwritten, with page after page devoted to events that could be covered in paragraphs. When one of the main characters returns home to marry his hometown sweet-heart, the author quotes the traditional wedding vows in full.

    The book is strongest when it is in Berlin, and that is only about half the time. The rest of the time the author is setting the story in a larger context of post WWII Europe, or back in the states covering the 1948 presidential election, where Dewey was supposed to beat Truman. If the focus of your interest is just the Berlin Airlift, you can start reading this book on page 200.

    But in fairness, the Berlin Airlift was such a story of quiet heroism, and desperate courage that it is hard not to be intensely moved by the stories of the people involved. This is a decent big book that could have been tremendous small book.

    ...more info