Rash read to the students about Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot, a true story about a little girl the age of the students getting candy from a U.S. Air Force pilot during the Berlin Blockade.
“Life was grim in 1948 West Berlin, Germany. Josef Stalin blockaded all ground routes coming in and out of Berlin to cut off West Berliners from all food and essential supplies. Without outside help, over 2.2 million people would die.
“Thus began the Berlin Airlift, a humanitarian rescue mission that utilized British and American airplanes and pilots to fly in needed supplies,” read an online review of the book.
While the planes flew essential elements to the city to keep it function, coal for the furnaces to keep people warm, food, blankets, water and even light-weight rice paper so the newspaper could help keep up morale, students gathered on the rubble around Tempelhof Airdrome watching the silver birds, which only three years earlier were destroying their city with bombs and were now saving their lives.
Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen met some of the children and was struck that unlike other places he had been, none asked for candy. They were so grateful for the food. He then gave them a reason to hope for a better world. He started parachuting out candy to the children. Other pilots would join him in the effort
To bring alive this true story of a 7-year-old girl named Mercedes who lived in West Berlin during the Airlift and of the American who came to be known as the Chocolate Pilot, Steve Dean took the Elementary School principal, John Wink, up in his T-6 trainer to drop out fruit chewables for the children.
Instead of individually dropped candies with its own parachute, Mr. Wink dropped the whole box which the children raced to clean up.