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The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the…
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The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and…

by Andrei Cherny

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Focusing on five men who were key players in the Berlin Airlift (1948-1949), Andrei Cherny paints a vivid picture of the obstacles they faced to save the lives of the people of West Berlin – ruled by the American, British and French Allies but surrounded by Russian territory -- after the Russians cut off truck and train access to the city through East Germany. Of course, the Russians were trying to get their former Allies out of Germany entirely, which would have given them a great platform to take over the rest of Western Europe.

Americans and their national leaders weren’t particularly interested in feeding Germans after the war was over … after all, these were the people who allowed a madman to take over their country and kill millions of people. But Americans’ view of Germans changed over time -- and during the months of the airlift, Germans demonstrated that they were as freedom-loving as Americans, willing to go without to avoid going over to the communist side.

The five men whom the author zeros in on (Harry Truman, James Forrestal, Lucius Clay, Bill Tunner and Hal Halvorsen) were misfits who were uniquely able to lead the fight to feed Berlin. And the author gives chapter and verse about how they accomplished it.

The original “candy bomber,” pilot Halvorsen, was an accidental hero. If he hadn’t taken a few hours for sightseeing in Berlin and met the children whom he eventually dropped candy-laden parachutes on, the airlift might not have been as successful.

I know a woman who was one of those children and her memories of the Americans dropping candy for the starving children in Berlin are still vivid. If there is any love for America in Germany today, it is probably rooted in the Berlin airlift and the “candy bombers.”

A wonderful story, well told. ( )
  NewsieQ | Mar 12, 2014 |
I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked up this book, and I'm absolutely fascinated by the story! I haven't completely finished it yet, but when I started reading I had assumed that it would be another story about a mission during WWII. I had NO IDEA what went on in Berlin after the war ended, or the atrocities that occurred. It is absolutely stunning to me that NO ONE talks about the Soviet control of Berlin and what might have happened differently if only the U.S. had gotten there first.

While getting into the book I looked for nonfiction features and found an extensive bibliography, photographs, and author's note. However, I would've like to see maps outlining the areas of occupation in Germany because I couldn't exactly recall how the country was divided up.

The book really became compelling about 70 pages in. At first it was really challenging to get through the author's set up of all the biographies of important men involved in the situation and going through the bureaucratic decisions, etc. to get to the point of post-war Berlin.

I think the book only suffers from a trend common in nonfiction writers such as Timothy Egan and Eric Larsson where Cherney uses really long and winding sentence structures in order to cram in as much biographical detail and back story as possible. I find this frustrating some of the time and suspect it would cause adolescent readers to become frustrated as well. ( )
  Sandert1 | Feb 16, 2014 |
This is a work of non-fiction with a narrative primarily taking place several years AFTER the end of WWII - specifically during the time Germany was divided between the Allies, and the Soviet Union began its efforts to convert "their" sector to communism.

Admittedly, I knew little to nothing about this specific time frame. Born two generations AFTER the war (my parents were the Baby Boomers), my exposure was limited to the paltry coverage given it in High School history class where my entire conception of the event was that the war ended and then one day Russia built a wall. I was well into adulthood before I even realized that the Berlin wall did not separate West Germany from East Germany - I pictured it kind of like the Great Wall of China...there's public education for you.

So virtually everything this book covered was new to me. Someone with a knowledge of that history may find the first part of the book tedious - I found it tedious. You don't actually get to the Title Event (the candy "bombing") until about halfway through the book. For those who don't know, as the Soviet Union began flexing its muscle, since Berlin was wholly within "their" sector (even though Berlin itself was also divided into sectors again), they effectively blockaded the residents of the "western" sectors of Berlin, turning off electricity, gas, food, any resources which needed to pass through the eastern part of Germany in order to get to Berlin. In an attempt to support the residents of "West Berlin" as it was to become, and to prevent all of Berlin from converting to communism which was what the Soviets were trying to instigate, the western allies begain airlifts of supplies - as part of the treaty ending the war, there were allocated air rights for allied planes to fly through to get to Berlin, but there were no roads. So everything had to go by plane. At one point, one individual pilot started dropping candy for the children of Berlin. This individual act developed into a PR program supported by the US military to maintain support of the airlift.

Overall, the facts included in this book were fascinating. At times, some of the details became mundane - and the author spent a lot of time on sidetracks for the personal backgrounds of many of the players which seemed unnecessary - but it gives a great, non-academic overview of that time period and some insight (at least into the author's opinion) of the reasons why some of what happened actually happened. Long, but still a recommended read ( )
  pbadeer | Jul 6, 2012 |
Cherny's Soviets are stereotypical baddies. Though the damage wrought by the Soviets on post-war Eastern Europe is undeniable, the opening of Soviet archives and the recent work of other historians would have provided the author with more information about the psychology behind Soviet actions before and during the blockade. Such information would have added depth to this engaging but lightweight take on the early days of the Cold War. ( )
  abbot | Jan 4, 2010 |
A moving, detailed and thought-provoking account. ( )
  calbookaddict | Jul 15, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399154965, Hardcover)

The Candy Bombers is the true tale of the ill- assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who saved millions of desperate people from a dire threat. By feeding and supplying West Berlin by air for nearly a year, these brave men won the hearts of America's defeated enemies, and inspired people around the world to believe in America's fundamental goodness. Their valor and kind acts helped the country avoid World War III, and won the greatest battle of the Cold War-without firing a shot.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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. Author Cherny 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. On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union cut off all access to West Berlin, prepared to starve the city into submission. Most of America's top officials considered the situation hopeless. But not all of them. President Harry Truman, frustrated general Lucius Clay, logistics expert Bill Tunner, and secretary of defense James Forrestal improvised and stumbled their way into an unprecedented, uniquely American combination of military and moral force.--From publisher description.… (more)

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