The Candy Bombers : The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America's Finest Hour
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 In the tradition of the best narrative storytellers, he brings together newly unclassified documents, unpublished letters and diaries, and fresh primary interviews to tell the story of the ill-assorted group of castoffs and second-stringers who not only saved millions of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.
Harry Truman, an accidental president, derided by his own party; Lucius Clay, a frustrated general, denied a combat command and relegated to the home front; Bill Tunner, a logistics expert downsized to a desk job in a corner of the Pentagon; James Forrestal, a secretary of defense beginning to mentally unravel; Hal Halvorsen, a lovesick pilot who had served far from the conflict, flying transport missions in the backwater of a global war--together these unlikely men improvised and stumbled their way into a uniquely Americancombination of military and moral force unprecedented in its time.
This is the forgotten foundation tale of America in the modern world, the story of when Americans learned, for the first time, how to act at the summit of world power--a masterful and exciting work of historical narrative, and one with strong resonance for our time.
In 1948, West Berliners were suffering and hungry, existing on food rations transported by trucks, trains and barges primarily by the occupying American forces. The Russians, trying to control the divided city, blockaded the transports on June 24, 1948, and American and British pilots risked their lives to airlift in 4.6 billion pounds of food and supplies until the blockade was lifted in May 1949. Pilot Hal Halvorsen won Berliners' hearts by secretly dropping his and his buddies' candy rations by parachute into the waiting hands of the city's children. In the process, says Cherny (The Next Deal), Berliners became devoted to democracy, and Washington foreign policy and military brass learned that the Cold War needed to be won not primarily with bullets but by appealing to hearts and minds. This book could have been cut by a third for better effect; Cherny's prose and his references to 9/11 are manipulative, and his subject, particularly the nuts and bolts of the airlift, will appeal primarily to WWII buffs, who should still find much to savor in this exhaustive, often absorbing and lucid account of America's successful standoff against the Soviets. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Apr. 17)
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April 16, 2008
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