Lieutenant Wiggle Wings

You never know the interesting things that are happening right under your nose.  Sometimes you have to lift your head and look around so that you don’t miss something really great, or interesting, or beautiful.  

I for example did not know that our ninety-three year old neighbor Mr. Halvorsen, an active and interesting man who sometimes flies airplanes for entertainment was a pilot in the Second World War.  I had no idea that he was Lieutenant Halvorsen, a pilot during the Berlin Airlift.  

When the Soviet  Union tried to blockade and thereby control Berlin, the United States, England, and France were determined not to allow West Berlin to fall into the hands of the USSR.  To keep Berlin supplied with the necessities and the niceties of life the military flew in supplies.  They flew supplies into Berlin at the rate of one plane load every three minutes twenty-four hours a day for nearly a year.  

Lieutenant Halvorsen of Provo, Utah, was one of those  pilots.  When he wasn’t flying he was looking around Berlin.  One day he noticed a group of children gathered against the fence watching planes land and take off.  Halvorsen noticed their pinched faces, their skinny little arms and legs, their inadequate clothing and he wished he had something to give them. There must have been thirty children there at the fence.  He reached into his pocket, but to his dismay he found only two sticks of gum.  He handed the gum to one of the children who opened the foil and began to break the gum into tiny pieces which she distributed until nearly every child had a piece.  The few children who did not receive gum were given the foil so the could smell the sweet smell of the gum.  There was no pushing or shoving, no grabbing; they all thanked the lieutenant.

Lieutenant Halvorsen wished he could do more for the children.  He talked to the other pilots and they donated their chocolate bars and gum.  Halvorsen told the children that whenever he flew into the airport he would drop candy for them.  “How will we know which plane is yours?”  the kids wanted to know.  He told them that as he approached the runway he would wiggle the wings on his airplane back and forth.  He became known as Lieutenant Wiggle Wings or the Candy Bomber, dropping candy attached to little parachutes.  Soon other pilots began doing the same.  Companies in the west heard of the candy drops and began to donate candy for the children of Berlin.  

Lieutenant Halvorsen created a great deal of good will for the Americans among the people of Berlin.  Even today those who were children in 1948 and 1949 remember him with fondness.  But he did not drop candy to become a celebrity or to build international bridges.  He dropped candy because he saw little, hungry children who loved and appreciated what he could give.

I think his story is remarkable.  He is a member of our church, but I had no idea he was Lieutenant Wiggle Wings until a few weeks ago.  He is a snow-bird–he spends only part of the year in sunny Arizona.  
When I heard his story I felt uplifted.  It made me smile.  

I thought of those little children looking up into the sky with hope in their hearts. Do we look heavenward with hope? This world would be a pretty bleak place if we lost hope and faith in our Heavenly Father who blesses us with what we need–usually not candy bars.
There is a hymn in our hymnbook:  Come O Thou King of Kings, we’ve waited long for Thee, with healing in thy wings, to set thy people free. . . .

I thought of those small children waiting for the American pilots who dropped candy from their airplanes, and I wondered if we feel that sense of anticipation as we wait for the Savior that those children felt knowing a treat would soon float down out of the sky. Lt. Halvorsen exemplified some of the Christlike qualities that we might seek. It is through love and service that God’s miracles are performed. 

and it is through the examples of others that we learn and remember to reach out to those around us. Thanks Lieutenant!!

 

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About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States"--Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico, Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona, and Cochise College in Nogales, Arizona. She and her husband travel extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, and have spent many summers in the remote highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala with their family. Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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