Operation Vittles was the official name for the Berlin Airlift. In parallel, a less urgent mission was brought underway, targeting the children of the war-ravaged city. Many crew members of the C-47 and C-54 transport planes supplying the city with everything from coal to candles took to dropping small packages with little treats such as chocolate and chewing gum over the city for children to find before landing at Tempelhof airport. The Airlift and its Rosinenbombers ("raisin bombers") created an aviation and humanitarian legend which may never find its equal.
An American airman, Gail Halvorsen, is credited with starting what the Americans called the "Candy Bombers" by taking his chocolate and chewing gum rations and attaching them to parachutes made of handkerchiefs in what he called "Operation Little Vittles." He was soon joined by the rest of his squadron and eventually supplied with sweets by the American Confectioners Association and little "parachutes" by schoolchildren in the States. Altogether, the 100.000 children in Berlin at the time were presented with about 250.000 items in this way. The appearance of the "Chocolate Flyer" or "Uncle Waggle-Wing," as the kids would nickname the planes because of the way they "waved," was the highlight of many a kid's day in the Berlin of 1949.
A preserved four-engine DC-4 aircraft which took part in the airlift stands on the north side of the airport, near the airlift monument. A monument in its own right, the plane, known to locals simply as the Rosinenbomber, is an emotional item for old-time Berliners for whom the drone of a plane over their city block often made their day as children during times of hardship and uncertainty. Another plane which took part in the operation, a British Hastings T 5, stood at Gatow airport since its retirement in the 1970s and is now in a museum.
Operation Little Vittles, as much as the airlift itself, is one of the things that has given the United States a special place in the memory of Berlin and its people.