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Chapman honors two who came to Berlin’s aid after World War II

November 5, 2010

  Two men who lightened the lives of Berlin’s children in the post-war years – a candy dropping airman and a baseball-loving Army private — will come together for a one-of-a-kind event at Chapman University Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen signs autographs for children at a recent appearance. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales)

 Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen, the world-famous “Berlin Candy Bomber,” who sweetened the lives of nearly 100,000 children during the Berlin Blockade by dropping tons of candy into the city, will be a guest speaker along with retired Sgt. Maj. Earl Albers, who ventured off base to teach baseball to Berlin youths, at “Berlin 1948: The Candy Bomber, the Baseball Sergeant and the Airlift That Saved a City” at 5 p.m. in Liberty Plaza, where Chapman’s own piece of the Berlin Wall is displayed. (The event joins other Veterans Day-themed programs at Chapman, including the world premiere of Andrew Carroll’s If All the Sky Were Paper, a play that brings wartime letters to life and Remembering World War I, a poetry reading and lecture.) 

Halvorsen has been honored twice in the White House for his heroic post WWII flights, bringing food and rations to the citizens of West Berlin who were starving during the Russian blockade. His trademark flights included tiny “parachutes” of candy, gleaned from his U.S. rations and those of fellow pilots. His book, The Berlin Candy Bomber, will be on display.

Albers, then a World War II-era soldier, plays chess with a German boy at a recreation center he helped create in Berlin.

 Albers broke the non-fraternization policy imposed on American soldiers after World War II by teaching a group of children in Berlin to play baseball. Instead of disciplining him for violating the policy, however, the commander of American zone in Germany, Gen. Lucius D. Clay, assigned Albers to form and run a youth club. Albers’ work attracted the support of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, which led to a massive care package campaign and donations of $87,000 for the children’s needs.

Some of the children Albers helped are expected to be in attendance Wednesday, thanks to Karen Gallagher, a visiting assistant professor of German at Chapman. Gallagher’s  mother, Doris Hillenbrand, was a young girl whose move to the United States was sponsored by a U.S. newspaperman after reading of Albers work.

Albers and Halvorsen will be honored with special commendations from the university at the ceremony and a reception will follow at 6 p.m. in the Malloy Performance Portico of Leatherby Libraries.

The event, sponsored by Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences,  is free and open to the public. In the event of rain, the 5 p.m. ceremony will take place in the Bush Conference Center, Beckman Hall 404.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Monty Mickle permalink
    May 30, 2011 6:41 pm

    God bless Col. Halversen. Could US service men and women do
    the same in Iraq and Afganistan to win the hearts of people
    there? As a father myself, I know that the best way to win
    over anyone is to show kindness to their children.

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