- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - The 15 students in Laura Lockyear’s ninth grade English class at Reitz High School thought they were outside to talk about an upcoming final.

Then, all of a sudden, it started raining chocolate candy bars attached to mini parachutes. A handful of students started scrambling to catch them or snatch them up from their landing spot before the others even realized what was happening.

Lockyear’s two freshmen English classes have been reading and studying about the United States Air Force pilot nicknamed “The Candy Bomber.” The story is about Col. Gail S. “Hal” Halvorsen and his mission to lift the spirits of children in West Berlin, Germany, in the late 1940s by dropping chocolate bars and gum tied to handkerchiefs from his airplane.

After World War II, the U.S. and Britain airlifted food to West Berlin because it was blocked off by the Soviet Union. Halvorsen’s event was eventually called Operation Little Vittles. The American public also jumped on board and donated two tankers full of chocolate and handkerchiefs for the Berlin children.

With Veterans Day coming up and to re-enact the historic event, Reitz media specialist Robert Hammonds played the role of Halvorsen and surprised Lockyear’s students by dropping mini Hershey’s chocolate parachutes Thursday from the roof of Reitz, The Evansville Courier & Press reported (https://bit.ly/1zmlKJu ).

It didn’t last long, but after it was over Lockyear asked her students how they felt. Most of them chimed in that they were excited and they love chocolate.

“Can you imagine what the children in Berlin felt?” Lockyear asked her students. “They had no food. You were excited, and you just ate lunch.”

“I just saw chocolate, and it was like my whole life flashing before my eyes … I would take a bullet for chocolate,” Philip Diaz said.

Diaz, 14, chased down five of the chocolate parachutes. While he was eager to eat the candy, Diaz did acknowledge how special it was that “The Candy Bomber” did this for kids in Germany.

This is the first year Lockyear and Hammonds have done “The Candy Bomber” re-enactment for students. Hammonds did it once Thursday morning and again for Lockyear’s afternoon class. She estimated between 50 and 60 candy parachutes were dropped.

After seeing an article about Halvorsen for the online reading program Achieve 3000, Lockyear said she wanted her students to know about the event. She also has a personal connection to Halvorsen because she and her son met and heard his story 11 years ago in Houston, Texas.

She hoped the re-enactment was special for her pupils.

“My (students) said that it was incredible that this man promised to do something and then the U.S. supported him,” Lockyear said.

She was also pleased the reading lesson incorporated other Reitz staff and academic subjects.

“I think that just making the connections between reading and history, and collaborating with staff members such as Mr. Hammonds and the history department really is phenomenal for students,” Lockyear said. “Because now when they go to history class they’re going to be excited about it, and they’re going to talk about it.”

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, https://www.courierpress.com

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