(L-R) Art Laneau, Maynard Hill, Neil Armstrong,
and Paul Boyer, at the Dallas Nats at the Naval
Air Reserve Station in 1964.
Marc Niehus and his mother, Gerda, pose with Marc’s 1/6-scale replica of a USAF C- 47 decorated
in honor of American pilots who dropped candy to children in Berlin during the Soviet blockade
and ensuing Berlin Airlift. Gerda was one of the children who caught candy dropped by Lt. Gail S.
Halvorsen, also known as Uncle Wiggly Wings. The candy bombers and Gerda were honored at the
Iowa City Aerohawks 21st Radio Controlled Airshow, September 8, 2013.
Model Aeronautics Division of
the Hobby Industry Association of
America, and helped secure the AMA
a free booth at its annual trade show
in Chicago. Art and AMA officials
met with manufacturers and others
and to convince them to support the
In his lifetime, Art served as a single-engine Navy fighter pilot during World
War II, was president of Ambroid
Company from 1952-1970, was named
an AMA Fellow in 1966, and was
inducted into the AMA Model Aviation
Hall of Fame in 1996. He lived with his
wife, Pauline, in Florida until his death.
The Candy Bomber
Things were tough in West Berlin
in the summer of 1948. The Soviets
blocked all roads and railroads leading to
the three Western-held sectors of Berlin.
To provide food and other necessities of
life to the stranded people, the U.S. Air
Force (USAF) began an aerial supply
operation, which became known as
the Berlin Airlift. For 462 days, planes
flew to Tempelhof Airport in Berlin,
loaded with food, clothing, even coal.
Local children flocked to the fence
surrounding the airport to watch the
planes land and take off again.
One pilot, Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen,
walked out to the fence one day while
his plane was being unloaded and met
some of the children, who asked him
for candy. He only had a few pieces of
gum on him, which he gave with the
promise he would drop them some from
his plane on his next trip. He told them
they would know it was him because he
would “wiggle” his wings.
On his next flight, the pilot wiggled
his wings as he approached the runway,
and had the flight engineer push three
bundles of candy out of the plane. The
bundles were attached to homemade
parachutes crafted out of handkerchiefs.
Halvorsen had no way of knowing if the
bundles reached their target or drifted
off to parts unknown, until he took
off and saw the children waving three
handkerchiefs. Lt. Halvorsen continued
to drop candy and became known as
“Uncle Wiggly Wings” to the children.
Among the growing crowds of
children was a young girl named Gerda.
Eventually she moved to the United
States and had a son named Marc.
Marc Niehus, a resident of Coralville
[Iowa], grew up to become a
professional pilot and a member of the
Iowa City Aerohawks, a radio-controlled
(RC) model airplane club. Each year the
club puts on an airshow for the public,
with a candy drop for the children in
attendance. However, strong winds
scrubbed that flight during their show
on Sunday, Sept. 8. The club was also
going to pay tribute to the original candy
drop, flown by Lt. Halvorsen so many
Niehus spent a year or so building a
1/6-scale RC replica of a USAF Military
Air Transport Service C- 47 cargo plane,
one of several types of aircraft utilized in
the famous airlift. He gave it a custom
paint job honoring Halvorsen with teal,
red, and black striping to coincide with
the ribbon airmen were awarded for
the humanitarian mission. A special tail
decal commemorates the Berlin Airlift
with German and American flags, and
the name “Rosinenbomber” is spelled out
along the fuselage. Translated, it means
“Raisin Bomber,” or “sweets (candy)
With the wind creating a dangerous
crosswind-landing situation for the fragile
aircraft, Niehus wasn’t able to fly the
beast, which features a fully detailed
cockpit with pilot and co-pilot and
pallets stacked in the cargo area. Instead,
the plane was wheeled to the center of
the main runway and Gerda was brought
out from the crowd to stand with Marc
and the plane, while Richard VeDepo
read the story of the candy bomber.
As a round of applause echoed across
the wind-swept field, mother and son
The Aerohawks, not wanting their
younger guests denied a sweet treat,
hand-tossed the candy that would’ve
been dropped by the RC plane around
the south end of the field before turning
the youngsters loose to scoop up the
The bottom line: pilots have a sweet
spot for kids.
Courtesy of the Solon Economist
12 Model Aviation APRIL 2014