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Graphics that needed more thought

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I really don’t think that the people who developed this little graphic for Pride Month applied enough thinking to it.

But then you need an awareness of the wider world and a sense of history to do that.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 15, 2021 at 7:33 pm

Posted in History, Islam, Middle East

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War as Art

I don’t know much about Japan’s history outside of WWII but it seems that the following battle was a pretty big deal, on a par with the consequences for Britain of the Battle of Hastings, and for Europe with the Battle of Tours.

The consequences meaning how the societies were permanently changed. Large battles such as Agincourt, Trafalgar, and even Waterloo were huge and important, but I don’t think Britain or Europe would have been as fundamentally changed as they were after the first two battles listed above, or as much as Japan was changed by Sekigahara:

One of the most important wars in Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara took place during the Sengoku period on October 21, 1600, in what is now Gifu prefecture. All told, 160,000 men faced each other; the samurai warriors of Tokugawa Ieyasu against a coalition of Toyotomi loyalist clans.

The Tokugawa troops won, leading to the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan for another two and a half centuries until 1868.

In Japan there’s even a rough equivalent to the Bayeux Tapestry, with a huge wall-sized screen painting of the battle, which can be seen at this link to My Modern Met:

But that article is actually about a Japanese artist who has animated the huge picture:

Inspired by this moment in history, Shigeta based his artwork on an ancient, multi-panel screen that depicts the battle. The original artwork was made in the 1620s and belonged to the Lord Ii of Hikone. A replica made in 1854 illustrates the details of the bloody battle, and even in its still composition, there’s the sense of movement. Shigeta further brings the scene to life by transforming the 19th-century painting into a digitally animated loop.

It’s “only” 1m27s long (there are hours of work involved in producing even 1 second of such computer animation), but you have to watch it repeatedly to see the details.

(UPDATE: Met link corrected)

Written by Tom Hunter

May 27, 2021 at 9:13 am

Posted in History

Tagged with

The Power of Glamour

I’m shamelessly using the title of this book, which I would recommend you read even if you can’t stand the fashion industry- perhaps especially if you can’t stand it.

For the simple fact is that our societies are driven as much by these ephemeral things as by the literal nuts, bolts and electronics of our technological world.

From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force. Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.

The post I put up the other day on cleverly painted water towers reminded me of a couple of other such things that I’ve come across recently.

First up is the emergence of a very rare turbine-powered Chrysler car from the 1960’s.

The 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car was one of 55 that were built to evaluate the use of turbine engines as part of an automobile powertrain and given to real-world drivers for short loans.

The thought was that a relatively simple, smooth operating engine that could run on a variety of fuels would offer a reliable and efficient alternative to piston engines, but poor emissions and fuel economy doomed it to the history books after a couple of years of testing.

All but nine of the cars were sent to the crusher after the project was complete in 1966. Chrysler kept two, five were sent to museums and two ended up in private hands.

Not surprisingly, car nut, Jay Leno, (former host of The Tonight Show back when it had mass appeal) owns one, but the second privately owned one is back on the market for the first time in decades.

It looks very cool on these shots although if you click on the link you’ll see that the front view is not so great: obviously YMMV. But the inside is just gorgeous, right down to the “turbine look” in the centre console.

As crazy as it might have sounded originally, turbines have been used to power other machines, perhaps most notably the US Abrams Tank.

It’s no coincidence that Chrysler was the original manufacturer of the Abrams.

Despite turbines only really being effective when they’re running at constant speed the big advantage is that they can burn any fuel, which was one inspiration for the turbine car. But as the article notes, they’re fuel hogs. The Abrams uses 10 gallons (38 litres) just to start up and the same per hour when idling.

I suppose there are people – likely military people – who find the Abrams glamorous.

The other piece on this subject that I ran across arose from a criticism by Senator Cruz of the Harris-Biden Administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Cruz said that they cared more about the people of Paris than Pittsburgh.

It’s the usual soundbite alliteration beloved by politicians and it rather annoyed right-wing writer Claire Berlinski (There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters), who lives in Paris and took Cruz to task for his populist shout-out:

An American writer named James Lileks, who lives in the Mid-West, acknowledges what Cruz was doing but then gently points out to Berlinski that there are two cities called Paris; the one she loves and defends and …. the newer Paris.

I’m sure there’s some lovely modern architecture in Paris. Few people go to Paris to seek it out. Only the die-hard architectural masochists feel required to make a pilgrimage to the Pompideu HVAC Museum:

I recall reading all the gushing guff published in the 1980’s when this thing was opened: about its “challenging”, “shocking” and (of course) “revolutionary” design. People go to see what’s inside, where it’s not at all like this. But they don’t go to admire the building.

Then there’s the Mitterand Library. The four buildings stand like open books, which is nice. They have a serene, spare quality, and also would not be out of place as the HQ for the advanced species that has colonized earth, eliminated 92% of the population, and now rules with a gentle hand because the survivors know the death rays strike without warning or sound.

Which brings me to this Paris concert hall, and the idea of Europe as synonymous with Grandeur And Splendor Which True Murcans Must Reject.

Do you get the sense of some alien creature blindly advancing on the city, its tentacles dripping with silvery ichor?

Of course it’s likely that there are people who do find these structures glamorous, in the same manner of an Abrams Tank.

Lileks finishes up his piece by pointing out what such things may mean for French society, in the context of Berlinski’s remark about what Cruz’s remarks mean for American society:

She’s right about Paris being the seat of arts and culture. Paris is beautiful, but its beauty is an artifact of its past.

Which brings me back to the idea Claire expressed: the sentiments she gleaned from the remark about the values of the Parisian elect “are not the mark of a healthy and self-confident society.” I think one could say the same about the structure above. It doesn’t just reject the norms and forms of history; it erases them and insists they never were.

Perhaps these are the marks of a society that loathes itself – either for what it was, which it feels was characterized by iniquities and inequities, or for what it is, which is not as great as it used to be when we were awesome. The contradiction can drive one barmy.

You can’t unmoor Parisians from the past, but you can dissolve the bonds that carry the past into the future. The city becomes a bustling pretty crypt, full of altars to gods no one believes in.

What’s left as a belief system? Statism, Art – which is either ancestor worship or institutionally “disruptive” modernism – and the notion of the Perfected Future, in which men in suits and their severe but glamorous wives go to structures like the one above and sit through a twelve-tone opera with a blank face

Written by Tom Hunter

May 13, 2021 at 11:36 am

Posted in Art, Europe, History, Humour, Ideologues, Technology, USA

Tagged with

We shall defend our Island…

Not a headline I expected to see in the early 21st century.

Apparently it’s something to do with fishing vessels

A Franco-British feud over access to prime fishing waters escalated on Thursday as the two countries deployed patrol and navy ships near the Channel island of Jersey.

Access to Britain’s rich fishing waters was a major sticking point in post-Brexit talks. A transition period was agreed in which EU fishermen would give up 25 percent of their current quotas — the equivalent of 650 million euros per year — in 2026. The deal would then be renegotiated every year.

Until then, EU vessels have access to an area between six to 12 nautical miles from Britain’s coast, but they have to ask for new licenses.

This is where things got complicated.

The French side says London acted outside of the deal by tightening conditions for access to UK waters

Basically a repeat of the Great Cod War of the mid-1970’s then. Not until reading that Wiki did I realise that there had been similar stoushes in the early 1970’s and 1958-1961.

It seems the French are already turning to the comfort of land warfare, where they have a history of far more success against the British than at sea:

“We’re ready to resort to retaliatory measures” that are in the Brexit accord, Girardin told lawmakers in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“Concerning Jersey, I’ll remind you of the transport of electricity via submarine cables,” she added. “I would regret it if we have to do it, but we’ll do it if we have to.”

Anyway, I don’t think we should treat this as entirely funny because, as the great Edmund Blackadder once said:

Doesn’t anyone know? We hate the French! We fight wars against them!

Did all those men die in vain on the field at Agincourt?

Was the man who burned Joan of Arc simply wasting good matches?

Written by Tom Hunter

May 10, 2021 at 5:32 pm

Shakespeare in Heaven

Walter Mondale died a few days ago at the age of 93. A good innings by any standard.

Most people, perhaps even quite a few political tragics, would be unaware of Mondale, but he was fairly prominent part of the modern Democrat Party, rising to prominence from the mid-1960’s on as a Senator before serving as Vice-President in Jimmy Carter’s doomed administration.

He would then go on to run for the Presidency in 1984, where his Old Democrat ideas surrounding unions and taxation were soundly thrashed in a landslide loss to Ronald Reagan. After that he basically disappeared into the world of good works that used to be the destination of politicians, before the world of Washington D.C. influence and power-broking became the norm.

You can read about Mondale at the first link, which is Wikipedia, but it’s this article in McSweeny’s Magazine, riffing on Mondale’s death, that I thought you might find amusing. Mondale gets to heaven where he encounters The Bard and commits a gigantic faux pa:

So, Walter Mondale shows up in heaven the other day, and I’m all eager to talk to him because I’m kind of a political junkie — see Richard III — but before I can say anything, he’s like, “So?” And I’m like, “So, what?” And then he goes, “So, did you really write them?” And I’m like, “Write what?”

The writer has some fun with the well-known arguments around Shakespeare:

You guys weren’t going to tell me this? How has nobody ever mentioned this to me?

I look over, and Christopher Marlowe is giving Mondale that “stop talking” throat slash gesture thingy, but it’s too late. Apparently, whenever anyone shows up in heaven, someone pulls them aside and is like, “Don’t mention the Shakespeare authorship thing to you-know-you.”

But no one caught Mondale slipping in ’cause they all thought he was already dead. Fair enough. I thought he was dead too.

And then Shakespeare really gets pissed off:

So first of all, fuck that. Do you think it takes a long time to watch Hamlet? Try writing it. In verse. Also, when has this insane theory ever been applied anywhere else? “Gee, Hamilton was great. I bet Prince Charles really wrote that, not Lin-Manuel Miranda.” Or, “Fleabag was fun. I bet Sir Ringo Starr was behind that.” I mean, my name was on the marquee! 

Read the whole thing

Written by Tom Hunter

April 29, 2021 at 3:06 pm

The Harvest has passed (but we are not saved)

So that’s it. The last of the maize has been chopped and dropped into bunkers, pits and stacks all across the Waikato.

I’ve finished my first, and likely my last season, on the harvesting teams. As always with such work it seems that time has run much faster than a start last September factually shows. About the only slow period was in January as the huge machines were prepped for the coming chore and eyes closely watched the growing maize to pick the right time for gathering.

This time of year has always been celebrated, so let’s start with Bruegel’s classic from 1565.

Which painting inspires me that I should throw a Harvest Party for the men and woman I’ve worked with these long months.

At least those who remain. As things have wound down in the last two weeks the departures have gathered pace, as people leave for the fields of Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Britain and Ireland. The only exception to such destinations has been one guy who has left for the Mt Isa mines in Australia, where he will laughingly swap the little twenty ton crates he’s been driving here for two hundred ton dump trucks – for vastly greater money too.

This harvest has also reminded me of this incredible story from The Smithsonian Magazine of a Russian family that was isolated for forty years in a part of Siberia where they were 150miles from any other humans. They were only discovered in 1978 by a geology team exploring the area with helicopters, and even then spotting them was a fluke in the rugged valleys:

But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

A team was sent in on foot to investigate and what they found was even more astonishing than the cleared garden.

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.”

And that was before the atheist Bolsheviks got stuck in:

Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

But it was this part of the story that I was reminded of as we packed away thousands of tonnes of chopped maize:

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation.

The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

Is that not astonishing? To be so much on the razors edge of life.

As of today only one member of the family survives, Agafia, now in her seventies but still living in the same place, with her God and her loved ones beneath the tiaga. But read the whole incredible story.

I’ll leave this with one more harvest image, this one from America, specifically Winslow Homer, and the description of it by one critic:

Homer’s canvas depicts a farmer at work, his back to us, his concentration focused on the work. The discarded jacket, knapsack and canteen reveal him to be a Union war veteran. His old-fashioned scythe evokes the Grim Reaper, recalling the war’s harvest of death.

But to counter that we have the golden field, the blue sky and the bountiful wheat being gathered in. This powerful image references both life and death – a meditation on a country’s sacrifices but also its potential for recovery.

Even though I’d merely filled some gaps in the workforce created by our country’s sacrifices during the pandemic I was asked the other day if I’d be returning next season, but I explained that I’m a very lazy man and they all work too hard for me. However, I’m sure that won’t affect our national recovery.

See also:

172
Rain and Newton’s Laws
Big Toys for Old Boys

Written by Tom Hunter

April 23, 2021 at 11:03 am

Posted in History

Tagged with , ,

172

Hours that is. One hundred and seventy two hours is what shows up in my last fortnightly pay slip for the agricultural contractor I work for.

I finally have a Sunday off. A beautiful, lovely, empty Sunday after twenty consecutive days of 5am wake ups and 11pm bedtimes.

Others have more hours and I’m informed by those who’ve worked here for several years that two hundred plus hours per fortnight is a more normal harvesting season. We assume that it’s because we’ve had a long stretch of fine weather and started a little earlier than usual, so the load has been more spread out than in the past. The boys – and most of them are boys – are not happy about this since such incredible hours are a bonus on top of their other income earned on random jobs during the rest of the year. Without such work, times would be tough.

I’d probably be working longer hours were I on the chopper crews (maize chopping) that use tractors and trailers. Suitable only for short road runs from chop site to stack site, those drivers work deep into the night to get the job done.

By contrast my crews are all trucks because we’re serving customers located fifty kms or more away from the chop sites. The hours are limited by truck driving regulations: a thirty minute break after five-and-a-half hours driving; a ten hour break after thirteen hour driving; a twenty four hour rest break after seventy hours. The thirteen hour daily limit means that they have to be off the road by 7 or 8pm, having started at 6 or 7am – and “off the road” counts even when they’re being driven home by someone else.

Of course my specific work, and those of other members of the crews, like the chopper and stack tractor drivers, means that I’m still left with a one-two hour pack up and commute routine, but at least I’m getting home before midnight.

An alternative title for this post would be: “Rabid capitalist discovers the joy of government regulations” ! I doubt we’ll ever see a union though.

The technology may have changed but harvest has always been intense. I recommend a relatively unknown New Zealand book called Nearly Out Of Heart and Hope”, by the New Zealand historian Miles Fairburn.

It’s based on the 800,000 word diary crafted by one James Cox, an itinerant labourer who came to New Zealand in 1880 and died in 1925. The title of the book is one of the phrases he occasionally used when things were dark. Here’s a short sample of the dairy itself, which he wrote every night for thirty seven years, crafted by candlelight with pencil on little strips of paper (not being able to buy sheets) which he then folded up into tiny booklets:

“my shoes are got very bad… I have only one shirt I can wear, nearly worn out so I am in an evil case and cannot get either money or goods from the firm. Most of the fellows… are getting doubtful if they will get their wages at all. The firm appears to be nearly bankrupt.” 

After an even lower period of poverty in 1892/93, during which he took to the roads as a “swagger”, he found new work:

Things improved a little in 1894 when he found work with a Carterton agricultural contractor. He worked on traction engines harvesting grain until 1902. This was a harsh and unreliable form of work which was anything but romantic.

That sentence barely covers the raw detail provided by Cox himself and the more concise descriptions of such work by Fairburn: unrelenting days of tough physical effort in the heat and dust of Wairarapa summers with no showers at the end and just a shared tent with the other unwashed men. I get to return to a solid home and a hot shower and food, such are the wonders of the modern world. By comparison to that man I’m just slumming it.

James Cox

The book quotes only those portions of the diary that Fairburn can use to make his points, like any good historian. He struggles most of all with why this well-educated, sober and hard-working man never advanced his life beyond such toil. He was probably more suited to clerical work but he could have been in charge of the crews, indeed he was offered such work by his employer, yet for some unknown reason he did it only reluctantly and occasionally. He didn’t like it.

I think the reason Fairburn struggles is that he is trying to imposing rationality on yet another irrational human being (rational humans are the basis of economics and much other social science). When he turns to examining the ideology of the times and how it may have worked in the mind of Cox he fares little better. Niether does the sympathetic reviewer:

His account of the way in which the potent and pervasive Victorian ideology of self-help shut off opportunity for Cox is the best piece so far written in New Zealand on the way in which ideas influenced individual behaviour. Cox never realized that hard work and self-discipline were insufficient means of climbing out of the poverty trap.

Once he recognized that failure was probably a permanent state from about 1893, he maintained the code as a way of ordering his life and reinforcing his sense of superiority over ‘rough’ workmen. It seems that ideology not only justified the success of winners in the social laboratory: it also shaped the actions of losers.

I agree that hard work and self-discipline are not enough on their own. But the unspoken assumption of that reviewer is that they’re not really necessary either if those implied other factors exist: presumably things like unionised wage rates, unemployment benefits, free healthcare and other social welfare assistance (housing!).

In fact without self-discipline and the ability to work hard all those other things will also be found to be “insufficient” for lifting up the James Cox’s of the world. I think we’re seeing that around us every day.

No, in Cox’s case, despite all his admirable qualities, there was a strange seed in his mind that prevented him from rising and doing better in the world. Nothing that any government could have done would have changed that.

… labour reforms which also helped earn New Zealand the title of a ‘social laboratory’ apparently did not reach much beyond city limits and brought little help to Cox. Fairburn wonders if Cox was unusual but the reader is left with the feeling that many New Zealanders on low wages have long struggled to do little more than survive, and ended their days without savings or assets.

The sad and terrible truth I see every day is that this is still the case almost a century after James Cox departed this world.

This is his grave in the Greytown Cemetery and it was unmarked until 2013 when a Wairarapa historian, Adele Pentony-Graham, paid to have his headstone installed, “I felt it was the least I could do for him,” she said.

So say we all.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 28, 2021 at 9:30 pm

It’s just…

There’s the oft-told example given about how a frog dropped into a pot of boiling water will leap out in order to survive but will contentedly allow itself to die in the pot as long as the water is only slowly heated.

Although it’s a useful metaphor about the human inability or unwillingness to react to sinister threats that arise gradually rather than suddenly, the story is almost certainly false, despite 19th century experiments that seemed to prove it. That wiki link also lists similar metaphors:

  • Camel’s Nose
  • Creeping normality
  • Salami tactics
  • First they came …
  • Shifting baseline
  • Slippery slope
  • Sorites paradox
  • Gaslighting

Perhaps the following category should be added to Wikipedia as “It’s just…”, since that seems to have become a common saying.

Written by Tom Hunter

February 7, 2021 at 11:19 am

On Liberty

An interesting article from Roger Kimball about concepts of liberty in the ancient and modern world.

The article itself extends from reading an essay written in 1819 by a Swiss-born French writer, Benjamin Constant, where he compared the then “modern” with the ancient.

One of the first things that struck me about Constant’s essay was its optimism (“naïveté” would not be the right word for so nuanced a thinker). With the carnage of the Napoleonic wars still fresh in Europe’s memory, Constant nonetheless assured his readers that he discerned a “uniform tendency towards peace.” The imperatives of war, he thought, must at last give way to the subtler though ultimately more efficacious imperatives of commerce. “[A]n age must come,” he argued, “in which commerce replaces war. We have reached this age.”

Ha! As Kimball notes:

Tell that to the Kaiser, to Hitler and Stalin, to Mao, Pol Pot, and Ho Chi Minh, not to mention all the ayatollahs, imams, and African butchers who succeeded them!

But Constant’s essay sounds pretty modern in the 21st century as he explores a paradox:

Individual liberty, I repeat, is the true modern liberty. Political liberty is its guarantee, consequently political liberty is indispensable. But to ask the peoples of our day to sacrifice, like those of the past, the whole of their individual liberty to political liberty, is the surest means of detaching them from the former and, once this result has been achieved, it would be only too easy to deprive them of the latter.“…

[Some people] would like to reconstitute the new social state with a small number of elements which, they say, are alone appropriate to the situation of the world today.”

“These elements are prejudices to frighten men, egoism to corrupt them, frivolity to stupefy them, gross pleasures to degrade them, despotism to lead them; and, indispensably, constructive knowledge and exact sciences to serve despotism the more adroitly.”

Kimball notes that

“Modern totalitarians, those of a soft as well as those of a harder disposition, have understood and exploited this paradox.”

Read the whole thing, as well as Constant’s two hundred year old essay:

The danger of modern liberty is that, absorbed in the enjoyment of our private independence, and in the pursuit of our particular interests, we should surrender our right to share in political power too easily. The holders of authority are only too anxious to encourage us to do so. They are so ready to spare us all sort of troubles, except those of obeying and paying! They will say to us: what, in the end, is the aim of your efforts, the motive of your labors, the object of all your hopes? Is it not happiness? Well, leave this happiness to us and we shall give it to you.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 28, 2020 at 9:21 am

Candy Bombing without Reindeer

It’s not exactly Santa Claus overflying children and dropping sweet goodies but to the kids of West Berlin in 1948 it must have seemed like it.

The story began with Stalin’s decision to try and lock the Western WWII Allies, France, Britain and the USA, out of the city of Berlin, which lay well inside the domain of East Germany, controlled by the USSR. Stalin’s idea was to starve Berlin into submission by cutting off all road and rail access from West Germany.

But he could not close the skies, and had apparently not realised that the gigantic air fleets of the West were not yet in the scrapyard. Thus was born the Berlin Airlift, which, when it started on June 26, 1948, aimed to bring in 3,475 tones of supplies each day to keep the city alive. By the Spring of 1949 it was bringing in 12,941 tons per day.

Berliners watch a Douglas C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

The Soviets gave up the blockade on May 12, but just in case they were playing a trick the Allies kept the air lift going until September 30, 1949:

The US Air Force had delivered 1,783,573 tons (76.40% of total) and the RAF 541,937 tons (23.30% of total), totalling 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.

The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92,000,000 miles (148,000,000 km) in the process, almost the distance from the Earth to the Sun. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

One of those pilots was Gail S. “Hal” Halvorsen, and the other day he turned 100 years old.

Halvorsen was 27 years old and a WWII vet. During one of his many, early trips to Berlin he’d got to recognise some of the local kids who would crowd the American pilots seeking candy and cigarettes.

But their access to the airport and the pilots was limited so Halvorsen made a deal with them. On his approach he told them he’d wiggle his wings — a sign that he and his crew were about to throw several small parachutes from his plane filled with chocolate and gum. He did not ask for permission because he knew US Army bureaucracy. But those wheels grind slowly and so came the day…

On his return from Berlin, he was told that Col. James R. Haun, the commanding officer of Rhein-Main Airbase, wanted to see him in his office.

Here, Halvorsen, sitting in his Provo backyard and wearing the same uniform he wore back then, picks up the narrative.

“‘Halvorsen,’ the colonel asked when I came in his office, ‘What in the world have you been doing?’

“‘Flying like mad, sir,’ I told him.

“‘I’m not stupid. What else have you been doing?’”

Here, Halvorsen pauses for effect.

“That’s when I knew they knew. I got chewed out real good,” he says before flashing his trademark smile. “But at the end, the colonel said, ‘That’s a good idea. Keep doing it. But keep me informed.’”

In the space of a year Halvorsen and others dropped about 21 tons of candy to the kids around Tempelhof Airport.

Asked for the secret to living a long time, he says he’s not sure what that is. He has more to say about the keys to a happy life, however. “Always have something to do,” the Candy Bomber advises. “And watch for things you can do that make a difference.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 23, 2020 at 11:16 am

Posted in Aerospace, History, USA

Tagged with ,