TODAY

TODAY   |  December 24, 2013

‘Candy Bomber’ recounts WWII charitable efforts

The story of American pilot Gail Halvorsen, who put smiles on the faces of many German children after WWII by delivering candy from his plane, has become a children’s book. NBC’s Jenna Bush Hager reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the holidays of course are a time of giving and you never know how one simple act of kindness can change a life.

>> a new children's book, christmas from heaven recounts the remarkable story of one man whose generosity may have helped change the course of history. here's today's contributing corr address spontaneous correspondence jenna bush -hager.

>> his job was to supply food and on that night, flying into berlin , he might as well have been santa himself.

>> i had that big load in the back and just so thrilled to know that those kids that christmas eve would have something to remember that was special.

>> reporter: but the story really began six months before at berlin 's templehof airport.

>> i was standing on the end of the run way and suddenly on the other side of the bashed wire about 30 children came up in front of me.

>> reporter: the german kids were hungry and thankful too for the food and friendship.

>> flour, dried eggs, dried potatoes and that was too tasty. they loved it.

>> reporter: touched by their gratitude he wanted to give more.

>> i reached in the right pocket and all was two sticks of gum. they hadn't had chocolate for years.

>> reporter: he made a deal that when he would fly into berlin he would drop candy out of the plane. they had one question.

>> we got to know the airplane and i said we'll wiggle the wings.

>> reporter: what did they call you?

>> the wiggley wing.

>> reporter: for safe delivery he rigged up tiny versions of a pilot's best friend, the parachute.

>> the next morning, looked down there 30 skids in the bunch. every week they were out there. next week, do it again.

>> reporter: eventually word spread back to the united states . candy manufacturers pitched in and when all was said and done americans provided 23 tons of candy for their former enemies.

>> on christmas eve 1948 .

>> reporter: a story has inspired many, including our own tom brokaw who narrated the book with the mormon tabernacle choir .

>> these children were in such a destitute state. along they come and show another side of the american face and what they did was not just distribute candy, but they turned history around.

>> the wounds of war began to heal.

>> reporter: today he is a spry 93 years old and still suits up for air shows spreading his message of giving. and on this christmas eve , he says the memories of that night 65 years ago have stayed with him always.

>> gravity's good.

>> reporter: do you think about the faces of those kids?

>> i never forget them. my great grandkids now, hear their chatter and i see the kids at the barbed wire fence and think how lucky can you be.

>> jenna bush -hager, nbc news, new york.

>> what a great story. tom brokaw wanted us to point out at this moment to remember what he had been through, a depression, the world war and the cold war and yet his proudest moment was the candy bomber . bringing joy to little kids.

>> i love how tom puts it, showing another side to the american face. that's an amazing message.

>> did you see the look on his face as they recreated that? you can see tom brokaw narrate the story tonight on pbs. check your local listings.