Dagie’s Story: The Candy Bomber connection
Dagmar with her children Linda, left, Barbara and Danny. Contributed photo
Story by Jen Bookhout

    Editor’s note: Last month East Wichita News told the story of Dagmar Snodgrass’ separation and reunion with her family in World War II Germany. Her storie contnues her. See Part I online at www.eastwichitanews.com.
    On Christmas Eve, 80-year-old Dagmar Snodgrass settled into her spare bedroom to watch the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance on TV. Suddenly, her childhood hero, a man she’d never laid eyes on, took the stage.
    “I just cried,” Snodgrass said. “I sat there and looked at him standing there in his uniform talking about what he did in Berlin, and it brought me right back to 1947, ’48, ’49.”
    There, on her screen, stood Colonel Gail Halverson, better known as the Candy Bomber. During the supply airlift in Berlin, Germany, after World War II, Halverson began dropping small pieces of candy attached to handkerchiefs for the children of Berlin.

Candy Bomber Connection
    Fourteen-year-old Dagie Weiss shuffled down the street in Berlin, glancing down at her feet as she ran errands for her mother. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a filthy, crumpled handkerchief stomped into the ground.
    It resembled the handkerchiefs that regularly dropped from the sky, but Dagie didn’t dare get her hopes up. She reached for the trampled cloth, and tied to the end was a small piece of chocolate, still protected in its wrapper.
    “For me it was like a gift that I knew came down from the sky, and I knew who dropped it. It was ‘Uncle Wiggly Wings,’ the Candy Bomber. He dropped that, and that piece was meant for me,” Snodgrass said with a hearty laugh.
    Snodgrass has never forgotten Halverson’s efforts; he has always been one of her two heroes, and seeing him on TV brought her childhood memories to life again.
    “This man presents hope of everything that’s good in people, this is what this man personifies to me,” she said. “Hope, life, goodness of people, I mean all of that rolled up into one, is in that one person.”

Heavenly Hershey
    Col. Halverson wasn’t the first or only hero Snodgrass encountered in her youth.
    During the first Christmas after World War II ended, Dagie’s teacher asked her to take the place of an ill child in the worship service at the church. Snodgrass excitedly agreed, and joined the group for the show without telling her mother.
    Dressed as an angel, Snodgrass led the group into the sanctuary with a smile. She noticed first that the beautiful chapel was full, and second that there were Russian, French, English and American soldiers with their arms behind their backs, lining each wall. Fear began to rise in the pit of her stomach.
    “I was 11 years old and didn’t like uniforms, and I had seen a lot going on from the Russians until the Americans came in,” Snodgrass said. “So when I saw them all standing there, I thought to myself, ‘They’re going to let us have our worship service, and then they’re going to shoot us.’ And I was scared to death.”
    Eleven-year-old Dagie fulfilled her angelic duties, all the while praying the minister would talk forever, worried that her mother had no idea what she was doing.
    “Finally the minister did stop talking, and the organ did stop playing, and I just sat there and closed my eyes because I was waiting to be shot, and nothing happened,” she said.
    Dagie opened her eyes as a hand tapped her gently on the shoulder. Turning, she looked up into the smiling face of an American soldier, gesturing for her to reach into the duffel bag he held. Inside, she retrieved a Hershey bar, the first true chocolate she would ever taste.
    “This young man will not know me or even think about me, but I’ve never forgotten him,” Snodgrass said.
    Dagie ran home to share the chocolate bar with her mother, filling her in on the drama of the night. To this day, Snodgrass places an oversized Hershey candy bar under her Christmas tree every year as a reminder of the soldier’s kindness.
    “Trust came. With me carrying home that Hershey bar, I lost all fear,” Snodgrass said. “Nobody was going to shoot me; nobody was going to hurt me.”
Dagmar’s brothers Erwin, left, and Edgar Weiss in uniform. Contributed photo
    Dagie’s mistrust of men in uniform had developed during the war as she witnessed and heard about the tragedies happening all around her. With two brothers in the SS and a father who was outspoken against Hitler, Snodgrass heard more than her fair share of war news.
    “I was to be seen, but never heard — so I was all ears,” she said. “Whenever the family talked, I took in what they said.”
    Over time, she picked up on her brothers’ war stories. Her brothers enlisted in the German military under the impression they could choose to be medics. Unfortunately, both were placed in the SS against their wishes, and found themselves on the front lines fighting the Russians.
    However, it was in saving lives that each of them found their own lives spared. Snodgrass’s oldest brother Edgar Weiss ended up in a French prison camp after he was captured by the Americans. He was discovered in a farmhouse with a group of young American prisoners. Weiss had taken them from another German soldier, and built a fire to help them keep warm, knowing it may cost him his life.
    In return, the Americans made Weiss change out of his SS uniform and into a different German military uniform, sparing him the fate afforded to those accused of fighting against the Russians.
    “One good turn brought on another,” Snodgrass said of her brother’s fortune. “So I always say God had his hands on the situation.”
    Erwin Weiss, Dagie’s other brother, received a medal for talking Russian soldiers out of a cave when no one else could. His actions saved many lives including his own, when one of the Russian soldiers remembered him years later as Weiss was doing time in the Russian gulag.
    That soldier, in a show of gratitude, brought potatoes to Weiss in secret every day, enabling him to stay healthy enough to eventually return home after four years in the gulag.
    Together, the Weisses’ presence in the SS saved their father’s life when he was sentenced to six months in a work camp designed for dissenting Germans. The young men wrote a letter to Heinrich Himmler on behalf of their father, and in the end, their father’s life was spared.
    “So that devil in uniform, Heinrich Himmler, actually helped my father stay alive,” Snodgrass said.

Finding Freedom
    Though escape came in many different forms for Snodgrass and her family during the war, her greatest escape came along most unexpectedly after the war had ended.
    In 1950, by the age of 17, Snodgrass had quit school to help her mother bring in money. She worked in a factory alongside other young women making telephone cords.
    One evening, in what Dagie expected to be a typical social visit, a friend surprised her by introducing her to two American soldiers, and one was meant for Dagie. Embarrassed and angry with her friend, Snodgrass headed home, but her friend and the two soldiers accompanied her.
    As soldier Garrett Monk tried to hold Snodgrass’s hand, she slapped it away, certain she’d never hear from him again. However, he kept coming around, visiting almost every day.
    She relearned English, and began to let her guard down, slowly falling in love with the young soldier. Eventually, with her parents’ permission, Monk asked for her hand in marriage and Snodgrass accepted.
    “My family knew from the very beginning that I would come from Berlin to America with this young man,” Snodgrass said.
    The couple married, and came to America in 1954. Monk returned to the states with the military, six months before Snodgrass made the trip. After a 10-day trip on the ship ‘General Patch,’ Dagie and her two young children arrived in New York City.
    “I came to America with two little babies, Danny my son, and my daughter Linda; they were American citizens, and I was a German mommy,” Snodgrass said with a laugh.
    The family moved to Southeast Kansas where they settled in the small town of Independence. Snodgrass was shocked by the sights and sounds of American freedom everywhere she turned, but it didn’t take long for her to embrace it.
    On Jan. 14, 1958, while her husband was serving overseas in Korea, Snodgrass drove to Wichita where she became an American citizen.
    “I’m very proud of coming out of what I came out of, into what I have become because I have two homes,” she said. “I started out in Germany, but I’m planted here.”
Dagmar with her first husband, Garrett Monk.
Contributed photo
New Dreams
    After 49 years of marriage, her husband passed away. Snodgrass moved to Amarillo, Texas to be near her daughter and find a fresh start in life.
    “I wanted to get away from that small town and all those memories,” she said.
    Snodgrass made friends with a woman at work, who later introduced Dagie to her son Dale. Before she knew what was happening, Snodgrass was envisioning a new future with Dale, something she’d never planned.
    “Neither one of us thought at the time that we would ever get married again, and it just so happened we got together,” Dale said.
    The couple, who has been married 12 years, remained in Amarillo until after the death of Dale’s mother. A grandson who lived in the Wichita area convinced them to move back to Kansas, where they’ve made their home, becoming involved with their church and sharing Dagie’s story around town.

Face to Face
    Sharing her wartime experiences with new audiences is what earned Snodgrass the opportunity to meet her lifelong hero, the Candy Bomber. After seeing Col. Halverson on the TV on Christmas Eve, she penned a Facebook post explaining why the Candy Bomber was important to her.
    A friend encouraged her to send the letter to the Wichita Eagle. The newspaper published the piece on its editorial page in early January. Eisenhower Middle School history teacher Julie Campa, who had been working on a class project about the Candy Bomber, spotted the piece and sought to reach Snodgrass.
    In a twist 14-year-old Dagie never could have imagined as she picked up the abandoned candy parachute off the filthy street of Berlin, she will come face to face with the Candy Bomber on April 25. Campa has arranged a school assembly to honor Col. Halverson when he comes in April, and Snodgrass and Dale will be present to surprise him.
    “When I looked at his face, and saw him standing there in his uniform and said he was 92, 93 years old, I just cried because to me he is everything good in one bundle,” Snodgrass said of encountering Halverson on her TV screen.
    “And I look forward to meeting everything good in one bundle,” she said with a laugh. “And saying thank you, because the world needs more people like him.”
    Look for the story of Snodgrass and Halverson’s meeting in a future issue of East Wichita News. To read more of Dagie’s story in her own words, visit dsnodgrass.blog.com.