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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
“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.
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
“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.
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
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.
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.
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
“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.