Col. Gail Halverson, The Candy Bomber, passes away at 101

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona. Halvorsen dropped candy bars attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. As word of his personal humanitarian mission spread to the United States donations of thousands of pounds of candy and hundreds of handkerchiefs and other pieces of scrap cloth reached him. By January 1949, more than 250,000 small parachutes with treats attached were dropped. For his actions Halvorsen received the 1948 Cheney Award “… for an act of valor, extreme fortitude, or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest.” (U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

Col. Gail Halverson, known to millions of children of all ages for generations as “The Candy Bomber”, has passed away.

Halverson made regular appearances on the Outer Banks over the last two decades each December during the annual celebration’s of the Wright Brothers first flights.

That included a popular event at the Dare County Regional Airport each year reenacting the Berlin Candy Drops.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin, which was deep within the Soviet zone of Germany, by cutting off all rail and road routes going through Soviet-controlled territory in Germany.

On June 25 the order was given to launch a massive airlift using both civil and military aircraft that flew supplies into the Western-held sectors of Berlin over the blockade during 1948–1949, ultimately lasting 462 days. This aerial supply of West Berlin became known as the Berlin Airlift.

One of the many American pilots to fly the USAF C-54 Skymaster during the Berlin Airlift was Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen (age 99) of Provo, Utah. During the operation, he became known as the “Candy Bomber” because he repeatedly dropped candy to German children from his aircraft on approach to the runways.

Throughout the entire blockade over 23 tons of candy was dropped to Berlin children. The candy drop operations may have had a substantial impact on the postwar perception of Americans in Germany, and it is still pointed to as a symbol of German-American relations.

Halverson was inducted into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at by the First Flight Society in 2019. The shrine is located within the visitors center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.

The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation posted the following on their Facebook page this morning:

It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to our friend, Col Gail Seymour Halvorsen, known to the world as The Berlin Candy Bomber, Uncle Wiggly Wings, the Chocolate Pilot and many other well earned terms of endearment. The impact and legacy he leaves behind is immeasurable, not only on his friends and family, but on the entire world. All from just two sticks of gum.
Gail has been our friend for nearly 30 years and has been on many adventures with our C-54 “Spirit of Freedom” in that span of time, including as a copilot on our 1998 European Tour. In that time, he has worked to share his message of kindness to your fellow man and service before self, messages sorely needed in this world.
Farewell, dear friend, the world truly is better off because of you. We love you. 101 years was not enough.

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