His 'Deeply Human Act' in WWII Is Still Remembered

US military pilot Gail Halvorsen dropped sweets for children during Berlin Airlift
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 17, 2022 1:52 PM CST
In World War II, They Called Him the 'Candy Bomber'
"Candy Bomber" Gail Halvorsen gives the thumbs-up in front of an old US military aircraft with the name "The Berlin Train" in Frankfurt, Germany, on Nov. 21, 2016.   (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

A US military pilot known as the “Candy Bomber” for his candy airdrops during the Berlin Airlift after World War II ended has died. Gail S. Halvorsen was 101 when he died Wednesday following a brief illness in his home state of Utah, surrounded by family, per the AP. Halvorsen was beloved and venerated in Berlin, which he last visited in 2019 when the city celebrated the 70th anniversary of the day the Soviets lifted their post-War World II blockade with a big party at the former Tempelhof airport. “Halvorsen’s deeply human act has never been forgotten,” Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said in a statement.

Halvorsen was born in Salt Lake City but grew up on farms before getting his pilot’s license. After the United States entered World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he trained as a fighter pilot and served as a transport pilot in the south Atlantic during World War II before flying food and other supplies to West Berlin as part of the airlift. According to his account on the website of the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation, Halvorsen had mixed feelings about the mission to help the United States' former enemy after losing friends during the war. But his attitude changed, and his new mission was launched, after meeting a group of children behind a fence at Templehof airport.

He offered them the two pieces of gum that he had, broken in half, and was touched to see those who got the gum sharing pieces of the wrapper with the other children, who smelled the paper. He promised to drop enough for all of them the following day as he flew, wiggling the wings of his plane as he flew over the airport, Halvorsen recalled. He started doing so regularly, using his own candy ration, with handkerchiefs as parachutes to carry them to the ground. Soon other pilots and crews joined in what would be dubbed “Operation Little Vittles.”

(More obituary stories.)

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