‘Candy Bomber’ of the Berlin Airlift, Col Gail Halvorsen, dies aged 101

| February 18, 2022

Colonel Gail Halvorsen

Boomer sends in the word that Colonel Gail Halvorsen, famed for being the ‘Candy Bomber’ during the Berlin Airlift, has passed away. He was 101.

Stars and Stripes has the story;

Retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber” who brought joy to Berlin’s children by dropping candy in tiny handkerchief parachutes from his plane when the Soviets blockaded the divided city during the Cold War, has died. He was 101.

He died Wednesday evening at Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, Utah, after a long illness, surrounded by most of his children, according to a Facebook post by his educational foundation.

Halvorsen was an Air Force pilot when Soviet boss Joseph Stalin implemented a land blockade of West Berlin in an effort to force the Americans, British and French out of the city, which was divided into occupation zones at the end of World War II.

Flying the C-54 Skymaster, Halvorsen participated in the joint U.S.-U.K. effort known as the Berlin Airlift, which for almost a year delivered food and fuel to Berlin airfields from Allied bases in western Germany.

On Halvorsen’s first flight into Berlin’s Tempelhof Air Base, he delivered 20,000 pounds of flour while taking careful note of the war-torn city.

“It looked like a moonscape,” he recalled in an interview with Military History magazine. “I wondered how 2 million people could live in a place so totally devastated.”

It was an additional, self-assigned mission that made Halvorsen famous.

On a day his plane was being repaired, he took a transport flight to Berlin so he could shoot some footage with his movie camera. After landing at Tempelhof, he walked over to a group of about 30 German children who were watching all the activity through a fence.

Halvorsen was disheartened to have only two sticks of gum to share with them, he recalled.

“They came right up to the barbed wire and spoke to me in English,” he said. “Those kids were giving me a lecture, telling me, ‘Don’t give up on us. If we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ American-style freedom was their dream.”

Their words left a mark on Halvorsen, as did the way they meticulously divided and shared two sticks of gum he gave them. He vowed to return with enough for all, to be delivered from the air. They’d know the plane was his because he’d wiggle the wings.

Without asking permission, he purchased candy and a handful of handkerchiefs at the Rhein-Main Post Exchange Store, wrote John Provan, an American historian and son of a retired Air Force chief master sergeant.

The next day, he opened the window of his C-54 and began the candy drops.

“My copilot and engineer gave me their candy rations — big double handfuls of Hershey, Mounds and Baby Ruth bars and Wrigley’s gum,” he recalled in the interview. “Three weeks we did it, three parachutes each time. The crowd got big.”

Soon, thank-you letters began to arrive in the barracks, addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” He feared the worst when photos of his plane made front-page news in local newspapers, which led to him being called in to explain his actions to his army superiors.

“His actions were met with much disapproval since the Chain of Command had been not only overlooked, but several military regulations broken,” Provan wrote. “Still, how can you punish a man for doing good?”

Airlift Headquarters in Wiesbaden quickly warmed up to the idea. Instead of being penalized, he was ordered to drop even more sweet treats as his commanders realized the goodwill that Halvorsen was generating in East and West Berlin and at home in the U.S., where donations of candies and handkerchiefs were organized.

Operation Little Vittles, as the drop of gum and chocolate bars came to be known, turned into a diplomatic coup, altering Germans’ perceptions of Americans and paving the way for future humanitarian airlifts. Halvorsen became known as the “Candy Bomber” and “Der Schokoladen Flieger” — “the Chocolate Flyer.”

The memories of running out to the drops remained vivid for many Berliners.

“I ran there a couple of times too, but I never caught anything. The boys were always faster,” Vera Hemmerling, who was 14 at the time, told Frankfurter Rundschau in 2018.

“We children were still afraid of the noise of planes after the nights of bombing during the war,” she said. “But soon we were afraid that we wouldn’t hear any planes, for example if there was fog or the weather was too bad. That meant no sugar, no flour, no coals. That meant hunger.”

In 1974, Halvorsen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his kind deeds.

There’s more at the source about Halvorsen’s life and accomplishments. Rest easy, Colonel.

Category: Air Force, Historical, We Remember

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RIP Colonel. You done good.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

“…..put out my hand and touched the face of God”. (High Flight)

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter now into the rest of thy Lord”

Frankie Cee

I was 9 years old as the “Berlin Airlift” wound down. Selfridge Field, just a few miles down the road from my home, had C-54s assigned there. We did a school field trip, and I remember being told the story of the “Wiggle Wings” and the candy drops.
A C-54 photo that I found online:


Just watch Kamala try to say something while there.
RIP Colonel.


Enjoy the air up there Colonel.


Fly with the Angels and Rest Easy, Good Sir. Your Reward will be sweet indeed.

Old tanker

I have no doubt there was one huge party at the golden gates for his arrival. May perpetual light shine upon him, he earned it.

Green Thumb

Rest well, COL Halvorsen.

You set an great example for all to see.

Prior Service

I saw him when I was stationed at Wiesbaden a couple of years ago during the 70th anniversary of the airlift. They re-enacted the dropping of candy from multiple passes of C47s (and a few civil-variant DC3s) and he was up in one of them. He spoke beforehand and i hope I’m as with-it as he was if I ever get that old!

When they recreated the drop, thousands of kids ran out across the tarmac, with dozens tripping and skinning knees. Then when they came back with their hands full of candy a bunch couldn’t find their parents and were standing around crying. Twenty minutes later it was still “would the parents of little Johnny / little Susie please come to….” Horror lurked amid the huge collection of beautifully restored aircraft and a really cool multi-pass flyby.


Rest in peace Sir.


Thank God such Men lived.. RIP Colonel Halvorsen.

Mike B

I had the honor of meeting him several times over my life as a AF Brat and as an AF member. He couldn’t have been any nicer……

I got to help a little bit on cleaning up the C-54 that went on display with the C-47 at the Rhein Main AB, Berlin Airlift Memorial. Shift work prevented me from doing much.


A true servant of others, and of God.
(Dusty in here.)


It is fitting that his last command (1970-74) was the 7350th Air Base Group at Tempelhof Central Airport, the very same airfield he flew to daily during the Berlin Airlift. As part of in-processing, we got a tour of the terminal. The terminal was massive, now mostly empty. https://www.abandonedberlin.com/tempelhof/