The Berlin Airlift Candy Bomber

| May 13, 2019

The Berlin Airlift is back in the news. The “Candy Bomber” now has a baseball field at Tempelhof Airport named for him.

Germans are celebrating the anniversary of the USAAF’s efforts to keep Berlin supplied with food and fuel at the end of World War II, despite Stalin’s attempt to seize control of the entire city. Retired COL Halvorson was known by various nicknames, including “Candy Bomber”, for dropping sweet treats to Berliners during the airlift runs.

He repeated the candy bombing in July, 2015, at a July 4, 2015 air show in Utah.

We are slowly losing this generation of warriors. It’s up to us, like the D-Day Darlings in the UK, to make sure that the memory of them and what they did to keep the world free does not fade.

Category: Historical, Real Soldiers, War Stories, We Remember

Comments (8)

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  1. Eden says:

    If I remember right, his daughter was in my OTS (OCS) class, and he flew the flyover for our graduation. At any rate, his story was well-known to our class.

  2. Mason says:

    Great story. The whole Berlin airlift is a testament to the will of Americans to do what others think impossible.

    If someone was to do that today they’d be accused of embarking on a campaign of terror backed by the high fructose corn syrup industry to make children fat. That is if they could stop drawing sky penises long enough to do it.

  3. 5th/77th FA says:

    Cool story with linkies. Tanks Matey. Served with an old supply MSG that was a PVT helping load the planes during the airlift. He had married a furline and kept re-upping to stay. Did 2 seperate tours in VN to avoid stateside duty and come back to FRG. One of the very few honest and non-black marketeer supply SGTs I ever met. Turned down the 1SGT slot cause he liked what he did. Retired over there and took a gig as the AAFEES Warehouse Manager.

    Y’all notice it was the United States ARMY Air Forces that ran the mission? Not the Marines, (Berlin was a land locked island), not the Navy, (didn’t/couldn’t want to run a’ground) Not the Air Force (was just a figment of a golf course keeper’s imagination then).

    Candy Bombs….sweetest rounds ever laid on target by flying Artillery.

    • Mick says:

      Ahem. (Stepping in here uninvited on behalf of my TAH Navy Naval Aviation brethren AW1Ed, Atkron, et al.)

      “Naval Aviation’s Involvement in the Berlin Airlift”

      (Quote below is taken from the “The U.S. Navy’s Participation in the Berlin Airlift” link embedded at the Navy website noted above)


      On 10 September, General Clay requested 116 additional C-54s—69 to be made available by 1 October and the remaining 47 by 1 December 1948—so that he could build up a stockpile of supplies for the winter months and could raise the daily tonnage total for Berlin up to an average of 4,500 tons. In response to this request, Washington decided to augment the Berlin airlift by 50 additional C-54s. On 24 September, Clay strongly restated his appeal for the full 116 aircraft. After conducting a thorough reappraisal of U.S. objectives in Berlin, the NSC finally approved the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for an immediate reenforcement of the airlift, and, on 22 October, President Truman approved the expansion of the airlift by the additional 66 C-54s that Clay wanted.

      This is when the Navy became fully involved in the Berlin airlift. Although Navy tankers had been delivering huge quantities of aviation gas to Bremerhaven, Germany, to furnish fuel for the airlift since the beginning of the blockade, its planes heretofore had not been involved in the aerial supply effort. The new increase called for, however, would bring the use of C-54s in the airlift up to approximately 52% of the total number of such aircraft in the country’s operational inventory—thus seriously reducing MATS support for implementing the military’s emergency war plans. Because of his concerns over this situation, Air Force Secretary Stuart Symington asked Navy Secretary John Sullivan to provide the Navy’s three MATS squadrons to the Airlift Task Force as part of the latest augmentation. The Navy readily agreed to this request.

      On 27 October 1948, the Commander, Military Air Transport Service, with the concurrence of Chief of Naval Operations Louis Denfeld, ordered Navy MATS units Transport Squadrons (VRs) 6 and 8 to 180 days temporary additional duty (TAD) with the Airlift Task Force for participation in Operation Vittles (as the airlift was designated). At the time, both squadrons were assigned to MATS routes in the Pacific, VR-6 stationed at Guam and VR-8 based in Honolulu. Transport Squadron 8 got the word that same day, and on 29 October its first group of six R5D (C-54) aircraft took off for California. Transport Squadron 6 on Guam received its orders on 30 October, and on 1 November its first contingent of four aircraft left for the West Coast.

      The planes of both squadrons assembled at Moffett Field, California, for pre-employment work-ups. At Moffett, high-engine-time R5Ds were exchanged or were reconditioned and inspected, and all planes were winterized. In addition, VR-6, which had a shortage of four aircraft, was provided with the additional planes to bring it up to its authorized strength of twelve aircraft. Once they were readied, the aircraft of the two squadrons took off for NAS Jacksonville, where APS-4 radars were installed. From Jacksonville they flew to Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, for movement to Germany. VR-8’s last plane flew into Rhein-Main Air Base on 15 November, and VR-6’s final aircraft arrived a week later, on 22 November.

      In addition to the two Navy MATS squadrons stationed in Germany as part of the Airlift Task Force, the third Navy MATS squadron, the fifteen-plane-strong VR-3, provided transatlantic support to Operation Vittles, flying from the U.S. East Coast. Also, VR-44, a Navy transport training squadron that was not part of MATS, provided pilot training for replacement crews destined for the Navy MATS squadrons in Germany and training for personnel needed to man the expanded overhaul facility. In the meantime, Marine Transport Squadron 352 had been ordered by the Chief of Naval Operations to report to the commander of the Military Air Transport Service’s Pacific Division to take over, within its fifteen-plane capability, the Pacific airlift duties that VR-6 and VR-8 had been handling.

      The two Navy squadrons in Germany quickly made themselves known to their Air Force counterparts. The winter weather in Germany proved extremely trying for all of the squadrons engaged in the airlift, with cold fogs often blanketing Berlin. It was routine during these months for the aircraft to fly east and west through the air corridor on instruments and to make ground control approaches (GCA) at both Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport and Rhein-Main. Fortunately for the Navy planes, their crews had been required to make all their approaches on GCA during the years that they had been part of the Naval Air Transport Service (NATS), and so they were, on average, more skilled in instrument flying than were their Air Force counterparts.

      Although their planes had been averaging six hours a day in flying time in the Pacific, VR-6 and VR-8 arrived in Germany fully manned with skilled maintenance personnel prepared to maintain a schedule of eight hours a day per aircraft. This substantial increase in flight hours, however, was soon being regularly surpassed. During the first two weeks of flying the air route from Rhein-Main to Tempelhof, the two squadrons carried a total of 6,526 tons of cargo. By the end of December 1948, VR-8 was leading all squadrons in the airlift in every measurable phase of air transport operation, including aircraft utilization, total cargo carried, payload efficiency, and tons per plane. VR-6 was not far behind, though, being engaged for several weeks in a battle for second place with the two top Air Force squadrons. By the end of February 1949, VR-6 was equalling and frequently exceeding VR-8 in operational achievements. During April 1949, the two squadrons flew a combined total of 8,234 hours (an aircraft utilization rate of 13.1 hours per plane per day) and delivered 23,550 tons of food and coal to Berlin.

      After several months of on-and-off-again negotiating, the Soviet Union finally agreed to end its blockade of Berlin if the three Western powers (Great Britain, France, and the United States) agreed to terminate their restrictions on trade with East Germany and East Berlin. On 5 May 1949, the four governments issued a communique announcing that the blockade would end on 12 May. The blockade was lifted on the day agreed upon.

      On 30 July, an official announcement was made that the airlift would end on 31 October 1949. The two Navy squadrons were released from their duties with the Airlift Task Force in mid-August and returned to the continental United States. After having its aircraft reconditioned by the Fleet Logistic Support Wings at Moffett Field, VR-6 was stationed at Westover Air Force Base for operation with MATS between Westover and Rhein-Main, Germany. The reconditioned planes of VR-8 returned to their old base in Honolulu for duties on MATS Pacific routes.

      During the months that VR-6 and VR-8 operated in Germany, their aircraft flew 45,990 hours, carrying 129,989 tons of cargo into Berlin and averaging 10.1 flight hours per plane per day for the entire period. Even though the twenty-four aircraft of the two squadrons had not been involved during the first three months of the Berlin airlift, by the end of Operation Vittles they had managed to deliver some 7.3 percent of the total tonnage flown into the besieged city by U.S. aircraft. It was a masterful achievement.’

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Cool beans! Good add on and Tanks for the linkie Matey. Figured if I poked hard enough some body would take some umbrage and bring me the “rest of the story.” Was waiting on a wing wiping airedale to come up and point out the the US Air Force had been formed by that time. Had known that Naval Aviation was heavily involved and had worked their asses off in nasty weather to do what needed to be done. Started 3 months late and still delivered 7.3% of the total. According to my old MSG (former PVT) “they didn’t do half bad at all for a buncha squids.” He also made mention of some of the “not so friendly rivalries” amongst the crews. Good times!

  4. 3E9 says:

    The aircrew simulator facility at Charleston AFB is named after him. I got to meet him at the dedication ceremony.