It was 73 years ago that Gail S. Halvorsen was among the group of U.S. pilots whose airlift of food and other needs to thwart the Soviet blockade of West Berlin saved two million Germans from starvation. But his lasting fame came as the pilot who became known as The Berlin Candy Bomber for his parachute drops of gum and candy for the Berlin children, earning worldwide attention, including a half dozen books written about him.
The Soviet Union blockaded the allied part of post-war Berlin from June of 1948 ‘til the fall of 1949 in an attempt to take it away from the allies, but the food drops by Halvorsen and his fellow pilots thwarted that. Included among other food and supplies dropped came 21 tons of candy.
Forward to today. The life-long Utah resident, a retired Air Force colonel now almost 101, made another flight Saturday, participating in a candy-drop flyover in St, George as part of the Southern Utah city’s Independence Day celebration tribute to veterans.
His daughter, Marilyn Halvorsen Sorensen, told Salt Lake City TV station KSL she asked him” “are you up for one more?” and he replied “Only one more?”
So he boarded the passenger seat of a helicopter that flew over Dixie State University’s Greater Zion Stadium and dropped bunches of candy onto the crowd.
Among those on hand to honor the Candy Bomber was Regina Lovely, a St. George resident who, as a then 3-year-old, was one of the first German children to receive candy from Halvorsen’s drops.
She credits Halvorsen with helping the people of Berlin find hope as she presented him with the inaugural Gail Halvorsen Lifetime Service Award, created by the organizers of the event.
“God Bless America,” he said to cheers from the hundreds gathered in the stadium.