Gail Halvorsen

Colonel Gail Halvorsen (born October 10, 1920 in Salt Lake City, Utah) is a former American pilot of C-47s and C-54s during the Berlin airlift ("Operation Vittles") 1948–1949. Halvorsen is most famous for being the original Candy Bomber.

Operation Little Vittles

Shortly before landing at the Tempelhof airport in the American sector of Berlin, Halvorsen would drop candy attached to parachutes to children below. This action, which was dubbed Operation Little Vittles and sparked similar efforts by other crews, was the source of the popular name for the pilots: the candy bombers. Halvorsen had wanted to help raise the morale of the children during the time of uncertainty and privation.

Halvorsen says he had the idea after giving a few sticks of chewing gum to some children watching the planes from outside the Tempelhof base. Wanting to give more, he promised to drop more candy from his plane the next day. Because the planes would arrive every 90 seconds, the children naturally couldn't distinguish his from the others. However, Halvorsen promised to wiggle the wings to identify himself, which led to his nickname "Onkel Wackelflügel" ("Uncle Wiggly Wings").

His actions were soon noticed by the press and gained widespread attention. A wave of public support led to donations which enabled Halvorsen and his crew to drop 850 pounds of candy. By the end of the airlift, around 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum, and other candies over various places in Berlin. The Confectioners Association of America donated large amounts to the effort, and American school children cooperated in attaching the candies to parachutes.

Military career

Halvorsen would go on to fill several domestic assignments, but would return to Germany in the early 1970s, this time as the commander of Tempelhof Air Base in western Berlin. In this role Halvorsen was required to host official parties at his house. Being a devout Mormon, Halvorsen became famous for his non-alcoholic concoctions served at these parties.

German-American relations

Halvorsen's actions as the original candy bomber 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. He has appeared many times on German TV over the years, often paired with some of the children, now grown adults, who received his candy parachutes. In 1974 he was decorated with the "Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz" (Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany), one of Germany´s highest Medals. During the opening march for the 2002 Winter Olympics on February 8, Halvorsen carried the German team's national placard into Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium.

In 1989, Halvorsen engaged in a reenactment of the actions in Berlin for the fortieth anniversary of the airlift. During Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he dropped candy from a C-130. Halvorsen also participated in closing ceremonies for Tempelhof Air Base in 1993 and in 50th anniversary celebrations of the airlift in Berlin in 1998. The United States military has modeled some of Halvorsen's actions in Iraq dropping toys, teddy bears, and soccer balls to Iraqi children. In 2004 Halvorsen hoped to launch a similar action for the children of Iraq.


The US Air Force has helped cement Colonel Halvorsen's airlift legacy by naming its next-generation, 25,000-pound capacity aircraft loading vehicle in his honor. The Air Force has also named the award for outstanding air transportation support in the logistics readiness career field the Colonel Gail Halvorsen Award. Also Col Halvorsen's son, Robert, was a USAF C-130 pilot and is currently a captain with Delta Air Lines.

Service as LDS missionary

In 1995, Halvorsen, along with his wife Alta, arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia to serve as missionaries for the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their duties included training teachers and visiting institute classes, as well as working with church youth groups. Halvorsen and his wife Alta also served as missionaries for the church in London, England in the 1980s.


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