News Story

The “Candy Bomber” continues to bring hope to youth in another visit to Berlin

Nicknamed the “Candy Bomber”, Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, now 92-years-old, made a trip back to Berlin for the opening of a school in his name and for the opening of an exhibit to celebrate 65 years since the Berlin Airlift.

He served in the United States Air Force as a command pilot during the Berin Airlift in from 1948-1949 and is now a retired career officer.

He is best known for unloading small parachutes of chocolate made from handkerchiefs for the children in Berlin during the Berlin Airlift. After Soviets had surrounded the city, the West Allied Forces dropped essentials from planes for the people of Berlin that had their supplies cut off.

These bombers flew over the city about every 3 minutes. To help the children distinguish which plane was his, Halvorsen said he would “wiggle” his wings, thus the children nicknamed him “Onkel Wackelflügel” (Uncle Wiggly Wings) and then drop the chocolate from overhead.

Once his attending officer found out about his efforts, the unit made it an official operation called “Operation Little Vittles”. Other pilots joined in and the endeavor began to receive attention from media and from children in other parts of Germany.

This act of kindness gained lots of attention from the local media, which later spread internationally. It has been acclaimed to be one of the most influential acts in the healing of German-American relations. Now a local school in Berlin bears his name.

Community leaders and local Berliners gathered to celebrate the school’s new start and announcing its new namesake. The former Alfred-Wegener-Realschule and the Beuckeschule have come together to form the new Gail S. Halvorsen School.

School administrators repeatedly expressed gratitude for Halvorsen’s actions and for the positive example he is for the students of the school.

At the ceremony, Halvorsen spoke directly to the children who will attend the school that now bears his name. “You young children - show that you care for others. Listen to your teachers. Listen to the still small voice inside of you and continue your education. Come into this wonderful building and bring hope to others.”

“I’m excited for the school’s fresh start and I will always remember this special event, “said Alicia Berndt, a 14-year-old student at the new Gail S. Halvorsen School and member of the Dahlem Ward in Berlin.

Halvorsen has been a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also spoke to young Church members during his stay in Berlin.

On Sunday he expressed to young Church members ages 12 – 18 about how small things precede that which is great. “Being a Mormon, was an advantage! Because I never drank alcohol, I was always ready to go. Whenever there were calls to go in the middle of the night, I was the first one ready,” said Halvorsen.

He encouraged the youth to never be afraid to stand up for what they believe. He told a story about an experience he had as the new commander of Tempelhof in 1970. One of his first assignments was to attend a reception hosted by the French Officers’ Club. After looking around at the reception, he quickly realized that only alcoholic drinks were being served. All guests were to participate in a toast to the President of France. He approached his French counterpart and asked for orange juice or 7up. The host called the waiter over and whispered in his ear. The waiter left and promptly returned with a glass of fresh orange juice just for Halvorsen. Other guests were surprised at his boldness but he was pleased with the choice he made to not cave to social pressure.

“Respect the choices of others. Be in the world, but not of the world. Everyone is a child of a loving Heavenly Father, regardless of what side of the border you were born on,” encouraged Halvorsen.

Of the events that occurred, Halvorsen declared in German, “Ich freue mich wieder in meine zweite Heimat zurück zu kommen. (I am so happy to come back to my second home) I’m 92 years old and at my age, I’m grateful to be anywhere!”

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