Did you know that Gail Halvorsen was born today in 1920? He was a US Air Force pilot and known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings”. In 1948, while participating in the Berlin Airlift, Halvorsen wanted to do something to cheer up the children of Berlin and promised that he would drop candy out of his plane for them. The children would know it was him, because he would ‘wiggle’ the wings of his plane as he flew by. Initially, Halvorsen gathered candy from other pilots and sewed little parachutes from handkerchiefs. Later, children and families all over the United States participated in the effort. By the end of the Airlift, the candy bombers dropped over 23 tons of candy to the children of Berlin.
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Gail Halvorsen was part of the Berlin Airlift, also known as Operation Vittles. After the Soviet Union blockaded road, rail, and sea routes to West Berlin, the United States and their allies started to bring in supplies of food, water, and coal to keep the people of West Berlin from freezing or starving to death.
He started his project to boost the morale of children without any prior authorization, but soon it received official permission. Candy was initially donated from Halvorsen’s friends, but soon the whole squadron was participating. News spread and children and candy makers in the United States participated gathering candy and preparing ‘parachutes’ so the treats could be delivered safely.
Gail Halvorsen’s project came to be known as Operation Little Vittles. It lasted from September 22, 1948 to May 13, 1949. Halvorsen came back to the United States in January 1949 and passed leadership to Captain Lawrence Caskey.
Gail Halvorsen was known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber”, “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, “The Chocolate Uncle”, and the “Chocolate Flier”. He was called Uncle Wiggly Wings because he would ‘wiggle’ the wings of his airplane when he flew by so the children would know it was him.
Collectively, all the pilots that participated were known as “Rosinenomber” or “Raisin Bombers”.
After returning to the United States, Gail Halvorsen earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
In 1970, Gail Halvorsen returned to the Tempelhof Central Airport, the airfield he flew to during the Berlin Airlift. He was the Commander of the 7350th Air Base Group and US Air Force Europe Representative.
After 31 years of military service, Gail Halvorsen retired from the Air Force in 1974. During his career he accumulated more than 8,000 hours of flying time.
After retirement Halvorsen served 2 missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He also served as the Assistant Dean of Student Life at Brigham Young University.
On the 20th and 40th anniversaries of the Berlin Airlift, Gail Halvorsen helped to reenact the famous candy drops.
Even after retirement in 1974, Gail Halvorsen continued to advocate the use of ‘candy drops’ to lift spirits and promote goodwill. Halvorsen participated or advocated for candy or toy drops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Albania, Iraq, and other locations.
Some of the many awards Gail Halvorsen earned include the Congressional Gold Medal and the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
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