SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Colonel Gail Halvorsen, commonly known as the Berlin “Candy Bomber” because of his kind actions at end of World War II, passed away Wednesday evening at the age of 101.
He was suffering from a brief illness and left the world surrounded by most of his children at Utah Valley Hospital.
Supplies were short during the Berlin Airlift, when the U.S., Britain, and Soviet military forces divided and occupied Germany following the end of the Second World War. Halvorsen inspired Operation “Little Vittles,” when he began dropping candy from his plane for the children in Germany’s capital.
“Thank you for your kindness, Colonel,” the German Embassy wrote on Twitter.
Born in Salt Lake City in 1920, Halvorsen grew up working on farms in both Idaho and Utah. In 1948, he was one of several U.S. cargo pilots that provided much needed supplies (flour and coal) to nearly two million starving Germans who had been cut off due to a Soviet Union inflicted blockade.
However, it was Halvorsen’s act of service to a group of children that truly made this service oriented man famous. Featured in “Meet the Mormons”, a film by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Halvorsen shared how he became the famous “Candy Bomber” after receiving inspiration and sharing a few sticks of gum with German children through a wire fence near the airstrip.
“I turn to leave, and a voice came to me clear as a bell, I’m sure it was the Holy Ghost. Says, ‘Go back to the fence.’ It was a command,” Halvorsen explained.
Shortly thereafter, and following several more cargo runs, Halvorsen had the idea to drop candy packages to the children standing near the airstrip. Upon his arrival, Halvorsen would “wiggle his wings” to signal the children and would cue his airman to push the small parachutes filled with candy out the the flare chute.
In response to the passing of this well known hero, several of Utah’s government officials, including Governor Spencer Cox and Senator Mitt Romney, shared their condolences via twitter.
“Halvorsen is a hero to so many. His courage and compassion in the most difficult of times have inspired generations and remind us all that kindness and goodness can win,” Cox said on Twitter.
“Halvorsen epitomized the defining characteristics of the Greatest Generation. May he ever remind us that hope always exists, even in our darkest hour. Rest in peace to one of the world’s finest men,” Romney wrote on Twitter.