“Gail S. Halvorsen: The Berlin Candy Bomber,” which premieres Monday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. on BYU Television, tells the story of how an American pilot became a German hero.
As the Cold War heated up in the days following World War II, Berlin became the focus for the animosity between the East and the West. In an attempt to force the Allied Powers out of Berlin, the Soviet Union blocked access via rail, canal and autobahn to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin, 110 miles deep into the Soviet zone.
In an effort to provide the more than two million Berliners with needed provisions, U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered the launch of a massive airlift that would fly supplies into the Western sectors of Berlin. The aerial supply line to West Berlin became known as the Berlin Airlift, the largest air operation the world has ever seen.
One of many American pilots to fly during the Berlin Airlift was Lt. Gail Halvorsen of Spanish Fork, Utah. Halvorsen became known as the “Candy Bomber” because, as part of his airlift supply flying missions, he dropped candy attached to handkerchief parachutes to German children from his C-54 Skymaster aircraft.
It didn’t take long for Halvorsen’s “candy bombing” to improve not only the spirits of Berliners — and particularly the German children — but also the morale of the U.S. airlift effort.
Soon candy was donated, parachutes were made by volunteers, and the tiny parcels began to fall all over Berlin. Packages of candy were even mailed to disappointed children who wrote to say they had never been able to reach the “sweet gifts from the sky” before others got all the loot. No one was to be missed by the Berlin Candy Bomber.
Today Halvorsen, 88 years old and a retired Air Force colonel, continues to fly, drop candy and meet with children in Berlin and worldwide.
For information about rebroadcast dates and times, visit www.byutv.org.
Writer: Norm Nielson