People gathered at the Spanish Fork Airport to honor the life and legacy of Col. Gail Halvorsen, also known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber.”
Halvorsen grew up in Utah with hopes to one day fly planes and was able to join the Army Air Corp in 1942. In 1948, he was stationed at an Air Force base when the call came for pilots to participate in the Berlin airlift. During his time flying in the airlift, he created “Operation Little Vittles,” where Halvorsen dropped candy attached to mini parachutes to Berlin’s children to help provide them with hope and love.
The Celebration of Life event on May 21 included speakers, booths of items from Halvorsen’s life, a C-54 plane tour and performances from a children’s choir and the Band of the Golden West.
“The thing I find neat about his story, going back to the 1949 airlift, the candy meant a lot to the German children because they didn’t have much,” event volunteer Debbie Ericson said. “But that was not the great gift they say, the great gift was hope.”
Ericson said it’s important to carry on Halvorsen’s legacy because his message matters more than ever with current events.
“His message is about love and hope. That’s really why we are here to carry on that legacy of hope,” Ericson said.
In honor of Halvorsen, chocolates attached to mini-parachutes were dropped from a C-54 Skymaster called the Spirit of Freedom.
The C-54 is the same model as the plane Halvorsen used for his candy drop. The C-54 was accompanied by a C-17 called the Spirit of the Candy Bomber, which was dedicated to honor Halvorsen’s life.
“Gail Halvorsen’s story in terms of impact, in terms of what he did for the world starts with children,” Andrei Cherny, author of “The Candy Bombers” said.
Cherny’s book highlights the story of Halvorsen and how he made the Berlin Airlift “one of the great military and humanitarian successes of American history.”
Some of the people in attendance were the children who Halvorsen dropped candy to during the Berlin Airlift. Volunteer Mark Hasara, retired veteran, said these children, now in their late 70s and 80s, still celebrate Halvorsen’s life.
Hasara said one of the German Air Force pilots in attendance told their mother he was attending the celebration of the “Candy Bomber,” as she had been one of the children who Halvorsen dropped candy to.
“When she found out that she was coming here for this, she balled. She was balling. On Gail’s birthday for the last 30 days, she celebrated his birthday for what he did for the kids,” Hasara said.
Hasara encourages the community to honor Halvorsen by reaching out to others who might be struggling and needing help the same way he did.
“What better way to change the world than to go find that one person. There are so many different ways you can serve your community and that was what Halverson was all about,” Hasara said.