Gail Halvorsen, ‘Candy Bomber’ in Berlin Airlift, Dies at 101

In June 1948, the Soviet Union cut off land access to West Berlin, deep inside Soviet-controlled East Germany, as the Allied powers occupied the western parts of the city and West Germany. The people of West Berlin faced an almost impending famine and an impending winter without fuel.

The 15-month airlift claimed the lives of 31 American and 39 British pilots in crashes, but it thwarted Stalin’s efforts to drive the West out of the city. By the time it ended in September 1949 (the Soviet blockade had been lifted the previous May), Allied pilots had flown more than 277,000 sorties, sometimes flown by American fighters. The Soviet Union made noise, to supply the western regions of Berlin with 2.3 million tons of food, flour, coal, medicine and construction equipment.

Lieutenant Halvorsen, from Utah, flew 126 Berlin airlift sorties, with his co-pilot, Captain John Pickering, and his navigator, Sergeant. Herschel Elkins.

When the press soon reported on candy drops identifying Lieutenant Halvorsen as the source of the candy, he was summoned by Major General William H. Tunner, the airborne commander. He fears he will be taken to court because Air Force regulations prohibit any deviation from air transportation procedures.

But General Tunner was impressed by the good feelings Lieutenant Halvorsen had for the United States just a few years after their bombers left Germany in ruins. He encouraged candy drops, from the Douglas C-47s and later the more advanced C-54 transport planes, in what Lieutenant Halvorsen called Operation Little Vittles.

In September 1948, the Air Force sent Lieutenant Halvorsen back to the United States to publicize his efforts, and he appeared on the CBS-TV show “We the People.” American candy makers began giving out candies, and students volunteered to pack them in simulated parachutes, made of handkerchiefs and twine, to be shipped to West Germany.

At least two dozen pilots from Lieutenant Halverson’s squadron were among those who also took part in the candy drop. They are all known as Candy Bombers. Gail Halvorsen, ‘Candy Bomber’ in Berlin Airlift, Dies at 101

Fry Electronics Team

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