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Video: The Sweet Legacy of a Berlin Airlift Hero

When American and British forces embarked on a massive airlift mission to get food and other needed supplies to West Berliners in 1948, one young U.S. pilot came up with a way to sweeten the operation for German children.

A smiling U.S. military pilot talks to children standing on the other side of a wire fence.
Sweet Visit
Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as "Candy Bomber," greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air with tiny parachutes.
Photo By: Air Force
VIRIN: 180910-F-XX999-9005
 

Retired Air Force Col. Gail S. Halvorsen was a 27-year-old lieutenant in Cold War Germany when he noticed the conditions the children of Berlin were living in and wanted to help. 

At first, he handed out gum and candy from his ration pack, but then began attaching handkerchief parachutes to chocolate bars and dropping them from his aircraft to the children below.

A pilot smiles while surrounded by children.
Candy Bomber
Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as the "Candy Bomber," greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.
Photo By: Air Force
VIRIN: 180910-F-XX999-9007

He would rock the wings of his aircraft during his airlift missions to signal to the children which plane was carrying the chocolate. Widely known today as the Candy Bomber, German children at the time called Halvorsen "Uncle Wiggly Wings."

Soon, Halvorsen's idea was expanded into "Operation Little Vittles" and received public support and donations. By the end of the Berlin airlift in 1949, 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum and other candies over Berlin. 

Halvorsen, who died earlier this year at age 101, is remembered for a life and career that centered on helping others.

A smiling veteran in uniform stands in front of a shiny historic aircraft.
Skymaster Pose
Retired Air Force Col. Gail S. Halvorsen stands in front of a C-54 Skymaster at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.
Photo By: Bennie J. Davis III, Air Force
VIRIN: 110128-F-5040D-0386
A smiling veteran holds up a small parachute attached to a candy bar while standing in front of an aircraft.
Sweet Recollection
Retired Air Force Col. Gail. S. Halvorsen holds a candy bar parachute similar to ones he dropped during the Berlin Airlift as he stands in front of a C-54 Skymaster at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.
Photo By: Bennie J. Davis III, Air Force
VIRIN: 180910-F-5040D-9001

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