‘Candy Bomber’ Gail Halvorsen passes away at age 101

Feb 17, 2022, 6:56 AM | Updated: 7:31 am
Col. Gail Halvorsen, also known as the "Candy Bomber." (KSL-TV)...
Col. Gail Halvorsen, also known as the "Candy Bomber." (KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Col. Gail Halvorsen, known as the Berlin “Candy Bomber,” has died at the age of 101.

The Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation said Halvorsen died Wednesday evening at Utah Valley Hospital after a brief illness, surrounded by most of his children.

Halvorsen is known as the candy bomber for dropping treats to children during the Berlin airlift after World War II — something that helped improve U.S. relations and brought hope to West Berlin.

“It gave me hope,” said Regine Lovely, who grew up in Berlin. “And hope is probably the best thing he could have given us at the time.”

Halvorsen celebrated his 100th birthday in October 2020 with a vehicle parade and residents in Tremonton honored him with a mural.

“The people of this area are very proud to have him from here, and to have that be a part of their legacy,” said Arts Council Chair Leisl Sorensen.

In December, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to rename Provo’s veteran center in honor of Halvorsen.

Sen. Mike Lee sponsored the bill, which was co-sponsored by Utah’s entire Congressional delegation. 

There are few Americans who inspire the spirit of humanitarian and community service quite like Col. Gail Halverson,” Lee said. “Col. Halverson represents the best of Utah and the best values of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“Colonel Halvorsen brought joy to children living in deplorable conditions. His sense of humanity and kindness brightened our world and he will be deeply missed,” Rep. John Curtis tweeted Thursday.

Born in Salt Lake City in 1920, Halvorsen grew up on small farms in Idaho and Utah. In 1948, Halvorsen was one of the pilots in the U.S. airlift that saved 2 million Germans from starvation as the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin in an attempt to take it from the Allies. Halvorsen flew planeload after planeload of flour and coal.

“They could have a flight unloaded in about 10 minutes and we’d be on our way to get another load,” Halvorsen said.

But it was a meeting at the fence with German children that changed his life.

“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.”

He did and pulled out two sticks of gum. Instead of fighting over it, he says, they shared it and then he got the idea to drop his candy bar rations, by tiny parachutes that he made, on his next flight, wiggling his wings.

“People are people,” Halvorsen said. “I don’t care where the border is, whether it’s East Germany or West Germany — people are the same, have the same needs.”

This is a breaking story. It will be updated as new information becomes available.

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‘Candy Bomber’ Gail Halvorsen passes away at age 101