‘He became one of my heroes’: Hill Aerospace Museum director reacts to Gail Halvorsen’s death
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Gail Halvorsen, also known as the ‘Candy Bomber,’ was a regular visitor at Hill Air Force Base and the Hill Aerospace Museum.
On base, Halvorsen was known for his love for his fellow man and for his fellow airmen.
Halvorsen flew a C-54 during the Berlin airlift after World War II.
There’s a C-54 in front of Hill Aerospace Museum that actually flew in the Berlin Airlift and is painted to resemble the one Halverson piloted.
He visited Hill Air Force Base frequently and was always focused on meeting the men and women of today’s Air Force.
“Just a phenomenal individual and an incredible perspective on life,” said Aaron Clark, director of Hill Aerospace Museum. He met Halvorsen a decade ago because the base likes to share his story.
“The more I got to know him, I really started to love him, and he became one of my heroes,” Clark said.
The Candy Bomber flew a C-54 during the Berlin Airlift. Coming up at 4 @KSL5TV A friend of his @HAFB talks about Gail Halvorsen’s enduring legacy, and his love for the Airmen. @kslnewsradio #ksltv pic.twitter.com/U6Qs6hz4EM
— Jed Boal (@jedboal) February 17, 2022
As an American pilot right after World War II Halvorsen’s mission was to help supply the Germans with humanitarian aid. The Soviets blockaded Berlin from the rest of Germany and American planes flew in the supplies.
“He took an approach of compassion and love towards someone who was the prior enemy. Instead of holding any animosity, he provided them hope. He provided them compassion,” Clark said.
He famously dropped chocolate bars for children on his own initiative. He would dip his wings as a signal to the children that he was on his way.
Clark says Halvorsen always had love in his heart. Whenever he was on base, the younger airmen came first.
“He wanted to hear their stories, and he wanted to thank them for their service,” Clark said. “So, that said a lot about that man. He wasn’t about gratification of his own personality or his own endeavors, it was all about the airmen.”
A few years ago, when the retired colonel was visiting Clark made a reservation for him at a very nice hotel off base.
“Because we want to take care of him, he’s the ‘Candy Bomber. But, when we brought him to that hotel, he said, ‘I don’t want to stay here, I want to stay with my own, my airmen on base.’”
When Halvorsen last visited a couple of months ago, they took him out on the flight line to check out the F-35s and introduced him to the demo team.
“He was engaged, very engaged,” the museum director said.
Even at the age of 101, Halvorsen was still most interested in finding out what was going on with the Air Force.
“It was just phenomenal to see that experience, that interaction, and his love and appreciation for his airmen,” Clark said.
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