Aviation History

Candy Bomber: The US Pilot Who Gave Hope To Children

He defied the Soviets and his superiors, with sweets.

In 1948, the USSR had cut off Berlin from Western Europe.

So a US pilot came up with an ingenious idea to help feed the people of Berlin.

Gail Halvorsen, then a 27-year-old lieutenant, along with other British and American pilots, flew daily missions to drop food and other supplies as part of Operation Vittles.

But Halvorsen, who had already started handing out candy and gum to children he could reach on the ground, added handkerchief parachutes delivering candy to his airdrops.

He soon became known as the "Candy Bomber".

Over the next eight months, more than 23 tonnes of candy fell from the skies of Berlin and to the children of Berlin he became a hero.

Nearly 70 years later, the 96-year-old candy bomber returned to the newly-renovated Berlin airlift memorial at his former airbase.

There he met the airmen currently assigned to his unit, that carry on that same legacy, as well as a few old friends.

True to form, the candy bomber had plenty of treats for the children - his favourite candy bars.

Whether inspiring the next generation of airmen or reaching out to German children, 70 years on, Gail Halvorsen continues to embody the message of peace and hope.