'Candy Bomber' Gail Halvorsen (Picture: US Department of Defense).
USA

'Candy Bomber' Pilot Given Hero's Welcome in Berlin

In the late 1940s, 98-year-old Gail Halvorsen airdropped sweets to starving children during the Berlin Airlift.

'Candy Bomber' Gail Halvorsen (Picture: US Department of Defense).

'Candy Bomber' Gail Halvorsen (Picture: US Department of Defense).

The pilot who became known as the 'Candy Bomber' for parachuting sweets and chocolate to starving children during the Berlin Airlift has been given a hero's welcome upon his return to the city.

Gail Halvorsen was in the US Air Force when he was tasked with airdropping supplies to residents during the crisis of 1948 and 1949, known as Operation Vittles.

The war-ravaged population had gone hungry as a result of the Soviet Union closing off railways, roads and canals into the area.

Gail Halvorsen dropped sweets and chocolate to the hungry children on the streets of Berlin during the crisis (Picture: US Department of Defense).
Gail Halvorsen dropped sweets and chocolate to hungry children in Berlin during the crisis (Picture: US Department of Defense).

In response, western Allies decided to take to the air to drop vital supplies to 2.5 million people below, and made nearly 300,000 flights during Operation Vittles.

Mr Halvorsen decided to drop bubblegum and chocolate wrapped in handkerchief parachutes, from his C-54 aircraft, and was nicknamed "The Chocolate Uncle" - tilting his wings to show it was him in the skies above.

Over the next eight months, more than 23 tonnes of confectionery fell from the skies of Berlin.

The 'Candy Bomber' was back in the German capital as a guest of honour to celebrate 70 years since the end of the event.

The 98-year-old posed for photographs and signed autographs in his military uniform, while urging young people to pay attention to politics, in working towards continuing freedom for future generations.