To the children who grew up in Berlin, Germany, on the tail end of World War II, candy was more than a sweet indulgence. It was a symbol of hope – a gift literally dropped from the sky by their own personal angel.
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Meet Gail Halvorsen, a U.S. veteran who is better known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber.” Decades ago, he took it upon himself to spread joy during an intense time of hardship. Today, he’s still inspiring millions with his story!
Three years after World War II ended, the Soviet Union sought to take control of Berlin by closing its roads and railways. This stopped food and other supplies from coming in, essentially starving the city.
But help came from the U.S. and other allies, who made supply drops via C-54 cargo planes as part of the Berlin Airlift.
Gail was among the hundreds of pilots making these drops. One July day, he was inspired to do even more when he met some children who were gathered behind barbed wire fences at the local airport.
The then 27-year-old handed them a piece of gum, a rare treat, to share and promised to bring more in his next drop. He told them to watch out for the plane that wiggled its wings. That’s how “Operation Little Vittles” began!
From July 1948 to September 1949, Gail dropped small parachutes carrying chocolate and gum from his aircraft, lifting children’s spirits across the city.
It didn’t take long for other pilots to join in and for people around the U.S. to contribute candy to the cause. Over the course of that year, they delivered about 21 tons of candy!
Even after Gail left Germany, he went on to make candy drops in other countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Japan, Guam, and Iraq.
After he retired from the U.S. Air Force, he brought the tradition back home to Utah. Decades later, he still participates in special candy drops every year to celebrate those long-ago days.
On October 10, 2020, Gail turned 100 years old and traded the cockpit for a seat on the ground during a special helicopter drop to celebrate him. While his pilot days may be over, he’s still as beloved as ever by strangers around the world!
“If we get outside of ourselves in the road of life, for somebody who is struggling more than you are, then you’re going to be rewarded in a way you’ll never know,” he told ABC News.
Happy birthday, Gail! Your selflessness couldn’t have come at a better time, and it will never be forgotten. You’re a legend!
Share this story to honor the hero who brought sweets and smiles to children in need.
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