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Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom

Col. Gail S. Halvorsen, U.S.A.F. (Ret.)

Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, U.S.A.F. (Ret.) is best known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” for dropping candy to German children during the Berlin airlift from 1948 to 1949.

As America geared up for the looming world war, Halvorsen was awestruck with the planes he saw flying while he labored on his father’s sugar beet farm in Tremonton, UT. With a dream for flight, Halvorsen applied for and was accepted into a pilot-training program. The attack on Pearl Harbor prompted him to join the Army Air Corps, and he trained on fighters with the Royal Air Force. Reassigned to military transport service, Halvorsen remained in the service at war’s end.

He was flying C-74 Globemasters and C-54 Skymasters out of Mobile, AL, when word came in June 1948 that the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin. During the 15-month airlift (Operation Vittles), American and British pilots delivered more than 2 million tons of supplies to the city. But it was Halvorsen’s decision to airdrop candy to children (Operation Little Vittles) that clinched an ideological battle and earned him the lasting affection of a free West Berlin. Halvorsen’s operation dropped over 23 tons of candy from over 250,000 parachutes to the residents of Berlin and he has received numerous awards for his role in Operation Little Vittles, including the Congressional Gold Medal.

For the next 25 years, Halvorsen advocated for and performed candy drops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Japan, Guam, and Iraq. In his professional career, he helped develop reusable manned aircraft at the Directorate of Space and Technology and served as commander of Berlin Tempelhof Airport.

He retired in August 1974 after logging over 8,000 flying hours and 31 years of military service. After his retirement, Halvorsen and his wife moved to Provo, UT, where he served as the Assistant Dean of Student Life at Brigham Young University from 1976 to 1986. The Halvorsens served as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in London, England, from 1986 to 1987 and in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 1995 to 1997.

Today, Halvorsen is affectionately known by Berliners and many around the world as the Berlin Candy Bomber (“Rosinenbomber”), Uncle Wiggly Wings (“Onkel Wackelflugel”), and the Chocolate Pilot.