SALT LAKE CITY — The "Candy Bomber" of the Berlin Airlift was recognized Friday in the Utah Senate for his act of compassion toward the people of Germany in the aftermath of World War II.
For Utah lawmakers, a visit from retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen was a privileged opportunity to meet with a local hero who gained fame through his small but meaningful acts of kindness to the people of a divided Berlin.
The 96-year-old veteran stood tall as he stepped onto the Senate floor and was greeted by inspired lawmakers.
Halvorsen was assigned to fly in supplies during the Berlin Airlift at the end of World War II. Upon noticing a group of children watching the supplies come, he decided to give them the pieces of gum he had in his pocket in hopes it would give them some small comfort.
The German children appreciated his actions, and it was from that moment that Halvorsen decided to spread his service by dropping even more candy — by parachute — to the waiting children.
Sen. Deidre Henderson, R-Spanish Fork, sponsored a resolution to honor the act of service that earned Halvorsen the nickname of "The Candy Bomber." SCR4 received unanimous support from the Senate.
"Few episodes of history bring smiles and touch hearts as quickly as that of ‘The Candy Bomber,’" Henderson said as she introduced her guest.
Henderson detailed some of Halvorsen's history, noting his ties to Utah. He earned his pilot qualifications at the Brigham City airport and worked with Utah's Civil Air Patrol before taking orders to fly cargo missions for the war effort.
He stayed in service after the end of the war, which put him in a position to become a hero to an uncertain Germany that was divided at the start of the Cold War.
Halvorsen's fellow servicemen were inspired and joined his efforts to drop candy by parachute. Over the course of the Berlin Airlift, they delivered more than 20 tons of candy to the children of Berlin.
"Candy tied to handkerchiefs became a symbol of American goodness and charity," Henderson said.
Halvorsen continued to take part in humanitarian actions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Micronesia, even after his military service. He still serves with the Civil Air Patrol.
"Let us not allow Gail Halvorsen’s story to simply slip away into obscurity," Henderson said.