Candy Bomber returns to Outer Banks to reenact famed 1948-49 drop over Berlin

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the "Berlin Candy Bomber" stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona. Halvorsen dropped candy bars attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. As word of his personal humanitarian mission spread to the United States donations of thousands of pounds of candy and hundreds of handkerchiefs and other pieces of scrap cloth reached him. By January 1949, more than 250,000 small parachutes with treats attached were dropped. For his actions Halvorsen received the 1948 Cheney Award "... for an act of valor, extreme fortitude, or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest." (U.S. Air Force photo/Bennie J. Davis III)

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation’s C-54/R5-D aircraft The Spirit of Freedom will return to the Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo for a weekend of festivities. Children and their families are invited to the airport on Sunday, Dec. 15 for the 20th Annual Candy Drop.

There will be two candy drops, one for ages 6 and younger at 1 p.m. and ages 7 and older at 1:30 p.m.

At 2 p.m., Santa will arrive at the Dare County Airport and will be available for photos. The Spirit of Freedom will be on display and available for touring until 5 p.m. This is a free family-friendly event.

On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin, which was deep within the Soviet zone of Germany, by cutting off all rail and road routes going through Soviet-controlled territory in Germany.

On June 25 the order was given to launch a massive airlift using both civil and military aircraft that flew supplies into the Western-held sectors of Berlin over the blockade during 1948–1949, ultimately lasting 462 days. This aerial supply of West Berlin became known as the Berlin Airlift.

One of the many American pilots to fly the USAF C-54 Skymaster during the Berlin Airlift was Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen (age 99) of Provo, Utah. During the operation, he became known as the “Candy Bomber” because he repeatedly dropped candy to German children from his aircraft on approach to the runways.

Throughout the entire blockade over 23 tons of candy was dropped to Berlin children. The candy drop operations may have had a substantial impact on the postwar perception of Americans in Germany, and it is still pointed to as a symbol of German-American relations.

The “Candy Bomber” will be recognized during the 116th Anniversary Event for the Wright Brothers’ First Flight achievement on Tuesday, Dec. 17. The First Flight Society has chosen Colonel Halvorsen as their newest inductee into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The Spirit of Freedom will also be on display at the event.

For more information please call the Dare County Airport at 252-475-5570.