Continuing his decades-long trademark, 98-year-old Gail Halvorsen, known as the “Candy Bomber,” once again donned his original flight suit and dropped parachutes of candy out of a helicopter Saturday in Provo.
70 years ago, Halvorsen had the notion that the children of Germany had not enjoyed candy in a long time, so during the airlift of 1948-1949, he dropped thousands of candy parachutes to the waiting children below. In celebration of the 70th anniversary Saturday, Halvorsen made his special appearance for a benefit at the Courtyard at Jamestown, an assisted living community where Halvorsen lives.
Anticipated aviation education center
Since Halvorsen has lived at Courtyard, money from the annual benefit has gone to the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Center, to be built in Spanish Fork.
An official groundbreaking for the center by the Spanish Fork airport was tentatively scheduled for Oct. 13, but that has been delayed since their top sponsor, giving $2.5 million to the center, pulled its funding.
The Halvorsen center has a $5 million goal to start building.
In the meantime, Halvorsen continues to make public appearances, attend school programs and on Saturday was filmed by a German news team working on a documentary about his life.
Halvorsen had a buddy that joined the military soon after the U.S. declared they were at war.
“I signed up right away in 1942 in the aviation cadet program,” Halvorsen said. “We were asked if anyone wanted to train with the RAF (British Royal Air Force). I volunteered right away.”
Halvorsen said he got his RAF wings before the ones he received from the U. S. Army Air Corp.
“Occasionally I would fly B-26 light bombers to England. They needed transport pilots,” he said.
After the war and the airlift he soon became a permanent officer and accepted a regular commission, but he needed a college degree. He eventually worked in the Air Force Research Development Command as a rocket scientist.
“I worked on spacecraft and space boosters,” Halvorsen said.
All for the children
While his time in the service was important to him, it has always been the children that had his heart.
“Kids all over the free world wrote me letters,” Halvorsen said. “I have met hundreds of the children who received candy during the airlift.”
Halvorsen says he does all of this for the children to remember what they have. Halvorsen was born Oct. 10, 1920, and said he was a child of the Great Depression.
“We had plenty of food to eat and that’s about all,” Halvorsen said, adding that he wants children to be grateful for what they have.
“The future of America is with the kids growing up now,” Halvorsen said. “I need to leave them some cohesion and heightened appreciation of what they got and the good fortune they find themselves in.”