UTAH (ABC4) – Wednesday, the “Candy Bomber” plane arrived in Utah in celebration of the life of Berlin Candy Bomber, Col. Gail Halvorsen, who died earlier this year at the age of 101.

A C-54, just like the one Halvorsen used, was flown in from the Canyonlands through the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon with a 10-person flight crew. It was led by pilot Timothy Chopp, the president of the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, who flew on the “Spirit of Freedom” with Halvorsen since 1994, performing candy drops around the world.

Friends and family shared memories of Halvorsen and what this event meant to them.

“Not only just to honor him, which is well worth it, but also to bring a feeling of I can do something like that, I can make a good choice, I can serve somebody else,” said Denise Williams, his daughter.

A lifelong Utahn, Halvorsen became a U.S. Army Air Force pilot at 22 years old in 1942. A few years into his service, he took on a mission of his own initiative that started with one simple act of kindness.

“He reached out to them and really by two sticks of gum, changed the course of history,” James Stewart, Executive Director of the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation.

This would later grow into something even more. Halvorsen would become known as the “Candy Bomber” and inspire thousands across the world by dropping parachutes of candy to German children during the Berlin airlift.

The plane today was one of the last airworthy C-54s, according to Linnea Weller, the event director with the Halvorsen Foundation. Another aspect that makes it unique is its onboard museum, full of pictures of the candy bomber and Berlin airlift. Chopp says they’ve been looking for a replacement for the original aircraft since it was destroyed by a tornado two years ago and today was a monumental moment.

“The night that Gail passed away, the family allowed me to use the telephone and tell him how I felt about him. So, this was sort of an extension to say goodbye, so that’s how we feel,” Chopp said. 

Family and friends say Halvorsen continues to inspire them daily, and his legacy will live on.

“We know our father is here with us too, it’s a beautiful, beautiful expression of the efforts of so many people,” said Williams.

There are two more events coming up later this week in remembrance of the candy bomber:

Friday, May 20
New Provo Airport Terminal
10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
– Open House
– Tour Spirit of Freedom C-54 & Spirit of the Candy Bomber C-17 (Register for tour times)
– Static Aircraft Display

5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
– C17 Naming Ceremony
– USAF band and unveiling of the newly painted C-17 aircraft: “Spirit of The Candy Bomber”

Unveiling and walk-through of C-17 Globemaster III named in honor of Col Gail Halvorsen. This C-17, which is set to be named “The Spirit of the Candy Bomber,” has played a significant role in evacuating civilians from Afghanistan, and moving supplies and humanitarian aid to Europe in support of Ukraine.

Saturday, May 21 – 9:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. – Spanish Fork Airport 

Performance by the Air Force’s Band of the Golden West. Side-by-side flyover of the Spirit of the Candy Bomber and the Spirit of Freedom. Will feature displays, activities, musical performances, food trucks, a sneak peek at the future Halvorsen Heritage Center, and a Spirit of Freedom candy drop.

Find more details about Col. Halvorsen’s story and register for the event here.