PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – He made it through World War II, and now with a worldwide pandemic, Colonel Gail Halvorsen, the “Berlin Candy Bomber, just turned 100 years old. His life was celebrated by friends, neighbors, veterans, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. They wished him a happy birthday with a socially distanced drive-by parade.
According to a release sent to ABC4 News, by the Daughter’s of the American Revolution:
Provo’s Colonel Gail Halvorsen (USAF Ret) is known for his compassion, and back in World War II, he was known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber.”
When the Russians blockaded West Berlin, the residents struggled because of the war desolation and the lack of basic supplies, including food and water. The United States decided to drop supplies in by air
Due to difficulty and risk, the supplies dropped were essential to keep people alive.
Colonel Halvorsen describes it like this, “One day in July 1948, I met 30 kids at the barbed wire fence at Tempelhof in Berlin. They were excited. They said, ‘When the weather gets so bad you can’t land, don’t worry about us. We can get by on little food, but if we lose our freedom, we may never get it back.’ The principle of freedom was more important than the pleasure of enough flour. ‘Just don’t give up on us.’
After that, Colonel Halvorsen wanted to do something for the kids. He passed two sticks of gum through the fence; he said he broke them in two and passed them through the barbed wire. The result was unbelievable; the kids tore off the wrapper’s strips and gave them to the others.
Those with the strips put them to their nose and smelled the fragrance. He saw their incredible restraint, and that was when he decided he would drop enough gum for each of them.
He knew they would know his plane because he could wiggle the wings as he came over the airport.
His first drop was gum and chocolate pars to three handkerchief parachutes. He did the wing wiggle and delivered the goods to a jubilant celebration.
This went on for weeks before they were threatened with a court-martial which was followed by an immediate pardon.
General Tunner said, ‘Keep it up’.
Colonel Halvorsen’s decision to bring joy and hope during a time of horrible desolation brought him the nicknames, “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” “The Chocolate Pilot,” and “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”
For his 100th birthday, Colonel Halvorsen was presented with a Quilt of Valor. Daughters of the Revolution Regent Kelly Schaeffer-Bullock said, “Just as we, the descendants of those early patriots of our nation continue to honor and remember them, your life is one of the purest examples of American goodness and greatness, and will be preserved and honored in perpetuity. We award you with this Quilt of Valor as a tangible reminder that there are hundreds of millions of women and men throughout this land and throughout the world, who are forever in your debt… With an acknowledgment of your nobility of soul, it is our pleasure to award you with a Quilt of Valor.”
United States Air Force Major Jill Stout was there for the awarding of the quilt. She also acknowledged Colonel Halvorsen’s importance to the Air Force and the nation.
The parade kicked off after the National Anthem and one of Halvorsen’s favorite songs, “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer.”
According to the release sent to ABC4 News, “The Provo City Police motor officers were then followed by many additional representatives of the Provo City Police Department, members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, members of the Children of the American Revolution, military members and veterans, representatives of American Heritage School, and community members in classic cars or decorated vehicles. Some members of the vehicle parade reported traveling from as far as Dallas, Texas, and Montpelier, Idaho, just to drive by, wave, and (to) wish this extraordinary American a happy birthday.”
Colonel Halvorsen, who has never been typical, stood up at 100 years old and waved at the majority of the parade, it was reported..his smile brightened the day.