Candy Bomber Scholarship Helps Aviation Students

Colonel Gail Seymour “Hal” Halvorsen, aka The Berlin Candy Bomber, is famous for dropping candy to German children during the Berlin Airlift of 1948–1949. He became a national hero and received numerous awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal. Now a scholarship in his name is helping UVU students become pilots.

Halvorsen was born in Salt Lake City in 1920 and grew up on farms in Utah and Idaho. In 1942 he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, and in 1948 he was assigned to the Berlin Airlift, dubbed Operation Vittles, to ferry supplies into the starving city.

While filming plane takeoffs and landings at Tempelhof Airport one day, Halvorsen saw about thirty children lined up behind a barbed-wire fence. He offered them a couple of sticks of gum that he had in his pocket, and they broke them into little pieces to share. The ones who didn’t get any sniffed the wrappers.

Wanting to do more for the children, Halvorsen promised to drop enough gum for all of them out of his plane the following day. He told them he would wiggle his wings so they could recognize his plane.

Halvorsen made parachutes out of handkerchiefs and dropped three boxes of candy to the children the next day. So began Operation Little Vittles. With the help of candy makers and private citizens in the U.S., Operation Little Vittles ultimately dropped over 23 tons of candy to the residents of Berlin.

Over the next 25 years, Halvorsen initiated candy drops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Japan, and Iraq. In 1992, a Brigham Young University student produced a seven-minute film about Halvorsen titled “The Candy Bomber.” It was later made into a full-length film. In 2012 Halvorsen’s story was the theme of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert — Christmas From Heaven, narrated by Tom Brokaw.

After the war, Halvorsen remained in the air force. He earned bachelor and master degrees in aeronautical engineering and later researched and developed space projects. In 1970 he became commander of the 7350th Air Base Group at Tempelhof Central Airport, returning to the spot where Operation Little Vittles began.

Halvorsen retired in 1974, having logged over 8,000 flying hours. From 1976 to 1986 he was assistant dean of student life at Brigham Young University.

Halvorsen’s plane, dropping candy, is immortalized in the Roots of Knowledge stained-glass windows at Utah Valley University. In 2018 UVU named the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Endowed Scholarship to support UVU aviation students.

Support UVU aviation students with a contribution to the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Endowed Scholarship.