Veterans

June 19, 2012

Berlin ‘Candy Bomber’ receives honor

by A1C Tom Brading
JB Charleston, S.C.

Retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen – known as the “Candy Bomber” for his actions during the Berlin Airlift – sits in front of the C-17 aircrew Training center, which was renamed in his honor during a June 15, 2012, ceremony at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. Halvorsen flew C-47 and C-54 cargo aircraft during the Berlin Airlift and dropped candy attached to parachutes to the German children below.

Retired Air Force Col. Gail Halvorsen’s legacy is built on chocolate, bubble gum and hope.

The military leadership at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., renamed the base’s C-17 aircrew training building after Halvorsen during a June 15 dedication ceremony in honor of the legendary “Berlin Candy Bomber.”

In 1948, the Soviet Union placed the German city of Berlin in a tight blockade, cutting the city off from the West. World War II had concluded a few years before, and its aftermath had left Berlin in ruins. Allied bombings during the war had reduced the city’s buildings to large, thin fingers pointing toward the sky. The streets, once filled with busy urban life, were left littered with debris. Berlin’s people were scared, homeless and hungry.

The United States and its allies quickly devised and launched an airlift to get supplies to the city’s stricken populace.

In those days, a hungry German boy might have cried for help, and the sound of his voice may have echoed faintly into silence, as if no one could hear his plea. But then, through the darkness of clouds and smoke, a tiny parachute attached to a candy bar might fall softly to the ground at the boy’s feet as a subtle reminder that somebody knew he was in trouble and that somebody cared.

That somebody was then-Air Force Lt. Gail Halvorsen, forever referred to as “The Candy Bomber” in Germany for his actions during the 1948 Berlin Airlift, known as “Operation Vittles.” The airlift helped to end the Soviet blockade.

Halvorsen’s simple act of kindness gave hope back to the children of a war-torn Germany.

“When I first flew over Berlin, I could look through the buildings,” Halvorsen said. “I didn’t understand how 2 million people could have lived there.”

Halvorsen dropped candy from his C-54 aircraft for the German children below. His kindness inspired other crews to do the same. Halvorsen, along with more than 20 other candy bombers, dropped more than 3 million pounds of chocolate, gum and other candies for the German children.

“Colonel Halvorsen is, in large part, a symbol of hope and kindness for an entire nation,” Air Force Col. Erik Hansen, commander of the 437th Airlift Wing, said during the building dedication ceremony. “His greatest accomplishment was found, not only from his extraordinary aviation skill, but also from his compassion.”

Halvorsen’s compassion sparked a flame of inspiration throughout Berlin. The inspiration eventually caught on with American children, who made their own parachutes and donated candy for the German children.

“Halvorsen’s kindness provides the ‘why’ to what we do day in and day out as an airlift wing,” Hansen said. “His inspiration played a major role in saving Berlin and proved the concept of airlift as a strategic tool during the Cold War years and beyond.”

Although Halvorsen is an Air Force legend, he remains humble and wishes for the training building to be a reminder of those who sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom.

“There are 31 American heroes and 39 British heroes of the Berlin Airlift,” Halvorsen said during the building dedication ceremony. “And I’m not one of them. Today’s dedication is not mine; the dedication is for those that gave their all for the cause of freedom. So, I’m not here for myself. I’m here to represent them.”

Halvorsen also spoke about the importance of heritage to America’s future generations.

“It’s important young people know their heritage and why they have freedoms and blessings that others are denied,” Halvorsen said. “The United States is dedicated to freedom today, like our forefathers were yesterday.”

According to Halvorsen, those freedoms are provided, in large part, by the U.S. military’s humanitarian missions of yesterday and today.

“It is easy to measure the military and diplomatic success through the vital supplies flown into Berlin,” Hansen said. “The statistics are clearly impressive and directly responsible for the eventual collapse of the Soviet blockade in Berlin. What can’t be measured is the hope, delivered symbolically by Colonel Halvorsen, and his impact on the global struggle for freedom.”

Today, at age 92, Halvorsen said he remains as optimistic about the idea of freedom as ever.

“In man’s search for happiness, sometimes he’ll chase for riches,” Halvorsen said. “But money doesn’t buy happiness. The only real reward you get in life is getting out of yourself and helping others, and that’s worth more than anything money can buy.

“As time goes by, we look in the rear view mirror of the past to learn,” he added. “But, you can’t look in the rear view for too long and wonder ‘What if?’ or else you’ll miss a turn on what you might become. We need to look into the windshield of the future and give hope to the young people of what their life can be.”

Hansen said naming the building after Halvorsen links today’s mission here to the ideals past heroes. “This training building will be an unbreakable link of the hope Colonel Halvorsen and his fellow airmen gave to the people of Berlin and the hope Team Charleston provides to people everywhere around the world today.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph

AF holds 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration ceremony

Air Force photograph F-105 crews played a key role in Operation Rolling Thunder. During this three-year Vietnam War campaign, Air Force, Marine and Navy aircraft bombed targets throughout North Vietnam. U.S. and Australian wars...
 
 

Airmen missing from WWII accounted for

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Feb. 23, that the remains of U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier of Augusta, Mont.; Bryant E. Poulsen of Salt Lake...
 
 

President signs Clay Hunt Act, says ‘Stigma has to end’

President Barack Obama Feb. 12 signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, or SAV Act. The act is aimed at reducing military and veteran suicides and improving their access to quality mental health care. Hunt was a decorated Marine veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress. He deployed to Iraq and...
 

 

Survivor of USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor attack dies at 100

YUBA CITY, Calif. – The oldest living crew member of the battleship USS Arizona to have survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died in Northern California at the age of 100. Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell died Feb. 4 at a nursing home in Yuba City, according to his son, Ted Langdell....
 
 
Photograph by Diane Betzler

Edwards Airmen celebrate Super Bowl with local retired veterans

Photograph by Diane Betzler Life is good: Retired veterans and residents of the William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans’ Home enjoy watching the Super Bowl, eating a delicious steak dinner and swapping war stories with members ...
 
 

Reunions – February thru April, 2015

374th Field Maint Sqdn., PACAF Feb. 13-14; Biloxi, Miss. For more information, contact Larry Voss at (218) 410-2192 or email levs.22@hotmail.com. 11th Abn/Air Assault Div Mid-Atlantic Chapter, and 187th RCT Feb. 21-25; Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Artie Heape at (843) 846-4693 or email artieheape@centurylink.net. Seabees in Ireland & Scotland, NMCB 62 Feb....
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>