Wednesday, May 25, 2011

‘Candy Bomber’ targets valley

Re-enactment of 1940s Berlin airlift event planned for Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Col. Gail Halvorsen gives candy to kids in Berlin following World War II. Known as the original “Candy Bomber,” he will give a lecture in Ketchum on Thursday and will participate in several events over Memorial Day weekend. Courtesy photo.

The sweetest mission ever flown by the Air Force will be re-enacted Thursday over the Wood River High School football field.

Hundreds of parachutes carrying candy will be dropped for children during a re-enactment of the original "Candy Bomber" drops, which took place during the blockade of the city of Berlin following World War II.

The candy drop zone will be the Wood River High School football field, bounded by Fox Acres Road at the East edge of Hailey, with the drop to occur between 4 and 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 26.

Spectators and kids wanting to collect candy from the sky should assemble at the high school football field by 4 p.m.

Col. Gail S. Halvorsen (USAF-retired) participated in the historic Berlin airlift in 1948 and 1949, delivering millions of tons of essential supplies to West Berlin, a city surrounded by Soviet territory during the Cold War.

Halvorsen, who is from Utah, began dropping candy for Berlin children, wiggling his wings so kids would know his plane was approaching.

Now 90, he will speak at The Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday at 6 p.m., following the candy drop. He will present a slideshow illustrating the history of the Berlin airlift and his role in it. Admission is free and open to the public.


Halvorsen's actions were sanctioned by the Air Force and repeated by many other pilots, providing a positive public-image campaign for Allied forces as they vied with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of the world following World War II.

By the end of the airlift, about 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum and other candies over various places in Berlin. The Confectioners Association of America donated large amounts to the effort, and American schoolchildren cooperated in attaching the candies to parachutes.

Local students have been building parachutes and packing candy in anticipation of Thursday's Candy Bomber drop.

Local surgeon Tom Crais organized Halvorsen's visit. Crais and Halvorsen became friends while Halvorsen was commander of Berlin's Tempelhof airfield in the 1970s and Crais was a Navy and Army flight surgeon stationed in Berlin.

"This is a great community project," Crais said. "I want to thank all those who helped, and to thank the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority for their support and cooperation."

People with Berlin connections, especially those who had family in Berlin at the time of the airlift, are encouraged to attend these events as special guests by contacting Crais' Hailey office at 788-7700.

Halvorsen's tradition was continued in Iraq with Chief Warrant Officer Jared Kimber, also from Utah, and his crew from the 82nd Medical Company. Kimber organized drops of soccer balls, frisbees and other toys to Iraqi children, an effort that earned him the nickname, the "Toy Bomber" of Iraq.

Halvorsen will be in town over the Memorial Day weekend. He will be a special guest at the re-dedication the National Guard Armory in Hailey at 311 Cedar St. E. in Hailey on Saturday, May 28, from noon to 1 p.m.

He will also speak at a luncheon at the armory on Monday, May 30, from 12:30-2 p.m., following Memorial Day observances at the Hailey Cemetery.

Tony Evans:

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