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Local Hero ‘Candy Bomber’ Speaks at Chamber of Commerce

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One of our most famous citizens, Gal Halvorsen,bris known in this country as the “Candy Bomber” and to the kids of Berlin frombrthe fall of 1948 to the spring of 1949 as “Uncle Wiggly Wings.”

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This was the beginning of the “Cold War” andbrRussia blockaded road and rail traffic into Berlin. The answer was an airliftbrby the United States, Britain, and France.

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One of the cargo pilots was a 28-Year-old Utahbrman by the name of Gail Halvorson. While they were unloading his C-54 airplanebrhe walked over to kids gathered at the edge of the airport and handed out abrcouple sticks of gum, which the kids divided into many small pieces to bebrshared.

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Next trip he brought some candy, which was ofbrcourse was enthusiastically received. Lieutenant Halvorsen told the kids he wouldbrdrop candy from the airplane. The kids asked how they would know which of thebrmany airplanes he would be flying. Halvorsen said he would rock his wings andbrthat is where the name “Uncle Wiggly Wings” began.

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Gail Halvorsen grew up in rural Idaho and Utahbrand always had a desire to fly. In 1941 the government was concerned about thebrneed for pilots and initiated a Civilian Pilot Training Program. Gail receivedbra scholarship to earn a private pilot license, which he did in a Piper cubbrflying out of Brigham Airport in September 1941.

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He immediately joined the recently created UtahbrCivil Air Patrol. In May of 1942 he joined the United States Army Air Force atbrthe age of 22. After boot camp his USAAF Aviation Cadet training was at SpartanbrAeronautics near Tulsa, Okla., that was a base primarily for training Royal AirbrForce pilots. He was assigned flight duties in the Air Transport Command in thebrSouth Atlantic Theater.

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He was ordered to Germany in July 10, 1948 to flybrC-54 in what was initially called “Operation Vittles” and would become known asbrthe “Berlin Airlift.” The original intent was to bring in food and basicbrsupplies despite the Russian blockade of ground routes.

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When winter set in it was discovered that coalbrhad to be flown in. At one-point tonnage reached almost 9,000 tons a day. Itbrwas an amazing feat of logistic and a demonstration of U.S. will.

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The first candy drops for the kids did not havebrapproval up the chain of command, but they became popular with flight crews.brWhen Major General William Tunner heard about it, he thought it was a greatbrpublic relations idea and gave it the name “Operation Little Vittles.”

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Volunteers back in the states made parachutes andbrcandy companies donated candy. By the end of the 323 days of the Berlin AirliftbrOperation, 23 tons of candy was dropped for the stranded kids of Berlin.

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The United States of America showed the worldbragain it was an amazingly good country. One woman who was a German teenagebrduring the Berlin Airlift commented “It was not just the candy; it was thatbrsomeone cared, and it represented hope.”

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After the Berlin Airlift Halvorsen, spent anotherbr25 years in the USAF retiring with the rank of Colonel.

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At the Spanish Fork/Salem Chamber of Commercebrluncheon on Nov. 20, Gail Halvorsen told his story and answered questions. Hebrwas wearing a Spartan School of Aeronautics jacket (Spartan is still in thebraviation training business). For a man who turned 99 on Oct. 10 he looked goodbrand gave an absorbing talk. He remains active and just returned from Londonbrwhere British Prime Minister Boris Johnson honored him. He will be featured inbrthe Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall.

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