Utah congressmen unite to honor ‘the Candy Bomber’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Utah’s congressional delegation has joined forces to honor Box Elder County native Col. Gail S. Halvorsen (USAF-Ret.) – the famous “Candy Bomber.”

Members of Utah’s congressional delegation joined forces Wednesday to honor Utah humanitarian Col. Gail S. Halvorsen (USAF-Ret) — “The Candy Bomber.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) jointly introduced legislation to rename the Provo Vet Center in Orem in honor of the Utah humanitarian hero.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Utah representatives Blake Moore, Burgess Owens and Chris Stewart have also signed on as co-sponsors of that legislation.

If enacted, the veterans facility in Orem would be renamed “The Col. Gail S. Halvorsen ‘Candy Bomber’ Veterans Center.”

Col. Gail Halvorsen exemplifies the best of the Utah spirit of service,” Lee explained. “His creativity and compassion helped to heal the wounds of the Second World War and softened the relationship between occupied Germany and the United States.

“Renaming the Provo Vet Center in his honor is a fitting and deserving recognition of this American hero.”

Halvorsen has strong ties to northern Utah. A native of Garland and a former resident of Tremonton, he attended Utah State University prior to joining the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942.

He was assigned to West Germany in 1948 as one of numerous pilots flying badly needed supplies into West Berlin to thwart a Soviet blockade of the former German capitol. In addition to his official duties, Halvorsen launched a one-man relief effort to raise civilian morale in Berlin by dropping candy and gum by miniature parachutes over the war-torn city.

In the year that followed, other pilots joined Halvorsen’s relief operation and voluntary support for their efforts came from all over the United States. By 1949, the airmen had dropped 23 tons of candy over Berlin and Halvorsen had earned the nickname “the Candy Bomber.”

“As an ambassador of the American armed forces, he provided more than candy,” according to Moore. “Col. Halvorsen brought hope to a German nation suffering from the wrath and destruction of the Second World War.

“No one is more deserving of our gratitude than Gail and I am proud to join my colleagues in honoring him.”

Following a distinguished more-than-30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Halvorsen retired in 1974. Since then, he has spearheaded similar aerial relief campaigns over Japan, Guam, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and Iraq.

Retired Col. Gail Halvorsen attends a ceremony to dedicate the baseball and softball field of the Berlin Braves baseball team in ‘Gail Halvorsen Park’ in Berlin , Saturday, May 11, 2019. Halvorsen is known as the “Candy Bomber,” “Chocolate Pilot,” and “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” for the small candy-laden parachutes he dropped from his aircraft to children during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949. (Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP)

In recognition of those humanitarian efforts, Halvorsen has been awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, an Order of Merit from Germany and military commendations for service and humane action.

After retiring, Halvorsen served as assistant dean of student life at Brigham Young University for a decade.

He also founded the Gail S. Halvorsen Aviation Education Foundation, which advances aviation and STEM education, promotes youth leadership development and encourages humanitarian service.

At the age of 100, Halvorsen now resides with relatives in the Salt Lake area.

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