‘Candy Bomber’ honored with dedication, airlift re-creation | News, Sports, Jobs


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Candy is dropped from a C-54 plane during a Gail Halvorsen celebration at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Members of the Halvorsen family and others unveil the “Spirit of the Candy Bomber” design placed on an active C-17 aircraft at Provo Airport Friday, May 20, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Historian Eddie Ide speaks to attendees about Gail Halvorsen and the Berlin Airlift aboard a C-54 aircraft at Provo Airport Friday, May 20, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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A C-54 plane, filled with drop-off candies, takes off as hundreds of people look on during a Gail Halvorsen celebration at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Gen. Mike Minihan, Commander of Air Mobility Command, addresses the crowd gathered for a celebration of Gail Halvorsen at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Candy attached to parachutes floats to the ground as a C-54 takes off during a Gail Halvorsen celebration at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Members of Travis Brass, an ensemble from the Air Force Band of the Golden West, are seen playing music through the window of a C-54 housing Gail Halvorsen artifacts at Provo airport on Friday 20 May 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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The “Spirit of the Candy Bomber” design was revealed on an active C-17 aircraft at Provo Airport on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi addresses the crowd gathered for a Gail Halvorsen celebration at the Provo airport Friday, May 20, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Members of the public walk through a museum of Gail Halvorsen memorabilia aboard a C-54 aircraft at the Provo airport Friday, May 20, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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U.S. Representative Burgess Owens addresses the crowd gathered for a Gail Halvorsen celebration at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

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Every action has a ripple effect. One good deed leads to another, affecting hundreds, thousands, millions of people. The actions of Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, the “Candy Bomber” herself, echoed across the United States and Europe for decades.

On Friday and Saturday, the late Utah County icon was honored by the US Air Force, German government officials and those whose lives he touched, whether he knew it or not.

Halvoresen caused a stir when, during the Berlin Airlift in 1948, he dropped candy and gum to German children.

“I would say Colonel Gail Halvorsen is among the three most popular and famous Americans in Germany. He strengthened our German-American friendship throughout his life,” said Defense Brigadier General Frank Graefe, who attended the ceremonies on behalf of the German embassy and government. “He laid the foundation for our close friendship that we have today.”

Graefe told the Daily Herald that Halvorsen’s sweets stand out in the shared history of Germany and the United States. He compared it to President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 West Berlin speech and President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 remarks at the Berlin Wall as moments that live with people around the world.

On site for both celebrations, several people lined the fences in Berlin waiting for the drops. To make sure the kids on the ground knew it was him, Halvorsen waved the wings of his plane. While his original aircraft is no longer flying – although another was on hand at Provo airport on Friday to serve as a living museum – the spirit lives on.

On the tarmac at Provo Airport were both a C-54, containing Halvorsen’s history and artifacts, and an active C-17 Globemaster III. The C-17, however, was the star of the evening. After speeches by Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufisi and Air Mobility Command Commander General Mike Minihan, Halvorsen’s grandchildren were invited to take the stage and reveal the new name of the plane.

It now reads “Spirit of the Candy Bomber”, with images of children pointing at candies parachuting from a C-54. The aircraft has been involved in both the US evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021 and the delivery of aid and supplies to Ukraine.

While Friday ensured that Halvorsen’s spirit would continue to fly, bringing help and hope in equal measure, his actions were replicated at Spanish Fork Airport on Saturday.

Throughout the morning, children and adults were encouraged to visit other exhibits of memorabilia and old-school military vehicles and equipment and listen to music by Travis Brass, an ensemble from the Air Force Band of the Golden West.

This is all preamble, a warm-up act for a recreation of Halvorsen’s candy drop with specialized parachutes and chocolate. As the crowd of all ages watched intently, a C-17 was loaded with 500 chocolate bars and slowly glided down the runway before finally taking off.

As he toured Spanish Fork and surrounding Utah County, General Minihan again addressed the crowd, calling out Halvorsen royalty in Utah and among members of the United States Air Force. He reminded the crowd of the story of a person who was a child in Berlin during the airlift. They never got candy but said it didn’t matter because they now had hope.

“The very action of what we do has an impact beyond those who directly benefit from it,” Minihan said.

He was joined by several people who traveled from Germany for the events, and Representative Burgess Owens. Owens also spoke briefly, discussing Halvorsen’s significance in history and the recent passage in the United States House of a bill renaming the Provo Veterans Center after the pilot.

Seated in the front row, next to family members and others connected to the airlift, was Sgt. Ralph Dionne. Dionne, now president of the Berlin Airlift Veterans Association, served six months in Germany, participating in the airlift as an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer.

He relished the chance to relive his youth and see today’s children enjoy the grandeur of candy boxes.

“Today has been one of the most fantastic days of my life. Seeing the people gathered here, the enthusiasm, all the volunteers,” Dionne said. “Everything seems to have been guided by God because one thing after another falls into place…. It was professionally planned by the man above and Gail Halvorsen.

He and his son flew to Spanish Fork from Provo on the C-54, the first time he had flown the plane in 73 years – since the first airdrops. Now living in New Hampshire, Dionne hoped to be in Utah with Halvorsen for his 100th birthday, but COVID-19 prevented him from doing so. Disappointed that he missed seeing Halvorsen years ago, Dionne made sure to be in Utah to honor his military colleague.

While the two days were used to honor Colonel Halverson’s life, the original plan was to have him on hand for the celebrations. Halvorsen died on February 16 at the age of 101. Graefe called it a “good idea” to still have the ceremonies to honor him. Even after his passing, Dionne feels his fellow pilot was at the ceremony in spirit and imparted his wisdom to those who never had the chance to meet him:

“Do like Gail Halvorsen. He said, “Bravo, Ralph, and keep smiling. Everyone should do this.



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Edward K. Thompson