Inducted in 2019
70th Anniversary of the end of the Berlin Airlift
Colonel Gail Seymour “Hal” Halvorsen, best known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, gained fame for dropping candy to German children during the Berlin Airlift from 1948 to 1949. Colonel Halvorsen joined the United States Army Air Corp in 1942 after Pearl Harbor and trained on fighters with the Royal Air Force in Oklahoma, earning both his RAF and Army Air Corp wings. After the war, he was stationed in Mobile, AL when word came in that the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin. Arriving in Germany in July, 1948, Lieutenant Halvorsen’s role in the 15-month Berlin Airlift, labeled “Operation Vittles” was to fly three trips a day, mostly in C-54’s, from Rhein Main airbase to the blockaded city of Berlin.
One day while filming plane takeoffs and landings at Berlin’s Tempelhof airfield, Halvorsen “met about 30 children lined up behind one of the barbed-wire fences.” The children had nothing and asked for nothing. He decided on the spot to drop candy to these children the next day, telling them he would “wiggle his wings,” so they would know which airplane had the “goods.”
That night Halvorsen, his copilot, and his engineer pooled their candy rations for the next day’s drop. The accumulated candy was heavy, so Halvorsen made three parachutes out of handkerchiefs, tied them to the rations and dropped them to the children as he made the difficult landing in Berlin. In coming weeks, the project gained international attention and eventually over 23 tons of candy were dropped to the children and residents of Berlin. Dubbed “Operation Little Vittles” by the airlift commander, the candy drop raised the Berliners’ morale during the blockade. The never before attempted Berlin Airlift changed the future of air transport as well as the course of history in Europe after WWII, as former enemies became friends and Russian expansion was halted.
Col. Halvorsen retired from the Air Force in 1974, with over 8,000 flying hours. Since 1991 he has regularly flown the C-54 “Spirit of Freedom” with the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation.
Gail Halvorsen passed away on February 16, 2022 at age 101.