Gail Halvorsen (2012)
Note: It is with deep sadness that the Choir announces the death of Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen after a brief illness on February 16, 2022, at age 101. The Choir heralds the life he lived, the scores of children whose lives he touched, and the millions whose hope and faith were renewed by his service and generosity.
Twenty-seven year old pilot Gail (Hal) Halvorsen flew three missions a day in the airlift into Soviet-blockaded Berlin in 1948. But his plane contained more than the 20,000 pounds of much-needed sacks of flour. His additional precious cargo was candy for the German children. He became known as “The Candy Bomber.”
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir paid tribute to Gail Halvorsen at its 2012 Christmas concert. Halverson’s story is recounted in the Choir’s 2013 book, “Christmas from Heaven.”
Much-heralded journalist, former anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News Tom Brokaw narrated the 2012 program, which culminated with the appearance of Halvorsen on stage with groups of children dressed as German refugees, the sound of flying airplanes, searchlights piercing the dark and film clips of the Halvorsen in Germany.
The candy operation began with Halvorsen handing two sticks of gum to German children leaning against barbed wire fencing at Tempelhof Air Base. They were watching much needed food stuffs arrive every few minutes. Seeing them gingerly share the two pieces of gum gave him an idea. That night he fashioned parachutes from handkerchiefs and attached candy bars bought at the local commissary. The next day he released his precious candy cargo before landing his palettes of food and watched the sheer joy of the children. His father taught him in his youth on the family farm in Garland, Utah that from little things came big things.
Soon 25 of his fellow pilots joined in the effort. Manufacturers in America donated candy and school children assembled the parachutes, which eventually totaled 23 tons of chocolate, chewing game and other candies. By January 1949 some 250,000 parachutes had been dropped over Berlin in “Operation Little Vittles.”
For decades Halvorsen has inspired others with the heartwarming saga that on those dark days served as a beacon of hope and a symbol of good will for a region fractured by war.