FRANKFURT, Germany - "Candy Bomber," U.S. Army Air Corps Col. (Ret.) Gail Halvorsen, famed pilot who dropped food and candy to children in Germany from 1948 through 1949, visited Frankfort for the rededication of the Berlin Airlift Monument at the Frankfurt Airport Nov. 21.
"I just knew that it was better to be dropping food ... than bombs," said the 96-year old Halvorsen, who was especially known for dropping chocolate bars attached to tiny parachutes from the sky. "Why did I drop the chocolate? Because of gratitude, the sincere, unabashed gratitude and thanks exhibited by those beautiful children in Berlin."
"Operation Vittles" was the name of the original mission that Halvorson joined in 1948, flying out of Wiesbaden Airfield and Rhein Main Air Field and then expanded with "Operation Little Vittles," the candy-dropping campaign. The former Wiesbaden Army Airfield is today the location of U.S. Army Europe headquarters and Rhein Main Airfield is today part of Frankfurt International Airport. During the course of the Berlin Air Drops, more than two million tons of goods in more than 277,000 flights in and out of Berlin occurred.
Frankfurt Airport, Lufthansa and volunteers repainted and restored the Berlin Airlift monument on location at the airport, added a park, and reopened the site to the public. As a special guest of honor, the Frankfurt Airport, or FRAPORT, and the Berlin Airlift Association, paid for Halvorson and two of his daughters to attend.
"It was a distinct honor to represent U.S. Army Europe at the Berlin Airlift rededication ceremony, to meet Col. Halvorsen again, and to be reminded of the 'power of one'," said Mike Anderson, U.S. Army Europe, director, European host nations.
"The power of one individual, Gail Halvorsen, during a massive 'Operation Vittles' which fed and kept warm the 2 million inhabitants of the capital city of a former enemy, has rightfully captured our imagination for nearly 70 years."
Halvorsen wore his 2nd lieutenant Army Air Corps uniform of 1948 to the ceremony and had chocolate bars in hand which he handed out to children at the ceremony.
While many still call him the "Candy Bomber," Halvorsen said he prefers the name, "Chocolate Bomber."
"Which name do I like most, 'Candy Bomber' or 'Chocolate Bomber'? Halvorsern mused. "Well,
chocolate is a lot more specific and always well received, so "Chocolate Bomber, please."