Cold War pilot, 99, known as ‘Candy Bomber‘ because he dropped sweets to kids behind Iron Curtain

The Cold War ‘Candy Bomber‘ who dropped sweets to children behind the Iron Curtain will be honoured by the British Legion 

Colonel Gail Halvorsen (pictured) – nicknamed the Candy Bomber – released the treats, tied to miniature parachutes made from handkerchiefs

A pilot who delivered chocolate for children behind the Iron Curtain will be honoured by the Royal British Legion today.

Colonel Gail Halvorsen – nicknamed the Candy Bomber – released the treats, tied to miniature parachutes made from handkerchiefs, as he flew in vital supplies to West after it was blockaded by the Soviet Union in 1948.

His kindness during one of the Cold War‘s first major crises duly raised Berliners‘ morale – and the initially unauthorised drops soon gathered momentum, with children eventually receiving around 20 tons of sweets as other airmen joined ‘Operation Little Vittles‘.

The RAF-trained pilot, now aged 99, and his inspirational deeds during the Berlin Airlift – when the Allies circumvented the blockade by flying in food and fuel every day for more than two million Germans – will be featured during the Royal British Legion‘s Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

A young actress will read a testimonial from Traute Grier, a teenager when the blockade began, who said: ‘The chocolate was wonderful but it wasn‘t the chocolate that was most important. 

‘What it meant was that someone cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope.‘

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Col Halvorsen told how the chocolate drops began with two sticks of Wrigley‘s chewing gum, following a group of children‘s heartfelt plea for liberty from Communist oppression. 

The pilot, then a 28-year-old lieutenant, met the children through the fence of an airfield where he was working.

‘The kids said, ‘someday we‘ll have enough to eat but if we lose our freedom, we‘ll never get it back‘. I thought their attitude was wonderful so I reached in my pocket. All I had was two sticks of gum. 

‘They held it like it was fragile, they were thrilled,‘ he recalled this week, during a tour of the RAF Museum in Hendon, north London, organised with the help of the RAF Museum American Foundation.

The father of five, a farmer‘s son from Provo, Utah, served in the United States Air Force for 32 years from 1942. He said his thoughts on Remembrance Sunday would be with the 36 British and 32 American airmen who lost their lives in crashes during the Berlin Airlift.

‘The spirit of the Berliners was incredible and their support for us – enemies who were bombing them a few years before – was unbelievable,‘ he said. ‘That‘s an important message still today. Dedication to ideals – to identify first of all what‘s best for the human race, then supporting those efforts to make it that way.‘

The Royal British Legion‘s Festival of Remembrance is on 1 at 9pm tonight. 

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