Halvorsen expected to participate in candy drop, special programs
This week the "Candy Bomber" is returning to the Dare County Regional Airport for the 19th Annual Candy Drop. Gail Halvorsen, the legendary Candy Bomber pilot who made history with his candy drops over Germany during the Berlin Airlift of 1948-'49 after World War II, is planning to attend.
There will be two candy drops on Sunday, December 16; ages 6 and younger at 1:00 p.m. and ages 7 and older at 1:30 p.m. Santa will fly into the Dare County Airport at 2:00 p.m. and will be available for photos. The Spirit of Freedom will be on display and available for touring until 5 p.m. This is a free family-friendly event.
Last year, in what had been dubbed Halvorsen's "absolutely and positively" last visit to Dare County, the reenactment of the candy drops conducted after World War II took a poignant turn as
Halvorsen was rushed to a naval hospital in Virginia after arriving at the airport in Norfolk and had emergency surgery. The candy drops went on as planned, with the Candy Bomber piloted by Timothy Chopp and his crew.
Manteo resident Karin Edmond, who first experienced the exploits of the Candy Bomber as a little girl in Berlin in 1948, has been the annual organizer of the candy drops. She told the Sentinel that Halvorsen "would never forgive me if we cancelled" the event due to his illness.
The story of the Candy Bomber began during the allies' Berlin Airlift after the Soviet Union imposed a blockade in June 1948, when one American pilot took the airlift a step further. Touched by the suffering of the residents of West Berlin, U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant (later Colonel) Gail Halvorsen wanted to do something to raise the spirits of the children.
One day Halvorsen offered sweets to the kids watching the planes from outside the Tempelhof air base in West Berlin. Not having enough for everyone, he promised to drop more candy from his plane the next day. To enable the children to spot his plane, Halvorsen said he would wiggle the wings as he flew over. This led to his nickname: "Onkel Wackelflügel" ("Uncle Wiggly Wings"). He also became known as "der Rosinenbomber" or "Candy Bomber."
Contacted by phone last week, Halvorsen, 98, told the Sentinel that he has recovered from his surgery last year and is "excited to be coming back to Dare County once again."
The Douglas C-54 Spirit of Freedom plane will arrive at the Dare County Airport on Thursday, Dec. 13. Friday morning Halvorsen will meet school children at the airport, after which they will tour the plane. Halvorsen will also be honored at a special program Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Dare County Center in Manteo, where he will share more memories of his famous candy drops and participants will have the opportunity to meet with him one-on-one.
Donations are needed to help fund this very costly event — $2,500 just for fueling the airplane — and are tax deductible. For more information on making a donation, call Karin Edmond at 252-473-1795.