Gail was born in Salt Lake City, Utah 10/10/20 and grew up on small farms in Utah and Idaho. He earned a private pilot license under the non-college Civilian Pilot Training Program in September 1941. Almost concurrently Gail joined the Civil Air Patrol as a pilot. He joined the United States Army Air Corps in June 1942. Fighter pilot training was with the Royal Air Force after which he was returned to the Army Air Corps and was assigned flight duties in foreign transport operations in the South Atlantic Theater. After WW-II he flew in the Berlin Airlift where he became known as, “Uncle Wiggly Wings”, the “Chocolate Flyer” and the “Berlin Candy Bomber”.
Operation Little Vittles
Shortly before landing at the Berlin Tempelhof Airport in the American sector of Berlin, Halvorsen would drop candy attached to parachutes to children below. This action, which was dubbed Operation Little Vittles and sparked similar efforts by other crews, was the source of the popular name for the pilots — the candy bombers. Halvorsen wanted to help raise the morale of the children during the time of uncertainty and privation.
Halvorsen started by giving a few treats to children watching the planes from outside the Tempelhof base. Wanting to give more, he promised to drop more candy from his plane the next day. Because the planes would arrive nearly every three minutes, the children naturally couldn't distinguish his aircraft from the others. However, Halvorsen promised to wiggle the wings to identify himself, which led to his nickname "Onkel Wackelflügel" ("Uncle Wiggle Wings"). The other American candy bombers became known as the Rosinenbomber (Raisin Bombers). Halvorsen's initiative drew the attention of the operation's commanding officer, Lieutenant General William H. Tunner, who approved of it and ordered it expanded into Operation Little Vittles.
The operation was soon noticed by the press and gained widespread attention. A wave of public support led to donations which enabled Halvorsen and his crew to drop 850 pounds of candy. By the end of the airlift, around 25 plane crews had dropped 23 tons of chocolate, chewing gum, and other candies over various places in Berlin. The Confectioners Association of America donated large amounts to the effort, and American school children cooperated in attaching the candies to parachutes.
Watch The Candy Bomber video story
As told by Tom Brokaw
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