Dec. 15: The Candy Bomber is coming to town

By on November 13, 2019

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation’s C-54/R5-D aircraft, The Spirit of Freedom, will return to the Dare County Regional Airport in Manteo for a weekend of festivities. Children and their families are invited to the airport on Sunday, Dec. 15 for the 20th Annual Candy Drop.

There will be two candy drops on Dec. 15; ages 6 and younger at 1:00 p.m, and ages 7 and older at 1:30 p.m. At 2:00 p.m., Santa will arrive at the Dare County Airport and will be available for photos. The Spirit of Freedom will be on display and available for touring until 5:00 p.m. This is a free family-friendly event.

The Spirit of Freedom arrives in Dare County Airport on Thursday, Dec. 12 and school children will tour the plane the next day. On Saturday, Dec. 14, the plane will be open to the public, followed by the actual Candy Drop the next day.

(First Flight Society)

The Candy Drop has its origins in the days following World War II. On June 24, 1948, the Soviet Union blocked access to the three Western-held sectors of Berlin by cutting off all rail and road routes going through Soviet-controlled territory in Germany. On June 25 the order was given to launch a massive airlift using both civil and military aircraft that flew supplies into the Western-held sectors of Berlin over the blockade during 1948–1949, ultimately lasting 462 days.

This aerial supply of West Berlin became known as the Berlin Airlift. One of the many American pilots to fly the USAF C-54 Skymaster during the Berlin Airlift was Lieutenant Gail S. Halvorsen, now 99, of Provo, Utah. During the operation, he became known as the “Candy Bomber” because he repeatedly dropped candy to German children from his aircraft on approach to the runways.

Throughout the entire blockade, more than 23 tons of candy was dropped to Berlin children. The candy drop operations may have had a substantial impact on the postwar perception of Americans in Germany, and it is still pointed to as a symbol of German-American relations.

Gail Halvorsen in 2018 with, from left, Spirit of Freedom crew members Scott Szuhay, Tim Chopp and Jim Rueger. (credit: Neel Keller)

The “Candy Bomber” will be recognized during the 116th Anniversary Event for the Wright Brothers’ First Flight achievement on Tuesday, December 17.

The First Flight Society has chosen Colonel Halvorsen as their newest inductee into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The Spirit of Freedom will also be on display at the event.

For more information please call the Dare County Airport at 475-5570.

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