Utah's congressional delegation wants to rename the Provo Vet Center after Gail S. Halvorsen, who is better known as the Candy Bomber.
The center, which is actually located in Orem, would be renamed the Col. Gail S. Halvorsen 'Candy Bomber' Veterans Center. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, introduced the bill in Congress this week, with all four other members of Utah's congressional delegation signing on as co-sponsors, according to Lee's office.
"Col. Gail Halvorsen exemplifies the best of the Utah spirit of service," Lee said in a prepared statement. "His creativity and compassion helped to heal the wounds of the Second World War, and softened the relationship between occupied Germany and the United States. Renaming the Provo Vet Center in his honor is a fitting and deserved recognition of this American hero."
Halvorsen, who was born in Salt Lake City in 1920, was a pilot for the U.S. during World War II. He served as part of an air support campaign that saw Allied pilots drop food, fuel and other supplies over West Berlin after the Soviet Union blockaded that part of the city in 1948.
Once, while waiting for his plane to be unloaded, he encountered a group of hungry German children standing at a fence. He gave them all he had in his pockets: two sticks of gum. He promised the children that he would return the next day and drop chocolate bars from the sky.
Halvorsen delivered on the promise many times over. He and his co-pilots dropped 23 tons of chocolate and other candy over West Berlin through the course of the blockade. He earned the nickname "Uncle Wiggly Wings" because he would wiggle the wings of his plane after dropping the candy. He later became known as the Berlin Candy Bomber.
"What began as a gesture of compassion quickly grew into an official U.S. Air Force operation as he and his fellow pilots dropped candy rations from their planes to the children of West Berlin." Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said in a statement. "Gail is an American hero who exemplifies the best of humanity and embodies our state's kindness and spirit of service, and it is only fitting that we rename the Provo Vet Center in his honor."
Halvorsen retired from the military in 1974, but has continued to be an active humanitarian.
Most recently, he participated in a flight over St. George during the city's Fourth of July celebration, boarding a helicopter to drop handfuls of candy over the crowd of spectators.
"Gail Halvorsen represents all that is good about Utahns — and our men and women in uniform," Curtis said, adding that he is proud to help honor his legacy with a renamed "Gail S. Halvorsen 'Candy Bomber' Veterans Center."