A look back at local, national and world events through Deseret News archives.

On June 24, 1948, Communist forces cut off all land and water routes between West Germany and West Berlin, prompting the Western Allies to organize the Berlin Airlift. The move required a response, and the four Allied powers delivered in a big way.

And a sweet way.

Here’s the story:

At the end of World War II, Germany was divided between the four Allied powers: France, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union. Its capital, Berlin, suffered the same fate with the added complication that West Berlin became an enclave within the Soviet zone.

Two years later, tensions mounted between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, primarily over the reconstruction and monetary reform of Germany. At this point, the Soviet Union began impeding communications between the Western Allies, West Germany and West Berlin.

Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, imposed the Berlin Blockade, which would continue until May 12, 1949.

The Western Allies responded with a massive airlift to come to West Berlin’s aid.

Beginning June 26, two days after the blockade was announced, U.S. and British planes carried out the largest air relief operation in history, transporting some 2.3 million tons of supplies into West Berlin on more than 270,000 flights over 11 months.

The front page of the Deseret News on June 25, 1948, as the Allied forces began the Berlin Airlift. Also mentioned is the return of the bodies of the four Bergstrom brothers for burial in northern Utah.

According to reports compiled through the years, the Western Allies showed that they could sustain the operation indefinitely. At the same time, the Allied counter-blockade on eastern Germany was causing severe shortages, which, Moscow feared, might lead to political upheaval. By May 1949, the blockade had been lifted.

According to historians, the Berlin Blockade, and the Allied response in the form of the Berlin Airlift, represented the first major conflict of the Cold War.

Now the sweet story of the “Candy Bomber.”

Col. Gail Halvorsen, a senior officer and command pilot in the U.S. Air Force, was born in Driggs, Idaho, and raised in Tremonton in Box Elder County in northern Utah.

As the airlift got under way, Halvorsen felt impressed to provide supplemental drops in Berlin in the form of little parachutes with candy attached to the chutes.

Called “Operation Little Vittles,” Halvorsen piloted C-47s and C-54s and dropped tons and tons of goodies to German children.

As a note, Halvorsen didn’t get permission first, but he eventually received authorization. He became known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber,” the “Chocolate Flier” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” It is estimated that with support from all over the nation, Halvorsen dropped over 23 tons of candy to the residents of Berlin.

Halvorsen was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and several other military awards. Not content to stop there, he continued candy drops in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Guam, Iraq and Japan.

Celebrated and honored in Utah through the years, and a strong advocate for the military and humanitarian causes, Halvorsen was a popular speaker at schools and patriotic gatherings through the years. He died on Feb. 16, 2022, at age 101.

Here are some wonderful stories about the Berlin Airlift and Utah’s famed Candy Bomber from the Deseret News archives:

Utah pilot honored as Berlin Airlift remembered on 70th anniversary of blockade’s end

Berlin Airlift re-enacted with candy drop

Opinion: The anomaly of NATO

Modern-day ‘airlift’ sought

View Comments

Gail S. Halvorsen, the Berlin Candy Bomber, dies at 101

As Utah’s Candy Bomber turns 100, his sweet story remains timeless

Opinion: The ‘candy bomber’ taught America how to handle power

‘Bomber’ is about more than candy

We were there: See Deseret News front pages from 45 big moments in Utah, world history
Deseret News timeline
Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.