Original "Candy Bomber" visits Michigan students - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Original "Candy Bomber" visits Michigan students


92-year-old Gail Halvorsen is a retired command pilot, but he is better known as the original candy bomber. "I dropped parachutes in Guam, I dropped them in Africa, I've been all over the place dropping parachutes."

Now he is adding Benton Harbor to his list. Tuesday he jumped back on a plane for students at St. Paul's Lutheran School and dropped parachutes of candy, just like he did during the Berlin airlift. In case you don't remember from your history class, the airlift came after the Soviets blocked access to Berlin early in the Cold War. Everything had to be flown in by plane. Along with food and coal, Halvorsen started dropping treats for the kids.

Tuesday, he re-enacted his candy drops."It was fun to see those kids down there, it brought back old memories of being up in the air."

Tracy Clare is a teacher at Saint Paul's Lutheran School. "Every year that I tell the kids about the candy bomber, they get so excited and they know he is still alive so they asked me if we could get him out here."

For years she has tried to get in contact with her students' hero. She finally did and he paid the kids a visit. "I don't know who is more excited, them or me," says Clare.

Before the big candy drop, Halvorsen shared his story with the students. He was sent to Germany in 1948 during the Berlin Blockade. He was there to deliver food, but the children quickly grabbed his attention. He gave two pieces of gum to a group and was surprised to watch them share with each other. "Those kids wanted just a smell, they put it up to their nose and they smelled and smelled and their eyes got big, then I knew I had to do more."

He started getting donations of candy and chocolate and then would fly over Berlin, dropping parachutes of treats. Much like he did for the Michigan students Tuesday."Two sticks of gum turned into 23 tons over 14 months."

One man in the crowd, Thomas Lindenberg grew up in Berlin and now lives in Michigan. "It brought back a lot of memories, being one of the kids in 1948 in Berlin to pick up these parachutes as they came down."

He found out about Halvorsen's visit and wanted to meet the candy bomber himself. "After all these years, I got to meet the gentleman and thank him."

It was an emotional experience for Lindenberg. He says it brought back memories watching the students run after parachutes, just like he did years ago. "We ran out into the fields and picked up Hershey bars and chewing gum and kept the parachutes. It was something that will stay with me the rest of my life."

Halvorsen's visit was a community effort. Parents at St. Paul's Lutheran School all chipped in to fly him from Arizona to Michigan. A local pilot donated his plane, gas, and time to fly over the kids while Halvorsen dropped the treats.

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