Flyover at East Texas school honors Berlin airlift ‘candy bomber’

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Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 7:33 PM CDT
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GILMER, Texas (KLTV) - A moment in post-WWII history was re-enacted at an East Texas school today: the Berlin Airlift.

Students at Gilmer Intermediate School were treated to a fly-over, and candy.

Thundering warplanes flew over Gilmer in a history lesson for students on the story of a humanitarian effort that became known as Operation Vittles.

“They actually landed the aircraft at Tempelhof in Berlin and unloaded hundreds of aircraft daily with all the essential survival needs of the people,” said organizer and director of Flight of the Phoenix Air Museum, Steve Dean.

When word came in June 1948 that the Soviet Union had blockaded West Berlin, Air Force Colonel Gail Halvorsen served in the 15-month airlift where American and British pilots delivered more than 2 million tons of supplies to the city.

“Halvorsen saw these children standing at the fence. They were absolutely starving,” Dean said.

The colonel came up with a novel way to get candy to the children.

“He said, ‘we’ll prepare some small parachutes, and drop this candy to those kids,’” says Dean,

“It’s a big deal. The kids need to know the history of it, and get excited about aviation,” said helicopter pilot Stephen Covington.

“I think the value is in letting them see some of our history and who that impacts us today,” said school principal Gina Treadway.

But the big attraction was the candy drop made by Covington.

“The kids are going to run out on the field and start gathering candy, just like it happened in history,” Treadway says.

200 bags of candy were dropped for the kids at the Gilmer school.

Dean spoke earlier in the week with Colonel Halvorsen, who was honored by the ceremony.

Halvorsen also recently celebrated his 100th birthday, Dean said.

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