News Release

Candy Bomber’s Daughter Speaks in Memory of 75th Anniversary of Berlin Airlift

A reflection on the life of Gail Halvorsen and his legacy

Denise Halvorsen Williams, daughter of Gail Halvorsen, known to many as the "Candy Bomber," paid tribute to her late father's legacy by representing him at a panel at the biennial ILA—the largest aerospace innovation fair in the European Union--on Saturday, June 8th. She also spoke at a Sacrament service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday, June 9th. Invited to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Williams recounted her father's initiative to drop candy from the sky to children in West Berlin, a gesture that became a symbol of hope and kindness amidst post-war adversity.  

Members of ILA (aerospace innovation fair) panel stand for a picture at the end of their presentation. Left to Right: ILA’s David Ruetz, Lt Col Ralf-Gunter Leonhardt, moderator Katie Gallus, Denise Halvorsen Williams, and historian Matthias Heisig© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

During the ILA panel, Williams shared the story of her father’s encounter with children standing behind a fence, who implored him, “Do not quit flying. In the winter it will get cold, but never stop flying because if you stop flying, we lose our freedom. And we know if we lose our freedom, we will never get it back.” Touched by their plea, Halvorsen felt compelled to act. With only two sticks of gum in his pocket—not nearly enough for the 30 children—he realised even a small gesture meant the world to them. Halvorsen promised to return with more candy, signaling his arrival by wiggling the plane’s wings. What began as a modest act of kindness with two sticks of gum blossomed into a powerful and hopeful initiative.

Denise Halvorsen Williams stands with her husband David Williams following an interfaith meeting on Sunday the 9th© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Throughout her remarks on both Saturday and Sunday, Williams highlighted her father’s belief that “small and simple things make a difference.” Gail Halvorsen did not seek recognition or fame for his efforts; he initially made the candy drops in secret, fearing reprimand from his superiors. Instead of waiting for validation, Halvorsen identified a need and found a creative way to bring joy to the children of West Berlin.

After the Latter-day Saint sacrament service on Sunday, Denise Halvorsen Williams met with local religious representatives and children from the airlift. They reflected on Halvorsen's impact on West Germany, his faith-driven inspiration, and the exemplary life he led. Williams emphasised that her father saw the candy drop initiative as divinely inspired, deeply rooted in his faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, during the meeting, Williams pulled out a pamphlet based on her father’s story, outlining 10 principles rooted in Latter-day Saint doctrine that can be put into practice to live a more service centered life.

Denise Halvorsen Williams shows ten-step pamphlet to local religious leaders in Berlin© 2024 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday’s discussions on faith and service led to the thought-provoking question, “What can I do with my two sticks of gum?” This sparked a meaningful conversation on how to continue Halvorsen’s legacy of “small and simple” acts of kindness 75 years later. Serving others does not require grand gestures or broad recognition, but rather a genuine desire to do good. The life of Gail Halvorsen offers enduring lessons, encouraging everyone to ask, “What can I do with my two sticks of gum?” and to take meaningful action. By embracing this mindset, individuals can create a ripple effect of kindness that transcends generations and transforms communities.

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