'Meet the Mormons' takes 'Candy Bomber' to even greater heights | Deseret News
PROVO — A few years ago, Blair Treu was sitting in his office at LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo when he looked out the window and saw. Lt. Halvorson "Hal" became known the world over as Berlin's Candy Bomber. as told by Tom Brokaw during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert, The story takes us back to where we meet young Hal Halvorsen a felt the spirit of it being read by Tom Brokaw with background music of the choir. Upon meeting some of the children of the beleaguered city Lt. Halvorsen got This action has endeared Gail Halvorsen, not only to the children of Berlin, but to all the people violence as Ute Indians and Mormon settlers fought to occupy the same land. . Janice Kapp Perry: A Life of Service and Song (TV Movie ).
So I flew the airlift and after the airlift they put me into school and they gave me a bachelor's and a master's and I went into the space program after that. That's a little fast. So this occurred when the war ended. Tell us a little detail of this Berlin Airlift, how you got into that, what it was like. As much detail as you can. You got that much film? We've got a lot. I'll give a shot. Well, the Berlin Airlift was no surprise to those of us who stayed in the military.
Because every month we'd have pilot briefings of what goes on in the world. And Stalin had just taken Czechoslovakia. And he'd just taken Hungary. And he wanted West Germany. And he had to get West Berlin out of the way first. So it wasn't a big surprise to us. At that time, when I was flying out of Mobile, I was flying the C74's, they were the biggest transport airplane that the Air Force had, that we had at that time.
And then when it happened I volunteered. A girlfriend wasn't writing very good letters so I volunteered to go over to the airlift and change back to the C54's because I was current in both.
Gail Halvorsen | posavski-obzor.info
And we had about 24 hours. Tell us about after the war in and you're taking the troops throughout Europe. We want to hear some details about that.
What the guys were like, how you picked them up, and landing them. Well we didn't go around Europe picking them up. They gathered them there, put them in the funnel, got them to Natal So the troops flew into the down in Brazil?
Okay, well after the war, when I want to get out and couldn't and flying troops back, we were picking them up in Natal, Brazil. And bringing them to Natal. And then we'd pick them up there and fly 'em from there back to the United States. Why were they brings them to Natal? Most of them came through the north Atlantic. These were just people that were leaving all the bases. They're closing the bases in South America.
We handled most of those. Some of them came from Africa and Europe, then Natal. But most of them we were closing up the bases, all over South America, and phasing down the Ascension Island.
We had people all over the place. Yeah, American bases were all. They had bases and all kinds of things. So we mostly were cleaning out South America where we were. How many could you take back at one time? And we hauled back a lot of equipment that they didn't turn over.
They turned over a lot of equipment, you know, small highend items back to the people where they were and gave them to the local military people. But personnel, the main folks were getting back to the States and getting discharged from the service.
And they sat on kind of benches along the sides? Yeah, we'd get a lot more on just the canvas fold-down benches. So you'd just really tight to get the most people in you can.
'Meet the Mormons' takes 'Candy Bomber' to even greater heights
And your crew, it was you and a co-pilot, and did they have anybody else? No, we flew occasionally with a navigator. Not all the time because we could find our way back to the States okay without one. Our main crew consisted of two pilots and a flight engineer and a load master, somebody to take care of the passengers and occasionally someone would even serve them coffee or whatever else, stewardess. But the best guy that helped the dumb pilots was the crew chief.
The guy that really knew all about the airplane and made sure it was in shape to fly. And were these people, any instances where they got out of line or any funny experiences that occurred while you were taking these people home to America?
Well, some people still had some bandages here and there, and you know, still affects. And they if they were mobile, those were the few coming from Europe. We picked up some guys around the place in South America that had had problems and you ran a jeep off the road or something like that. But nothing really unusual except everybody was just headed for home and really in a great frame of mind, they were really happy to get out of there.
How long was the flight from there to where you landed? Where would you land? Well coming back we'd stopped for gas in Atkinson Field in British Guiana and that's where our main refuel, picked up a lot of people there too. And then we'd come in from there to Miami, and Miami was the main And land them in Miami? Yeah, we'd drop them off there and they'd scatter all over the place.
And did they eat on the way? Oh, yeah, we had what we thought were pretty good box lunches. We had a great kitchen and for the guys going home, why the bakers outdid themselves. We had cinnamon rolls and besides good beef sandwiches and all the stuff that guys like to eat.
So they were well fed. They were well fed on the way back because everybody was in a good mood and boy, the world had changed colors, it was just wonderful. Did they let them drink alcoholic beverages on the way back? No, not on the aircraft. And if a guy had been too happy before, they'd hold him over a few days to sober up. When that word got out why most everybody was ready to go home when they got on the airplane.
You landed in Miami, and then they'd give you another assignment to go right back? Oh, yeah, we'd go right back, we'd take mail back the guys left, take supplies back to those that had to stay in the different units.
After the mission was finished we'd still have some people support. Bare bases some of them. Bring back a load of whatever we needed. But always come back pretty light, yeah. Now take us to where you finished doing that, up until the Berlin Airlift. We came back from Natal in Flying back to South America. And so I couldn't get out of there. And from there, I was assigned with the air tactical school in Panama City, Florida.
And that's the base that was pretty well closed, but it's opening back up again. But it flew out of there to South America and Central America. Same thing, I flew out of West Palm Beach. It was there when we got the word that Stalin had in fact blockaded West Berlin, cut off all food supplies to two million people and gave us a notice.
And here's the list of guys that are going. It was natural because I was flying the bigger airplanes, the C74 which was a really big airplane.
Well on the list was Pete Soa. And he was a really good friend. And we were the only two regular officers in that whole outfit. And he and I were invited every Sunday to Pete Soa and his wife's house. On Sunday dinners we were there. And they were just good friends and they'd give us a great chicken dinner. But they just had a set of twins and when I went to see what was going on, the roll call, and Pete Soa was on the list.
And Pete was in the air from Panama City to Mobile. And I knew he didn't want to go because he just had the kids. And we knew that trouble was brewing, they had already cut off some of the supplies on the 24th of June, And this was just after the first of July when we got the call. So I said I just as well be over there as here. And so Hans said sure. I'd flew for him before.
We'll pick you up. So I was able to change that the next day. They thought they'd been given a gift of a lifetime right there. Well, they're such good friends, and it didn't matter to me.
Fellow Aviators' Lives Intersect: President Uchtdorf and the Candy Bomber
Holy cow, you know, how bad can it get? John's and Puerto Rico and was able to buy a car. And you couldn't get cars in those days in the States. But this little place in the Caribbean had more cars than they could sell so I bought a car in the Caribbean, got it delivered in the States.
A four-door red Chevrolet. And boy, was I in high cotton then and that was so neat. And then this thing came in. That was my principal reason for not wanting to go. But that was secondary. So I drove the thing up in the palm trees at Mobile, turned off the key and put it in my pocket and never saw the car again.
I left the next day. We had three flight crews and one navigator. And our instructions were we had four airplanes and our instructions were you don't stay overnight anywhere. You go up the east coast to Newfoundland, St. And then go to the Azores, then go to Brest, France, and to Frankfurt. And you just keep it going. In the C54 there are two bunks and you can get some rest there.
And so we'd trade off. And we could find a way to St. John's without the navigator, we kept him on the side.
John's and gassing up. And then from St. John's the long haul into the Azores and that's where the navigator came in. And just stop there long enough to get something to eat and gas and switch seats, all the time, going over with different pilots and then over to Brest, France, and into Frankfurt.
That's how we got there. How many hours was that? Mobile, Alabama, it must have been about 15 hours. It had to be more like 20 hours. It was about a 20 hour deal with one gas stop or how many gas stops?
Well, we had two gas stops. John's in Newfoundland and the Azores, and then into Frankfurt. You flew from the Azores right into Frankfurt? We came over Brest, France, and that's where we hit the coast and then right into Frankfurt. And in those days they didn't know whether the Russians were gonna shoot at you or what. You went from Frankfurt over East Germany into Berlin. Lisbon, which is about 35 miles away from RheinMain, old inaudible The third base we had was in Celle in northern Germany.
And also we had Fassberg in northern Germany. That was in the British zone, the Britain loaned us those bases. They had a lot of bases up there.
So those were the bases that we flew out of. And as you mentioned, from there, we would fly through three air quarters. And the Southern Quarter coming up from Frankfurt into Berlin. And the Center Quarter coming out. The airplanes of the north would go in the north one way, south would go up the quarter one way and all come out one way. Center would then split and go the other way. The quarters were 20 statute miles wide and if we stayed within the quarters they weren't supposed to bother us or force us down or whatever.
And they signed off on that. But the treaty in Yalta, when they set up this thing in splitting Germany, the group troops didn't require that we had access to Berlin from West Germany over the ground. He said the bridge at Magdeburg over the Elbe was unsafe, you can't use that with the trucks. He froze the locks on the canals, put that bunker fuel and heavy coal and stuff into Berlin across East Germany. And so we had a decision to make. You gonna fight your way in? Let's fight our way in. Let's open up the rail, let's open up the autobahn and fix the canal, fight our way in.
Well, the politicians said that's not a very good idea. And some military too. Stalin had divisions in his control. He hadtroops in East Germany. He had more tanks and airplanes than East Germany than he had anywhere else in the Soviet Union. The buffer to the west, ready to go west. You can't supply two million people by air. It's never been done before.
It's not our responsibility. And so that's how we were flying. That's why we were flying stuff in to Berlin because we had a right to. And we didn't want to go proactive and start a fight going in, because according to what we agreed, we didn't have a right. We didn't have any written agreement to access Berlin on the ground. That was really the first altercation in the Cold War wasn't it?
It was the first battle. First battle of the Cold War. It was a showdown. And we didn't know if they were going to shoot us coming into the quarters. We flew day and night, whatever the weather was, we went in. Sometimes when the fog was so bad we couldn't get anybody out on the other end, and we wouldn't fly. But we'd come down the quart in a Yak3. We'd fly where there were fighter fields. I mean they had fighter fields everywhere. I got movies of them.
I got a movie I'm leaving with you that shows the fighter airplanes down at the inaudible I didn't get one inaudible because I was too busy dodging them. But they'd come up head on and they'd come up right head on with ya, and at the last minute would pull off. And some of them would come up behind you, come up behind your wing and go over your wing. Well we were just waiting for them to shoot. I was there right almost at the beginning, the 11th of July, and it started the 26th of June, And then we find out why they didn't shoot.
President Truman but 60 B29 bombers on the runway in England. And he sent a note to Stalin. Broke the monotony, here are these guys. But we were a little worried of whether the Soviet fighter pilots had had a recent physical to check their depth perception because in April of a British transport coming in the North Quarter to Berlin was buzzed by a Soviet plane and he ran into them and killed everybody, including the pilot. So we uh just hoping the guy hadn't had a physical and couldn't tell when to pull up.
All we had is flour and cold sacks to throw at him, so that wouldn't have been very effective. You had no guns on board or anything like that. So these Soviet fighters would harass you right from the getgo? No, there wasn't a steady stream of fighters.
These were off and on. And I think I only got buzzed about three or four times. And or the guys got buzzed too. But further on in the airlift, they just gave up. Stalin was getting such a black eye in the world press. And they were neutral countries. Well that sounded like a pretty good idea, this communism.
Well, everybody helping each other out and all this stuff. But boy, when they saw the black and white difference between starving two million people and everybody flying day and night to feed 'em, overcoming whatever was necessary, it changed the attitude. You know, I wasn't, of course there in the occupation force.
I was in the airlift. But a lot of them were in Berlin, military. We took over the base about July,at Tempelhof in Berlin, from the Soviets, and we had lot of military guys there. The army had a brigade there.
- Christmas from Heaven
- Gail Halvorsen
- An interview with Gail Halvorsen the Candy Bomber - October 08, 2014
I'd drink lemonade and I'd take my buddies that had problems, take them home. But these guys said they'd come into the bar and the Germans would leave. This was before the airlift started. He said after the airlift started, they'd go into a bar and they'd buy them a drink. And that's the one small sliver illustrating the difference.
And from then on, you know, I think, Rick, the point you're getting at here is, a key point that is missed a lot of times is the feelings. The feelings, the psyche of the people that were called. You know, we've just been back a couple of years from the guys that started the whole thing.
Getting their lives in order. Some of the guys come back and see their kids for the first time that they were conceived and here they come back and then they're asked to leave that fast to support the former enemy.
And in my case, after staying there, and for those who did, we knew who the new enemy was. So that helped a bit. We knew that we got to do something here. The second feature that changed the attitude was that they were starving women and children.
Most of the people in Berlin were women and children.
But the thing that really solidified it for me was my first flight into Berlin and came over inaudible And you'll see it in my film. Just like how could two million people live in this rubble? And then land with 20, pounds of flour in Tempelhof and wonder what these super guys with gonna look like.
They just came out of the States, I didn't have any interaction with the community and what they're like. Got out of the cockpit, walked back there, you open up the back doors of the big truck, back up, pick up 20, pounds of flour. And about six of these guys came forward to unload the flour. Instead of starting they came right up, put out their hands, couldn't understand what they were saying, but boy, from their eyes, looking at that flour and back to us like we're angles from heaven, we were on the same page.
We had flour, and we had freedom and they wanted both. From then on, I only knew one person during the airlift that was complaining about feeding the former enemy from then on. Because their gratitude and doing the right thing. The people were so grateful. They let people come out on the field in control, but talk to the pilots while they were unloading. And boy, they'd bring us gifts, all kind of little gifts.
I've still got a bunch of things they brought to me. They handed it to me not because I was the Candy Bomber, that didn't come till later. But they'd bring things out and express their gratitude. One woman and her little daughter came out to my airplane one day and she had a teddy bear. And she holding it tight and came right up to me and handed it to me. And I tried to refuse it. And this teddy bear was with me all the time, it was my good luck symbol. And it saved my life.
And I want to give it to you. I want to do all I can to help you. I still got pictures, bringing it into Hill Field when I came back, of that teddy bear. But that was the indication of the change and the shift and the feeling. And it fully brought the West Germans into the western camp.
They wanted the East Germans to come. Inthey revolted and were slaughtered trying to join their western brothers and sisters because they want to be free. The Berlin Airlift was a healing balm on the wounds of war. The Marshall Plan was hand and glove with it. You know, it was such a powerful force of America and England, Great Britain doing what they could to help.
Reenergizing it, getting it alive. The reason that Stalin blockaded Berlin was it was a showcase of capitalism deep inside of East Germany. He had a fiveyear plan on how you guys are gonna be benefited by the Communist system. But inside that, he had an open market of capitalism. Back and forth, back and forth. And they said we want to see what these dirty capitalists are like.
What did they find? Find oranges, bananas, they found food in the shop that they didn't have anywhere else. They found clothing that was not the standard old stuff. They found shorter lines. The people owned their apartment house. And the rubble was picked up in front of it. If there's just a wall standing next to part of the building it had a window box of flowers in it.
And some of the places started to show some signs of paint. And he got the blockade, thought there would be food rations, he thought when the rations would start they'd all come across the border.
And just put down, here, we can't have this going on inside our territory and ease out our influence. Stop communism going west. It was the biggest humanitarian effort, for a sense, a number of people involved. The number of people that were being supplied solely by air. That's a great chapter in world history and American history. It's a great day in American history. Any other experiences when you would land in Germany and they would unload? Would you take off or stay overnight?
That's a good point, Rick. No, when we'd land, when I first got there, General Joe Smith, a one-star general was in charge right at first and then toward the end of July,they brought in General Tunner. He was the wizard that directed the airlift over the hump and supplied the Chinese. And he is an airlift genius. He just deserves all the credit. He's an airlift genius. And he's the guy that changed the policies right away.
When we first started in July, landing in Tempelhof, we'd go into the terminal building where they had a great snack bar. And you'd get hot dogs, hamburgers and I had a hot chocolate and go out in the airplane and we would not stay there, we'd stay there long enough to unload. And we wouldn't take any fuel on. And actually, we'd fuel in to fly out we'd have enough to get in and back out and just a little bit more.
And so when Tunner came, he went into Berlin and he found some airplanes sitting there empty and guys in the lines at the snack bar inside, waiting to be served. You don't leave your airplane. He sent the weatherman around to the airplane. He sent the clearance guy around the airplane to say you're clear to go or whatever. And then he made mobile snack bars, a bunch of mobile snack bars on wheels.
And he put some beautiful German frauleins in there and they'd come by with hamburgers, hot dogs, hot chocolate, everything that the guys wanted. And they were very friendly and wave and boy, that was better than inside, you know? We were the only guys in line. But anyway, but that didn't matter to a lot of the guys. But guys flying, that's all we were doing. At first we had to fly three roundtrips a day, day or night, or whatever it was.
That took about 16 hours. But the requirement for starvation diet in Berlin was 4, tons a day just to keep them alive. And all we had was two-engine airplanes in Europe when we started. And the first day they flew 80 tons. And boy, they sent out the panic signal immediately bringing all 4engines from all over the world. So say came all from Japan and Hawaii, South America, everywhere. And that was at Tempelhof. And at first we had to fly three roundtrips a day.
Now up north, they were an hour closer to Berlin than we were. So that's why we put half of our airplanes up north. So that was high density flying and later on, after we got more airplanes we could back off to about two flights in 24 hours.
So how many planes landing every how many minutes? Well, we got it, that very totally, as we built up the force. We started out saying five minutes. We finally got up to five minutes an airplane was landing. And that's 24hours a day?
Now at first we didn't have radar to help us land in West Berlin. But it takes you about 15 minutes to make a procedure and command.
The airplane coming in stack every five. So they're stacking us in Berlin. They stacked me up to 10, feet, still in the soup and holding on inaudible Our props just about tipped.
But thank goodness we were both level at the time. You see the pilot's eyes, boom, they were gone. They lost total control of the airplanes, so many coming in. You raised a good point. They lost total control. I found a hole, came out in a hole somewhere, I circled out there till the clouds cleared and then they finally worked us down.
The next day, General Tunner had heard about it, he came in, and the problem was still there, the cloud was still there, and they still got a problem. And when they're gone I'm coming down.
He got Red Forman, his chief pilot, and Bettinger, two great guys that was his staff and head staff guys to change the procedures.
And they changed the procedures. And that was one of the procedures that came out of this, the snack bar. But that was for good. For bad weather procedures he got radar. He got expedited ground control approach radar, the radar that can bring you through the cloud and get you down fast. So he got the radars coming in. You got to take it back to West Germany.
The guy's right behind ya. They're not gonna stack you anymore, you're gonna have to come right through the system. It was so much better. And that funnel, that longrange radar that gets you focused and then they'd turn you over to guys on the ground, where the ground has close radar, and they'd just keep you coming. And you'd come down too low, couldn't see the land, took it back. That was the big change.
And then they changed the clearance procedures besides. When you took off from West Germany to Berlin, if the weather was good in West Germany sometimes they'd clear you of visual flight and then pick up your instrument later. But he changed it every flight.
You fly every flight as if you can't see the ground from the time you take off. And I think that's why I'm here, it saved my life. There was a lot of lives lost. Tell us about that. Well that ties to the feeling too, that even though we had losses the guys still were totally dedicated. Going back to gratitude again.
When people are so grateful and their lives are on the line, we accept it. I know I didn't think I'd ever be one of those 31, but that was just the attitude you had. You do your job. So there were losses but again, every time we'd lose a crew or something, I never felt like hey, I shouldn't be in this business. I was glad to be there. One of my buddies, the bombed Berlin, he was a bomber pilot during the war, and bombed Berlin. How do you feel about flying in ice and snow and everything else to support these guys?
I'm glad I'm here. Makes me feel better. Because of the cause we're in. And that underlines the thing that we're taught all the time in the Utah community and in my family and in my church, that service before self is the only way to fulfillment in life. Genuine fulfillment in life. It's not more bucks, you're chasing something you never can catch up with.
But the only real fulfillment is service before self. I slept in a barn. I found an old barn in and went upstairs and lived in a barn. And the food wasn't good, but we had plenty to eat and look at the other guys and say man, how grateful, grateful again for all we had.
It reinforced how grateful I was for freedom. But that idea of service, looking back on it, there were three times in my life that I felt worthwhile, something worthwhile.
Occasionally some other times too, raising a family. But one was the Berlin Airlift in a miserable nation because you were serving somebody else. One was a mission in my life to serve for the Church in England.
And then we served a mission with the enemies again in the Soviet Union. It's the system, it's the system. But on the mission, well, all you're doing is serving somebody else. You're not watching TV and you're not doing anything for yourself except feeding yourself and how can I help somebody else?
Integrity of Truman and the British and France to hang together. Now this airlift, I want to make clear that it is a three-nation airlift.Christmas from Heaven: The Candy Bomber Story (Narrated by Tom Brokaw)
The French didn't have any airplanes to speak, just a few. Indochina was on with them, all their resources were committed. They freezed the place in the French sector for Tegel, the third airfield in Berlin. And they supported everything together. I think back on what Gail Halvorsen did, what so many others did, and see how they made a difference in our lives. He looked around and, at this intersection of lives with these young children, made a big difference.
He initiated the candy drops and others joined in. It became a big process. When I met members of the armed forces in Berlin as an eight-year-old, I saw they were good people, even though they were our former enemies. That influenced my attitude for the rest of my life. He built bridges of hope between peoples, nations, and individuals—not only an air bridge for temporal supplies. He put a human face on it.
He added a face of compassion, of thinking outside the box, as he reached out to those kids and saw who they really were. His creativity led to more than candies being dropped from airplanes. The intersection of his life with the lives of children of former enemies has become a great influence for good. Photo courtesy President Dieter F. Photo courtesy Kiddie Hawk Air Academy.
Uchtdorf, left, stands with Gail Halvorsen at a ceremony January 22,at which Brother Halverson was presented the Living Legends of Aviation Kiddie Hawk Award for his positive impact on children.