Candy Bomber Drops Candy for Hundreds of Outer Banks Children

Candy Bomber candy floating to the waiting hands of children.
Candy Bomber candy floating to the waiting hands of children.

As the C54 Spirit of America came in low over the trees at the Dare County Regional Airport, anticipation on the ground grew. Would this be the pass when the Candy Bomber dropped its load.

The first pass, just a few parachutes with candy attached floated to the ground, as the flight crew assessed the wind. 

But the next pass, a few hundred small white parachutes with the dark wrapping of a Hershey’s Chocolate bar fluttered from the four-engined aircraft.

And the next pass, the same thing happened.

The annual December visit from the Candy Bomber has become a wonderful part of the Outer Banks Christmas tradition. According to event organizers this is the 21st visit to the area.

What seems to make the Outer Banks Candy Bomber tradition so special is the original Candy Bomber, Colonel Gail Halvorsen, now 99 years old, makes the trip almost every year.

During the Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949, then Lt. Halvorsen took to dropping candy for the children of Berlin. At the time, West Berlin was sealed off from the rest of western Europe and the United States by the USSR, what is now Russia. 

The only way to get supplies to the city was by air, and Halvorsen and his fellow American and British pilots flew up to three times a day, day in and day out to keep the city alive.

Halvorsen, seeing that the children had no treats or candy, took to dropping candy with small parachutes attached as he flew over the city. Soon other pilots joined in.

The Outer Banks Candy Bomber is a wonderful reenactment of that act of generosity.

Take some time to learn about what a special place the Outer Banks is. Stay with us at Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates for a week or two.

Pulling the Candy Bomber for a Purpose

Dare County EMS Pulls for a Purpose, supporting great schools and a better community. They're 5-person team moved the C54 59'6".
Dare County EMS Pulls for a Purpose, supporting great schools and a better community. They’re 5-person team moved the C54 59’6″.

Entering into the annals of something truly different to do, the Dare Educations Foundation’s Pulling for a Purpose matched five contestants against the 47,000 pounds of the Candy Bomber.

The Candy Bomber

The Candy Bomber—a vintage C54 four engine propeller plane—was in town for its annual visit to drop candy for children and do a December 17 flyover at the Wright Brothers Monument.

This may be the last year for the Candy Bomber to come to the Outer Banks. The same aircraft that Lt. Colonel Gail Halvorsen flew during the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift, the aircraft is still making candy runs, dropping candy attached to miniature parachutes to waiting children below.

Unfortunately Colonel Halvorsen, who is now 98, is unsure if he’ll be able to return. Although the he no longer flies the aircraft himself, his presences and personality have been instrumental in keeping the idea of American kindness and generosity at the heart of the events.

Pulling for a Purpose

The EDF Pulling for a Purpose happened to be able to work with the Sprite of America—the name of the aircraft—team. The object of the event is for five people to pull the aircraft as far as they can in a set amount of time.

It’s not easy. Nor is it, however, impossible.

The team from Dare County EMS clearly studied the problem and applied scientific principals to the problem. The result? A 59’6” pull—the longest of the day with a five person team.

We say five person team, because Dare Regional Airport Board took full advantage of an offer to allow additional participation and brought eight to the rope. They did haul the plane over 60’

Team DEF…well, they didn’t do all that well. Consisting of two male board members and three female, it just didn’t seem as though they had the muscle power to move a C54.

But it was a great time for a good cause that is creating stronger schools for a better community. And teamed up with the Candy Bomber, it did make for a special time.

Candy Bomber to Come to Dare County Airport

Halvorsen and His C54 Return for 18th Time

The Candy Bomber does a Wright Brothers Flyover.
The Candy Bomber does a Wright Brothers Flyover.

Sometimes we need reminders of how good people can be, and when that is the case, think of Lt. Colonel Gail Halvorsen—the original Candy Bomber, who will be returning to the Dare County Airport for the 18th time, flying his C54 and dropping candy parachutes to hundreds of kids.

The date of the Candy Drop this year is December 17; try to make a point of going this year. This will probably be the last visit from the aircraft. Halvorsen is now 97 years old and the Candy Bomber plane is the same one he flew over Berlin.

The story begins in 1948.

Berlin, surrounded by Communist East Germany, had become a city under siege. The Russians, determined to bring West Berlin into the communist fold, had sealed off all land transport to the city, believing that as things got desperate, the citizens of the Berlin would turn to them as their savior.

They failed to account for either the resilience of the Berlin citizens or the can do attitude of the American military.  Mounting what is still the largest air supply effort ever, the Americans and their allies landed one plane every 90 seconds for 15 months to feed and supply a city of two million.

Then Lt. Halvorsen was part of that effort and every day as he flew over the airfield, he would see children gathered around the fence that marked the boundary. Sending word to them, he said he would signal it was his airplane buy wiggling his wings and then he would drop candy to them.

He has acknowledged in interviews that he would have gotten in A Lot Of Trouble, but the American press got wind of the story and before his CO could do anything it was an international sensation.

Soon almost every airplane was tying small parachutes to candy and dropping it to the children of Berlin.

The event will take place at the Dare County Airport on Roanoke Island. Flight time is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.