Candy bombs fly to children in Pacific Isles

MICRONESIA — LDS "Candy Bomber" Gail Halvorsen dropped Christmas items to isolated islanders here Dec. 10-15 — carrying on a 48-year tradition with an act reminiscent of his famed Berlin Airlift candy drops.

The annual "Christmas Drop," during which Brother Halvorsen flew with Yokota Japan Air Base's 36th Squadron, began in 1952, only two years after he became famous for delivering candy to children in the European theater.

In June 1948, three years after the end of World War II, the Soviet Union blocked roads leading to the western sector of Berlin, Germany, cutting off the flow of food and supplies. American, English and French forces began a massive airlift of food to the city. Brother Halvorsen was one of the Air Force pilots flying in the operation. He met several German children and promised to drop candy and gum to them during his next trip to the area. The next day he wiggled his plane's wings to identify himself and dropped several bundles of candy, using parachutes made of handkerchiefs. The Air Force encouraged the effort, word of the gifts spread and Brother Halvorsen, now a member of the Spanish Fork 9th Ward, Spanish Fork Utah Stake, became known as the "Candy Bomber."

The idea to bring Brother Halvorsen to Guam for the Christmas Drop came about in November 1999, when he was inducted into the Airlift/Tanker Association Hall of Fame.

Christmas Drop began in Micronesia as a small gesture of kindness. An aircraft assigned to the 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of Andersen Air Force Base was flying over the island of Kapingamarangi when the crew spotted islanders below waving to them. The crew gathered what items they could and placed them in a container. They attached a parachute to the package and air dropped it to the island people. They had no idea they were starting a Christmas tradition that would continue for more than 40 years.

With the support of many military organizations and the Air Mobility Command and Pacific Air Forces, Christmas Drop has become a major humanitarian effort. Military, civic and private organizations donate time, money and supplies to the annual event.

Virtually thousands of islanders have benefited from Christmas Drop over the years. The criteria used for selection of a drop site is simple: if the island has a need, it receives the supplies.

In 1999, Christmas Drop delivered more than 25,000 pounds in supplies and gifts to 50 islands.