OREM, Utah — A pilot who delivered candy to children in Berlin at the end of World War II parachuted sweets down to Orem to celebrate Independence Day.
Gail Halvorsen, 94, also known as the "Candy Bomber," dropped 1,000 chocolate bars attached to tiny parachutes at Scera Park on Friday. He flew over the area three times before releasing the cargo into the hands of the children below.
Deb Jackson, co-chair of the event, estimated more than 50,000 people stood in 100-degree temperatures to watch the 4 p.m. drop.
Halvorsen flew in a fixed-wing bomber from World War II with two escort planes attending, the Daily Herald of Provo reported (http://bit.ly/1UlSStS ).
Earlier in the day, Halvorsen spoke to the crowd at the Freedom Festival naturalization ceremony. He spoke about the importance of service and kindness.
"The Dead Sea is dead because it wraps its arms around all of the fresh water of the Jordan and gives out nothing. In your community, there are Dead Sea souls who do the same," he said.
Some of the children in attendance already knew of Halvorsen's history as the "Candy Bomber." Drew Reynolds, 9, of Highland, said she learned in school about Halvorsen and the candy drops during the Berlin Airlift.
"When he saw all the kids that were starving, he only had a piece of gum. He wished he could have more for the kids so he started dropping parachutes with candy," she said.
Halvorsen, a Salt Lake City native, grew up as a farm boy in Utah and Idaho before earning his private pilot's license in 1941.
He joined the Civil Air Patrol and later the United States Army Air Corps in 1942. During World War II, he was assigned to fly transport operations in the South Atlantic Theater.
After the war, Halvorsen earned the nicknames "Uncle Wiggly Wings" and "Berlin Candy Bomber" for his flights with the Berlin Airlift over fields in East Berlin. He wiggled the wings of his plane before dropping candy bars and gum tied to handkerchiefs the cheer up the children on the ground.
Halvorsen retired from the Air Force in 1974, but his candy drops caught on and he became well-known as the "Candy Bomber," re-enacting his flights around the U.S. and Germany.
He now lives in Arizona.