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Person 2 Person: Gail Halvorsen

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Person 2 Person: Gail Halvorsen (Photo courtesy Steve Parsons Photography)

(KUTV) Colonel Gail Halvorsen is often known as "The Candy Bomber."

He started dropping candy for kids during the Berlin Airlift after World War II--and his legacy lives on today.

Halvorsen grew up on a small farm and had always wanted to fly.

"The farm did it," he said of his dream.

He would see planes fly over the warm while he was working in the heat and wanted to get up there.

Seeing those planes meant "freedom" to him.

He was able to get a pilot's license when he got a flight scholarship through a nationwide competition.

"It just blew my mind," he said of flying. "As those wheels come off the ground, and you turn, and the earth turns, you feel like a bird."

Halvorsen ended up flying planes during the Berlin Airlift.

In 1948, he was bringing flood and supplies to West Berlin when he encountered a group of children--who spoke English--at a barbed wire fence.

"They said, 'We don't have to have enough to eat. We'll get along with a little bit,'" Halvorsen recalled. "'But if we lose our freedom, we'll never get it back.'"

Halvorsen was very impressed with their gratitude and wanted to give them something.

"All I had was two stick of Wrigley's Double Mint gum," he said.

The kids didn't "push or shove" when he broke the sticks of gum and gave them out.

There's wasn't enough for all of them to have a piece, so some kids asked for parts of the gum wrapper.

"Tore off thin strips, and passed it, and they held it up to their nose and their eyes got big," described Halvorsen.

He wanted to do more for the children in need, but he couldn't come back to that particular fence anymore.

"So I thought, 'Well, I'll drop it out of parachutes,'" Halvorsen said.

He was very anxious when he dropped his first parachute of candy.

"I didn't know if I'd him them or dropped them over the fence where they couldn't get it," he said.

But when he prepared to take off again, he saw the kids along the barbed wire fence, holding the parachutes.

"They were just waving like crazy," he said.

He didn't have permission to drop the candy, so he hoped no one saw it.

"The colonel called me in and said, 'Halvorsen, what are you doing dropping stuff without permission?'" said Halvorsen. "'No excuse, sir.' There are no excuses in the military. So he says, 'Well, General Tunner says that's a good idea, keep going!'"

So two sticks of gum turned into 23 tons of candy.

"All my buddies in my squadron were dropping," he said.

It turned into quite the operation that "totally changed" his life.

"It made me think of the little things,'" he said. "They get you into things and if it's the right motive, it's going to be unexpected. The more unexpected, the more surprise and widespread it gets."

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