Gail Halvorsen, the U.S. pilot who was known and loved by German children in the late 1940s as the Candy Bomber, has almost recovered from the coronavirus, his daughter said.
Halvorsen, who lives in the western state of Utah and turned 100 years old earlier this year, has a cough but is otherwise doing “very well,” Denise Williams said on Thursday.
“He seems almost back to his normal 100-year-old self,” she said, adding that he was grateful for all the get-well messages, including many from Germany.
He caught the virus in December.
Halvorsen became famous a few years after the end of World War II, when Soviet troops cut off ground access to West Berlin and its two million residents.
From June 1948 to May 1949, U.S, British and Allied pilots made nearly 280,000 deliveries of groceries and supplies by air.
That included candy.
It was Halvorsen’s idea to drop sweets for the children during the Soviet blockade, and he soon became the face of the Berlin Airlift.
The idea came to him after encountering a group of children gathered behind a barbed-wire fence at the city’s Tempelhof Airport.
He gave them chewing gum and, seeing them share it, promised to drop enough for all of them.
He tied together chocolate bars and chewing gum in small bundles attached to handkerchiefs that fell like parachutes.
Planes were landing every two minutes, but as a sign, he wiggled the wings of his aircraft.
Word of the drops spread quickly through bombed-out Berlin, earning him the nickname Uncle Wiggly Wings, or the Candy Bomber.
Halvorsen’s sweet gesture was the best advertisement for the Berlin Airlift and helped promote German-U.S. friendship.
He and his comrades dropped more than 23 tons of chocolate and candy over several months.