TREMONTON – By Cari Doutre – October 14, 2020
Col. Gail Halvorsen is 100 years old and has always been a true American patriot - inside and out.
Halvorsen goes by many names. To some he is “dad” and to many others he is “grandpa.” Some even call him “Uncle Wiggly Wings” or “The Chocolate Flier,” but what he’s mostly known as is “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”
Halvorsen spent part of his childhood in Garland, Utah and graduated from Bear River High School in 1939. After graduation he married Alta Jolley and later started a family – five children to be exact. The family spent time living across the United States and in Germany as part of Halvorsen’s military assignments. They later settled in Provo, Utah after he retired in 1974.
Although Halverson never returned to live in Garland, Utah as an adult, the community proudly claims him as their very own local hero. So, when the community he grew up in decided to honor Halvorsen on his 100th birthday, they did so in a big way.
On Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, the Bear River Valley community held a special birthday party for Halvorsen unveiling a nearly 80-foot outdoor mural dedicated to this American hero.
On the east facing side of one of Tremonton’s Main Street buildings located across the street from the city’s veterans’ memorial at Midland Square (51 S. 100 W.) is this one-of-a-kind mural. The mural spans 76 feet wide and 25 feet high and depicts Halvorsen as a U.S. Air Force pilot near a giant bar of chocolate.
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It took artist Erik Burke five days, and many of cans of spray paint, to bring the mural to life and ready for the unveiling ceremony.
“It’s a phenomenal story and I’m just trying to do it justice through paint,” Burke said during Monday’s event.
Halvorsen, who was able to attend his party, gave a speech to his many guests. Included on the guest list was U.S. Congressman Rob Bishop, Tremonton City Mayor Roger Fridal, as well as local veterans, Halvorsen’s friends and family and plenty of adoring fans.
“It’s wonderful to be back. It’s been a while and I’m glad to you all again,” Halvorsen said during the ceremony.
“I really enjoyed knowing you folks and I have a lot of really good memories being in the Air Force,” he added.
Halvorsen also reminded those in attendance to “remember that you’re lucky to be in America.”
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The mural features Halvorsen, a U.S. Air Force WWII veteran who served in Berlin during the war. While in Berlin, Halvorsen dropped candy and treats to children during the Berlin airlift from 1948-1949. Later known as “Operation Little Vitties,” he dropped over 23 tons of candy via miniature parachutes to residents in Berlin.
It was a gesture that many said improved the U.S.’s relationships with other countries but also brought happiness and hope to people in West Berlin at the time. Halvorsen didn’t stop dropping candy and bringing happiness to others after the war ended. He spent 25 years advocating for candy drops in other countries including Japan, Guam, Iraq and Albania.
Several books have been written about Halvorsen, including one he wrote himself. Halvorsen’s humanitarian efforts earned him a Congressional Gold Medal.
The Tremonton Arts Council was the effort behind this unique mural in Tremonton – a city known across the state for their outdoor murals. Tremonton City has won the Best of State Statue for the Division of Arts and Entertainment five years in a row.
Read BRVNEWS.com’s previously posted article on this award HERE
Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that Oct. 10, 2020 will be known as “Gail S. Halvorsen Recognition Day” with an official declaration found below.
Photo coverage provided by John Hurley