‘A hero to so many’ — Tributes to Utah’s ‘Candy Bomber’ pour in from around the globe

Gail Halvorsen “inspired kindness and hope” and represents the best of the Greatest Generation.

(Franka Bruns | AP Photo) Gail Halvorsen gives thumbs-up in front of a C-17 Globemaster before the symbolic closure ceremony honoring U.S. Rhein-Main Airbase in Frankfurt, central Germany, Monday, Oct. 10, 2005.

Tributes to Utah’s Gail Halvorsen poured in from friends, elected officials and regular folks in the United States, Germany and around the world as word spread that the “Berlin Candy Bomber” had died Wednesday at age 101.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted that Halvorsen “is a hero to so many. His courage and compassion in the most difficult of times have inspired generations and remind us all that kindness and goodness can win.”

Halvorsen was a “dear man,” Latter-day Saint apostle Dieter Uchtdorf — a native of Germany and former pilot in that country’s air force — posted on Facebook. “Today my friend has flown to even greater heights and returned to his heavenly home. He will be remembered with love and missed by many.”

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson tweeted that Halvorsen “spent his life spreading kindness. We’ll never forget his service or the joy he brought to people around the world.”

All the members of Utah’s congressional delegation offered tributes to Halvorsen:

• Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted that Halvorsen “epitomized the defining characteristics of the Greatest Generation. May he ever remind us that hope always exists, even in our darkest hour.”

• Sen. Mike Lee issued a statement: “Few Utahns have exemplified the spirit of humanity, compassion and community quite like Col. Gail Halvorsen. ... His legacy will endure in the hearts of all those he touched and inspired.”

• Rep. Burgess Owens tweeted that Halvorsen “is a true American hero who gave hope to millions and exemplified the very best of Utah.”

• Rep. Chris Stewart tweeted that the Candy Bomber “embodied the ideals we should all strive for every day: bravery, compassion, and service. In the world’s darkest hour, he inspired kindness and hope.”

• And Rep. Blake Moore called Halvorsen “a true American hero. He showed the best of what we as humans can give to each other — kindness.”

The German Embassy to the United States recalled that “when supplies were short during the Berlin airlift, he dropped candy from his plane for the children of the city. ... Thank you for your kindness, Colonel.”

And Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz of the German Air Force said he was “deeply sorry” to learn of Halvorsen’s death, calling him “a true friend of Germany and unforgettable pilot.” In 1974, Halvorsen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The American Veterans Center called Halvorsen “an American officer, gentleman, and gentle man of the highest caliber” who “became a symbol of peace and reconciliation in the decades after World War II.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Donald Pullan greets Gail Halvorsen, better known as the "Berlin Candy Bomber," Thursday during the Veterans Day Commemoration ceremony, Nov. 11, 2021 at the University of Utah.

People who knew the Candy Bomber also offered praise. David C. Moore tweeted that Halvorsen “was an amazing VP of student life back when I was at BYU in the day (1981-1985). He will forever be remembered as the cold warrior who thumbed his nose at Josef Stalin.”

“What a life. What a man,” tweeted Emma Osenton. And Brian Laslie tweeted, “We lost an air power legend yesterday. ... It was a highlight of my career to meet Col. Halvorsen back in 2016 where he gave me a bone-crushing handshake and wrapped his arm around me like I was his best friend.”