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Waiting for the Candy Bomber

Originally published by Aviation History magazine. Published Online: May 02, 2014 
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C-54E 'Spirit of Freedom' flew in the Berlin Airlift. (Image: Mark Watt/Warbird Depot)
C-54E 'Spirit of Freedom' flew in the Berlin Airlift. (Image: Mark Watt/Warbird Depot)

Back in March, when the Douglas C-54E Spirit of Freedom made a low pass over Georgia's Brunswick Golden Isles Airport during the "Wings, Wheels and Run" event, spectators—especially the kids on hand—were eagerly awaiting a sweet payoff: 300 Hershey bars attached to individual parachutes, dropped during a flyover. For pilot Timothy Chopp, the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation's president, the candy drop in Georgia was another chance to educate a new generation about a remarkable effort to supply food and fuel to citizens of West Berlin between June 1948 and May 1949, during a Soviet blockade.

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Spirit of Freedom is one of hundreds of aircraft that delivered more than 200,000 tons of food and fuel during the airlift. After the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation acquired the transport in 1992, it not only restored the aircraft but has since transformed it into a flying museum of sorts. In May 1998, during the airlift's 50th anniversary, Chopp flew the C-54E from New York to Berlin accompanied by copilot Gail Halvorsen, who had dropped candy and gum to German kids during the blockade. Now 93, Halvorsen still participates in some of Spirit of Freedom's airshow appearances.

The "candy bomber" is slated to make appearances at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum World War II Weekend at Reading, Pa., on June 7-8 and at Thunder Over Michigan on August 9-10 in Willow Run, Mich. For a full schedule, visit the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation website at


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