It is for this reason that Gail Halverson, the infamous “Candy Bomber,” was interested in viewing the cemetery and honoring these fallen British soldiers in a short ceremony last Saturday.
Toward the end of World War II, the Soviet Union had completely blocked access to the western-controlled areas of Berlin. U.S. pilots were soon sent in to deliver supplies to these isolated sectors in an operation which ultimately lasted 462 days, and which is now known as the Berlin Airlift.
It was during this time that Lieutenant Gail Halverson, unauthorized by his superiors, dropped more than 23 tons of candy to German children and lovingly became known as the “Candy Bomber.” It is because of his brave operations that Halverson is credited with having a large and positive impact on postwar American-German relations.
Halverson was interested in visiting the cemetery which is the resting place of two fallen British soldiers who also fought in World War II. Halverson had planned to lay a wreath on the graves this year in conjunction with a tradition of the Coast Guard auxiliary to celebrate these men who died defending the East Coast. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the ceremony at the last minute because of a health complication requiring emergency surgery.
However, the ceremony went on in Halverson’s honor.
The ceremony was short in Halverson’s absence, and proceeded with the laying on of the wreath, a short moment of silence, and the taking of photographs. Additionally, there was the presentation of a book with pictures from the burial service and a history of the bodies which were found on the beach in 1942 after a German U-boat attacked and sunk the British Royal Navy’s San Delfino.
Several active-duty as well as retired members of the USCG were in attendance, and Karin Edmond, who was one of the original children being candy bombed during the Berlin Airlift, provided the wreath.
Guests in attendance were invited back to the coast guard station afterwards for a lunch. Though Halverson could not be there, his presence was certainly missed.
“Everybody stepped in for Halverson,” County Commissioner Danny Couch said about Saturday’s ceremony. “They did it in his honor.”
The cemetery is collectively maintained by four different groups: the Hatteras Island Historical Society, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the United States Coast Guard, and the National Parks Service.
The gravestones of the soldiers were provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, established in 1917, which requires governments around the world to mark and maintain the graves of soldiers lost in war, no matter where they are found. British flags, sea shells, decorated rocks, and coins decorate the headstones as a symbol of good wishes.
Halverson’s heroic deeds and the sacrifice of the two British soldiers, one of whom is unknown, is definitely something to be honored. And while Halverson was unable to attend the ceremony, the spirit of the season was certainly present.