Colonel Gail Seymour Halvorsen was born October 10, 1920, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He always wanted to fly, and in 1941, earned his private pilot's license and joined the Civil Air Patrol. In 1942, Halvorsen joined the Air Force and was assigned to pilot C-47s and C-54s as part of the Berlin Airlift, also known as "Operation Vittles." The operation was meant to provide food and supplies to the people of Berlin, who were starving after Russia built blockades to prevent shipments. One day, Col. Halvorsen noticed a group of children standing at the end of the runway watching planes take off and land. Halvorsen visited with the children and noticed that even though they were hungry, the children didn't complain or beg for anything. He reached into his pocket and found he had two sticks of gum. He handed the gum to the children, who immediately divided it into very tiny pieces to share. Touched, Halvorsen promised the children he'd bring more candy next time he came. He told them he'd drop the candy from his plane. "How will we know your plane?" asked one girl. "I will wiggle my wings," Halvorsen said. From that point on, the children referred to Halvorsen as"Uncle Wiggly Wings."
The next day, Col. Halvorsen flew over and wiggled his wings, and dropped many small parachutes made from handkerchiefs with candy attached. As word spread of Halvorsen's operation, fellow airmen donated candy. Initially, Halvorsen's military superiors did not know about the operation, but as word spread, they supported the drops. Schoolchildren from across American, along with candy companies, contributed to the operation. Before the "Operation Little Vittles" was complete, 23 tons of candy were distributed to the residents of Berlin, and Halvorsen became a national hero.