Retired Col. Gail S. Halverson—The Beloved “Chocolate Pilot”


"The message from a wise 'ol flyer was careful of the small decisions in life as they will follow you forever; be grateful for what you have and help the others that don't have; "service before self"; and believe in yourself....”

—Cubmaster Mike Kaiserauer, Pack 152


On Sunday, February 10th, 2008, BSA Troop 46 ‘Freedom Outpost’ had the honor of hosting the legendary Col. Gail S. Halverson, also known as the beloved "Chocolate Pilot" or "Captain Wiggly Wings" by Berliners, at All Saints on Hüttenweg 46, the former American Community Chapel. 

When we began planning this event, we were estimating a crowd of 100, but when word got out that we would be hosting the Chocolate Pilot, the numbers began leaps and bounds!

Before Col. Halverson’s arrival, we held a reading of "Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot:  A true story about the Berlin Airlift and the candy that dropped from the sky" to over 250 children and adults.  This children’s book relates the wonderful story of Mercedes, a seven year old Berliner, and our estimed American pilot, Col. Halverson.  Although I had practiced numerous times, I could not help getting nervous reading in front of such a large crowd!  Troop 46 Scoutmaster Coleman Cain and Pack 152 Cubmaster Mike Kaiserauer both assisted the book reading by giving a brief overview of the Berlin Airlift and the Cold War.

Scoutmaster Cain opened the “official” event at 5 pm with the posting of the colors lead by Troop 46 and Pack 152.  Members of Troop 895, Girl Scouts of America and the VFW were also present.  Mercedes, the little girl in the book who is now a grandmother, attended the event as well. 

The Chocolate Pilot, a World War II veteran, began the evening by recounting his Berlin Airlift experience.  More specifically, he focused on the importance of giving hope to children living in war devastation, such as Mercedes.  Troop 46 Life Scout Mike Duke states, „It was really great to get to meet a part of living history and it made the past become real for us.  It was cool to see the little the Allied Museum and then to talk to the man that threw it out.“  The Berlin Airlift is celebrating it’s 60th anniversary in 2008.

Col. Halverson, at an amazing 87 years of age and a former Boy Scout himself, also conveyed the value of "service over self" to an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 400 people.  He states, "by being thankful for what you have and through serving others before yourself, you will have a wonderful life."  The Chocolate Pilot warmly praised Scoutmaster Cain and all the Berlin scouting volunteers for their ethic of "Service Before Self" and for sacrificing the time away from their own families to work with other people's children.

Col. Halverson received an overwhelming standing ovation at the event’s closing.

Several Berlin scouters  were honored to join the Chocolate Pilot and Mercedes for dinner later in the evening. Cub Master Kaiserauer states, “Amazing that Col. Halverson was not an Eagle scout as he truly sends the message of one. In our conversations... the Colonel told of his three sons and seven grandsons that achieved Eagle.... a true scouting family... and a true scouting experience."   Col.
Halverson and Mercedes were presented with Troop 46 neckerchiefs by Scoutmaster Cain at dinner.

Before leaving the restaurant, two German pilots, who were sitting at a table nearby, recognized the Colonel and enthusiastically approached him to talk about the Airlfit and Tempelhof Airport.  There is no doubt about it-the Chocolate Pilot has become a part of Berlin’s rich history.

We were touched to hear from Col. Halverson that “It was my honor to meet such a great crowd at the Church. The great welcome by the Girl and Boy Scouts was a highlight for me.”

Col. Gail S. Halverson is an honorary member of Troop 46 ‘Freedom Outpost’.  True to Scouting Values for over 50 years.

Vanessa Hansen
COR, BSA Troop 46 ‘Freedom Outpost’
Committee Chair and Bear Den 7 Leader, Pack 152

Berlin, Germany

Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot by Margot Theis Raven

Sleeping Bear Press, 2002. REVIEW by The School Library Journal:

This outstanding picture book depicts one of the lesser-known aspects of the Berlin Airlift following World War II as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl. Operation Little Vittles was run by Lt. Gail Halvorsen who, out of the goodness of his heart, began dropping candy in parachutes made from handkerchiefs to the children of West Berlin. This heartwarming story provides not only the historical context, but an epilogue as well. Although the text is slightly wordy at times, it shows, in part, how the Cold War impacted children, and how one child struggled to find hope amid the ruins of postwar Germany. It is also a tribute to the thousands of people involved in the effort. With views of devastated buildings and shrapnel holes in concrete, the full-color paintings elicit a real sense of the war's devastation.


last update: 4/2/08