Gail Halvorsen was born on October 10, 1920, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on May 17, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on March 29, 1943. Halvorsen was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on June 17, 1944, and then completed C-47 Dakota transport training before being assigned to the Air Transport Command at Natal Air Base and Fortaleza Air Base, Brazil, from August 1944 to October 1946. Lt Halvorsen next flew C-54 Skymaster transports at Morrison Field, Florida, from October 1946 to July 1947, followed by service at Brookley AFB, Alabama, from August 1947 to May 1949. During this time, Halvorsen served in Europe in support of the Berlin Airlift as a C-54 pilot from July 1948 to February 1949, and was nicknamed the "Berlin Candy Bomber" when he came up with the idea of dropping candy attached to parachutes to children during the airlift. This action was dubbed Operation Little Vittles and Halvorsen was presented the Cheney Award for the year 1948 for his humanitarian gesture. He next received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment at the University of Florida to complete his bachelor's and master's degrees in Aerospace Engineering from June 1949 to June 1952, and then served as a Weapons System Engineer in the Cargo Aircraft Section with Headquarters Wright Air Development Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, from June 1952 to June 1953, and then at Ogden, Utah, until August 1957. He attended Air Command and Staff School at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1957 to June 1958, and then served as a Project Officer with the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division at Inglewood and Los Angeles, California, from July 1958 to July 1962. His next assignment was as an Aerospace Engineer with the Foreign Technology Division of Air Force Systems Command at Wiesbaden, West Germany, from July 1962 to August 1965, followed by a tour with Headquarters U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon from August 1965 to June 1968. Col Halvorsen was Commander of the 6596th Instrumentation Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, California, from June 1968 to February 1970, and then served as Base Commander for the 7350th Support Group at Templehof Central Airport in West Berlin from February 1970 until February 1974. His final assignment was as Inspector General for the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB, Utah, from February 1974 until his retirement from the Air Force on September 1, 1974.
His Legion of Merit Citation reads:
Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service to the United States as Commander, 7350th Air Base Group, and Commander in Chief United States Air Forces in Europe Representative in Berlin at Tempelhof Central Airport, Germany, from 16 February 1970 to 15 February 1974. During this period, his superior executive leadership, managerial skills, and constant dedication to the pursuit of operational improvements insured the success of the United States Air Force in fulfilling its mission as one of the occupation forces in West Berlin. As commander, he effected many laudable accomplishments in his areas of responsibility, but none were more outstanding than the management actions he implemented, the people programs he fostered, and the British, French, and US Army teamwork he engendered in maintaining air access to West Berlin. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Colonel Halvorsen reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.