The C-54 “Spirit of Freedom” Skymaster (pictured) participated in the Berlin Airlift after World War II. Saturday at the Air Show of Warsaw, the C-54 dropped hundreds of Hershey’s bars by mini-parachutes for the spectators. The candy was provided by Bob and Nelson Conley’s Barbershop. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
The C-54 “Spirit of Freedom” Skymaster (pictured) participated in the Berlin Airlift after World War II. Saturday at the Air Show of Warsaw, the C-54 dropped hundreds of Hershey’s bars by mini-parachutes for the spectators. The candy was provided by Bob and Nelson Conley’s Barbershop. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
While Mother Nature held off on thunderstorms Saturday, it did rain candy at the Warsaw Municipal Airport around 1 p.m.
One of the highlights of the Air Show of Warsaw over the weekend was a C-54 Skymaster, also known as the “Spirit of Freedom.” At about 12:40 p.m. Saturday, it dropped miniature parachutes carrying Hershey’s™ chocolates. Kids scrambled to grab some both times the C-54 made a candy parachute drop. For those children who weren’t fast enough or in the right place to snatch one, the chocolate was later handed out at the airplane once it landed.
The candy was provided by Bob and Nelson Conley’s Barbershop.
This was the first year the C-54 participated in the two-day air show.
According to co-pilot Jason Capra, the C-54 Skymaster was used in World War II and the Berlin Airlift after the war.
After Germany surrendered, the country and Berlin were divided. East Berlin was controlled by the Russians, but the Allies would go back and forth into the country to free East Berlin citizens. In an attempt to stop the Allies and gain control of the city, the Russians blocked the Allied support to try to starve the citizens.
From May 1948 to June 1949, Capra said, 330 C-54s flew in and out of Berlin to deliver supplies, including food, fuel and other necessities. Every three minutes for 15 months, the planes landed to pick up more supplies.
The C-54 at the Air Show of Warsaw was an actual plane used in the Berlin Airlift, Capra said. Now 69 years old, it has a 117-foot wing span and is 94 feet from nose to tail. It’s 24 feet tall.
After the Airlift, it was used by the military, including the U.S. Marines, until it was retired in 1973. It flew freight for about another 20 years. The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation then purchased it around 1993.
“Our job is to preserve and educate people on the Berlin Airlift with this plane and also with a Boeing C97 we have,” Capra stated.
The Foundation is out of Toms River, N.J. While it was the first year for the plane in Warsaw, the Foundation takes the aircraft to air shows all over the country to commemorate and honor the Berlin Airlift, he said.
The candy parachute drop is done at air shows in honor of Lt. Col. Gail Halvorsen. He was a C-54 pilot during the Berlin Airlift and was the first to drop candy to kids. Capra said Halvorsen did it as a sign of good will.
“Because of him, (the C-54s) got the name Candy Bombers and the name stuck,” Capra said. Hershey™ bars are dropped because that’s what Halvorsen did.
During the air show Saturday, tours of the inside of the C-54 were available for a small donation. The flying museum featured an assortment of military gear, maps and photos from the World War II and post-war period.
For more information on the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation, visit its website at www.spiritoffreedom.org or its Facebook page under Friends of the C-54 "Spirit of Freedom.”
For more information about the air show, visit AirShowofWarsaw.com or its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AirShowofWarsaw