The Good that Bombs Can Do

Each week, Mr. Reed will relate the stories of people whose choices and actions make them heroes. See the table of contents for previous installments.

In his 1986 best-selling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things, Robert Fulghum mused,

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air — explode softly — and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth — boxes of Crayolas.

And we wouldn’t go cheap either — not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination instead of death. A child who touched one wouldn’t have his hand blown off.

Something akin to what Fulghum imagined actually happened almost 40 years earlier. The man responsible for it is, at this publication in January 2016, a vigorous 95 years old. His name is Gail Halvorsen, and he’s known in history as “the Candy Bomber.”

I first learned of Mr. Halvorsen in late 2013. I was watching a DVD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s annual Christmas concert from the year before. NBC’s Tom Brokaw narrated a spectacular segment about a US Air Force officer who dropped candy from C-47s and C-54s during the 1948-49 Soviet blockade of Berlin. Then across the stage strolled a smiling Captain Halvorsen himself, more than six…