Utah students with Sen. Mitt Romney in Washington D.C.

Utah’s Candy Bomber Showcased in National History Day Research

By Renée Leta

This spring. Cooper Maughan and Jared Killpack put their history research and performance skills to the test as part of Utah’s National History Day contests. Then in June, the pair of 7th-graders from Logan performed their research at the national competition.

Their performance focused on United States Air Force Colonel Gail “Candy Bomber” Halvorsen. A Utah native who passed away in 2022, Halvorsen gained his nickname during the Berlin airlift mission during World War II, where he began dropping candy via handkerchief parachutes to German children, which eventually became known as Operation Little Vittles.

7th-graders Cooper Maughan and Jared Killpack, from Logan, perform their research about Utah's "Candy Bomber," Gail Halvorsen.

Watch their performance here.

Utah’s National History Day is an educational program in which students learn history as they research history. Cooper Maughan and Jared Killpatrick, who attend Logan’s Thomas Edison Charter School (South Campus), conducted their research under the direction of history teacher JoLyne Merchant.

“This was our first year participating in History Day,” said 7th-grader Cooper Maughan. “Ms. Merchant gave us guided assignments to help us complete our project.”

More than 4,000 Utah students competed in regional and state competitions this year. Then 62 students – including Cooper Maughan and Jared Killpack — progressed to the international contest in College Park, Maryland, the week of June 11, 2023.  

“Our most interesting and helpful research was our interview with Denise Williams, the Candy Bomber’s daughter. We also found lots of helpful interviews on Gail Halvorsen on YouTube,” Cooper Maughan said.

For regional and state competitions, students create exhibits, documentaries, performances, or papers to showcase their research.

“We love acting and writing scripts,” said Jared Killpack, which is why they choose the performance category. “Plus we thought it would be fun to perform. Picking a project type that we have talent for made History Day so much more fun.”

“Our research on Operation Little Vittles showed us that one little act of kindness could transform into something huge and change lives.”
— Cooper Maughan

Utah National History Day was originally developed and housed at Utah State University, before the program transferred to the Utah Division of State History in 2014. Since then, more than 46,000 students have participated in Utah National History Day competitions.

The Utah program receives financial support from Utah Humanities and Sorenson Legacy Foundation. Statewide partners include: Carbon School District, Carbon County Utah, Washington County School District, San Juan School District, Utah State University, Weber State University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University, and Brigham Young University.

Visit the Utah National History Day website for more information about the program.