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The last mission arrives in Fairfield

Jerry Yellin, left, and Susan Marella, right, share memories and page through photos and clippings of Marella’s father, Eugene O’Brien. Like Yellin, O’Brien was in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific in World War II.

Matt Milner – Ottumwa Courier

FAIRFIELD — When people think about the end of World War II, they tend to think about the grand events. VE Day. The atomic bombs. The surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

Few think of a young captain flying on Aug. 14, 1945. Jerry Yellin took off from Iwo Jima for an attack on Tokyo with wingman Phillip Schlamberg. By the time Yellin landed the war was over, and Schlamberg was the final American combat death.

“I gave him a thumbs up, he gave me a thumbs up,” Yellin said, and they turned for home. Schlamberg didn’t make it back.

The war ended that day, but it stayed with Yelin for 30 more years. Now 93, he was in Fairfield on Saturday to tell his story.

The years have been kind to Yellin physically. He has a piercing gaze and a firm handshake. He has the National D-Day Golf Tournament to play in later this month. The annual Army-Navy football game in December is on the schedule, too.

That’s now. The decades after the fighting ended were hard. Yellin had what would now be recognized as post traumatic stress disorder. Brought up on the injunction “Thou shalt not kill,” Yellin had done just that and been rewarded for doing so.

“Anybody that comes home and talks about what they did, killing people, you just can’t do that,” he said. “It was impossible for me to live with myself.”

To Yellin, killing people is evil. But that’s what war is. And the United States was faced with truly evil regimes that had to be stopped. But that doesn’t mean he believes anyone should revel in the necessity of killing people.

Yellin’s visit was less a speech or lecture than a reunion. He chatted with people, answered questions. He signed every copy of “The Last Fighter Pilot,” a book Dan Brown wrote with and about him, placed in front of him.

It was a place for memories for everyone, including those who came to hear Yellin. Susan Marella’s father, Eugene O’Brien, was in the Pacific theater at the same time. The parallels were striking. “I thought they could have been in the same squadron,” she said.

They weren’t. But Yellin remembers playing golf at the very same course Marella’s father played on. Together they paged through a book with clippings and photos of O’Brien. Yellin pulled up a photo of himself on his smartphone, one taken during the war.

Like Yellin, O’Brien didn’t talk about the war much in the decades after it ended. A large group of his friends from school died in a plane crash after enlistment. It was a flight that, except for fate, O’Brien himself might well have been on. The stories came late in O’Brien’s life.

“He was starting to talk about the loss of it, the loss of his friends from high school,” Marella said.

That makes sense to Yellin. It’s easy to learn about the major battles or the leading generals from articles and films taken during the war or shortly thereafter. Stories about the men waited as the veterans themselves worked out how to tell them.

Now, it’s time. It’s duty.

“I feel obligated that it’s told properly,” Yellin said.

Now, 72 years later, it’s time.

 

featured in PEOPLE – WWII Fighter Pilot Finds ‘Family’ with Japanese Kamikaze Pilot After Their Kids Fall in Love: ‘We Are All Human’

 

As a member of the 78th fighter squadron during World War II, former Army Air Corps Captain Jerry Yellin flew combat missions in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima — one of the deadliest battles in the war. He shot down airplanes and attacked people on the ground.

“Killing was not something I was raised to do, but we had a ferocious enemy trying to destroy us,” Yellin, 93, tells PEOPLE. “Never once did I think of the people on the ground as people. They were Japanese — they attacked Pearl Harbor, they did atrocious things to prisoners of war

“They weren’t human beings to us.”

So “never in a million years” did Yellin expect to love a Japanese kamikaze pilot like a brother — or welcome him into his family.

Almost 53 after the war ended, Yellin’s hatred turned to love when his son, Robert Yellin, married a Japanese woman — the daughter of a WWII kamikaze pilot

In Yellin’s new book The Last Fighter Pilot, co-author Don Brown describes the veteran’s emotional WWII experience and his journey to love his new Japanese family.

“Jerry would learn to love, respect, and commune with the very people that he had once, with all of his might, tried to kill, and who had taken the lives of the fellow airmen closest to him,” Brown writes in the epilogue.

Yellin — a flying enthusiast from Hillside, New Jersey — enlisted on his 18th birthday in February of 1942. Three years later, he flew the final WWII combat mission in Japan on an attack on airfields near Tokyo. Yellin’s wingman and good friend, Phillip Schlamberg of New York, was the last man killed in a combat mission.

“History sometimes serves fascinating slices of irony,” Yellin writes in the book. “With the news emerging in 1945 of the Nazi atrocities against Jews half a world away, how ironic that the war’s final mission would be flown by a couple of Jewish pilots from New York and New Jersey, and that the final combat life in the defense of freedom would be laid down by a teenage Jewish fighter pilot who had not yet learned to even drive a car.”

After years spent suffering from PTSD, Yellin returned to Japan with his wife, Helene, in 1983 for the first time since the war.

“I was blown away,” he says. “It brought back a lot of memories and I could picture the bombs dropping everywhere, it was hard, but we had incredible experiences with the people and food and scenery.”

Later that year, the couple treated their youngest son, Robert, to a trip to Japan. He loved it so much, that he returned in 1984 as an English teacher. During his stay he met and fell in love with his future wife.

Yellin visited Japan in 1987 to meet Robert’s then-fiancée Takako Yamakawa, the daughter of Taro and Hatsue Yamakawa. 

“But her parents wouldn’t meet me,” recalls Yellin. “Taro was a kamikaze pilot and hated Americans as much as I had hated the Japanese.”

It took seven months for Taro to agree to meet Robert. During their first interaction, he asked Yellin’s son five questions.

“He asked what I flew in the war,” says Yellin. “When he found out I flew a P-51, he said that anyone who flew that was a brave man— and that he would be proud to have the blood of that man flow in his grandchildren.”

At Robert and Takako’s 1988 nuptials, the two men agreed to finally meet.

“A few days after the wedding, we went with a translator to a hot bath and spoke about our wartime experiences, spiritual beliefs and education,” says Yellin. “We talked for four hours and he said he never knew there was someone else in the world that felt the way he did about life. “From that moment on we bonded and became close, close family.”

The Yellins returned to Japan every year to visit their son and his in-laws — even after Robert and Takako divorced.

“Sadly, Taro passed away three years ago,” says Yellin. “I miss him every day.”

Their friendship now lives on through the three grandchildren they share.

“I went from thinking a group of people were my enemy to finding my best friend,” says Yellin. “It’s a lesson to remember that at the end of the day we are all human and have so much love to give.”

WWII Fighter Pilot Finds ‘Family’ with Japanese Kamikaze Pilot After Their Kids Fall in Love: ‘We Are All Human’

 

“WWII’s ‘last fighter pilot’ relives fateful flight and the PTSD that followed” New York Post

On April 7, 1945, five months before the end of World War II, Capt. Jerry Yellin and his squadron flew over Japan and bombed it, lighting up “a big square of fire” 15,000 feet below.

“Little fires became big fires, and it never occurred to me, ever, that there were human beings on the ground,” says Yellin, 93, speaking to The Post in the run-up to Memorial Day.

“They were Japanese. They were terrible people. They did horrific things in China, and I saw horrific things done in Iwo Jima to dead Marines — faces bashed in to get gold out of their teeth. They just were not human beings to me then.”

Click the link for full article: WWII’s ‘last fighter pilot’ relives fateful flight — and the PTSD that followed

“If you wanna stop war everybody would go to war naked,” he says. “Then nobody would know who to shoot.” -Captain (ret) Jerry Yellin to the New York Post

 

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I Flew For Freedom! I Live For Peace!

Thank You For Your Service

AS WE OBSERVE VETERANS DAY NOVEMBER 11, let us celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans. Let us remember with gratitude those who made the greatest sacrifice, their lives, for our freedom and democracy. Let us openly and genuinely extend our appreciation to those in our families, our communities and around the country, who have given of themselves so that we may live in a better country. ¦

Please click to read the full story: Thank You For Your Service

BY GLENN MILLER • FLORIDA WEEKLY CORRESPONDENT

Events

Honor Aviation Award – March 28th, 2018 at the Yale Club in New York

Jerry Yellin will be receiving this prestigious Honor Aviation Award –  Presented by the Wings Club. September 28th, 2017 at The Yale Club, Luncheon

Speaker: Mark Dunkerley, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hawaiian Airlines

100th Anniversary of the Bushmaster’s (78th Fighter Squadron) February 16th, 2018 Las Vegas

The 100th Anniversary of the Bushmaster’s (78th Fighter Squadron) will be held in Las Vegas on February 16, 2018. Location will be posted at a later date, once determined.

The National WWII Museum – 2017 international conference on WWII November 16th – 19th , 2017

Jerry Yellin will be at the National WWII Museum November 16th – 19th of November, 2017. Built on the successes of the Museum’s 70th Anniversary of World War II Conference Series, the Museum decided to break out of the mold of yearly anniversary-themed conferences. Rather than focusing on one year in the war, a particular battle or campaign, or one specific individual each year, the 2017 International Conference on World War II will address the Museum’s mission statement, and impart why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today.

Iceland – Jerry Yellin Imagine Peace Tower October 9th, 2017

Jerry will be in Iceland for the Imagine Peace Tower on October 9th, 2017.

The Imagine Peace Tower is a memorial to John Lennon from his widow, Yoko Ono, located on Viðey Island in Kollafjörður Bay near Reykjavík, Iceland.

National D – Day Golf Tournament September 25, 2017

National D – Day Golf Tournament September 23rd – 26th 2017 – Jerry Yellin will be there playing Golf.

The historic Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA will host the Memorial’s 3rd annual golf fundraising event at the famous Cascades Course.   The Cascades Course is regarded as the finest mountain course in the country, and offers challenging links set against the backdrop of Virginia’s breathtaking Allegheny Mountains. The course is ranked among “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses” by Golf Digest and it frequently tops the list of best Southern Courses including Golfweek magazine’s #1 Virginia course of 2015.