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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.

 

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

Victory in the Pacific GUAM, TINIAN, SAIPAN, AND THE ANNIVERSARY OF IWO JIMA MARCH 16 – 26, 2018

If you would like to share in this wonderful event – cruise of the Pacific GUAM, TINIAN, SAIPAN, AND THE ANNIVERSARY OF IWO JIMA. Please make sure to reserve your spot. Jerry is a featured guest on the cruise, March 16th – 26th, 2018.

Tour Overview

This unique, inaugural journey from The National WWII Museum takes guests to the sites of the Pacific war, from Pearl Harbor to Iwo Jima and more. Travel luxuriously while experiencing history up close, with help from renowned historians and eyewitnesses to World War II.

EXPLORE THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC

Introducing The National WWII Museum’s Tour of the Pacific Theater. Take a journey that centers around the story of the Americans who forged a road to Tokyo through courage, ingenuity, and sacrifice, and ended the war, at last. Retrace the grueling trail that led from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay, explore the evolving strategy for fighting relentless Japanese forces in Asia and the Pacific, and examine cultural differences, logistical challenges, and the staggering range of extreme conditions that confronted American military forces.

Steeped in WWII history, the present-day serenity found at these stunning locations is a stark contrast to ferocious fighting that once took place here. Breathtaking landscapes with secluded volcanic mountain peaks, clear waters surrounding coral fringed islets, and grottos filled with sea turtles—discover the Marianas with The National WWII Museum Educational Travel program and revel in the hidden treasures of these Pacific islands. From the blazing white shorelines of Saipan to the black volcanic ash on Iwo Jima’s landing beaches, walk in the everlasting footsteps of the servicemen who gave their all for victory.

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.

ARMY – NAVY Game December 9th, 2017 Philadelphia, PA

Jerry Yellin and Woody Williams (Iwo Jima) will be recognized at half time during the Army vs. Navy game Saturday December 9, 2017 2:00 pm on CBS
Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Black Knights vs. Midshipmen Football Game

There may be no game in college football as important to the two competing universities as Army-Navy, and Army Black Knights vs Navy Midshipmen tickets are highly sought after by fans, alumni, and students at both universities. The Army vs Navy game has been the embodiment of inter-service rivalry for over 100 years and has an atmosphere that is unlike any other game in college football. The game serves as a sendoff for the seniors from both West Point and Annapolis, and the students from both universities come adorned in their branches military garb.

The first Army-Navy game was played in 1890, and has been played annually since, with an exception of 10 years. The winner of the game is awarded the Thompson Trophy, as well as gains valuable points towards the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. While every game on the Black Knights and Midshipmen’s schedule is important, the success of the season comes down to which one wins the Army-Navy game.

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.

Richard Nixon Foundation & Library November 11th, 2017

Jerry Yellin Will be at the Nixon library November 11th, 2017. Please note we will be updating time of event at a later date.

 

National Museum of American Jewish Military History

Jerry Yellin will join us at the National Museum of American Jewish History and discuss the last mission of World War II flown by two Jewish pilots. One died and one came home. In a new book, New York Times bestselling author Don Brown (Treason) sits down with Yelllin, now ninety-one years old, to tell the incredible true story of the final combat mission of World War II. Nine days after Hiroshima, on the morning of August 15th, Yellin and his wingman 1st Lieutenant Phillip Schlamberg took off from Iwo Jima to bomb Tokyo. By the time Yellin returned to Iwo Jima, the war was officially over—but his young friend Schlamberg would never get to hear the news. The Last Fighter Pilot is a harrowing first-person account of war from one of America’s last living World War II veterans.