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Captain Jerry Yellin’s last Mission

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Jerry Yellin, fighter pilot in last combat mission of World War II, dies at 93

Jerry Yellin in 2016, holding a photo of himself when he was a fighter pilot in World War II. (Richard Bell/For the book “The Last Veterans of WWII”)

By Harrison Smith December 21 at 6:17 PM

The last combat mission of World War II began Aug. 15, 1945, when fighter pilot Jerry Yellin and his wingman, 19-year-old Philip Schlamberg, took off from Iwo Jima to attack airfields near Nagoya, Japan.

The war seemed all but over. Germany had surrendered in May, and much of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were in ruins, decimated by atomic bombs dropped the previous week. If Mr. Yellin heard a code word — “Utah” — Japan’s rumored surrender had occurred, and he was to cancel his mission and return to Iwo Jima, a rocky island that he had helped secure months earlier and that offered a base for American bombers headed north to Japan.

Later that day, on what was still Aug. 14 in the United States, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender. For some reason, however, Mr. Yellin and Schlamberg never got the message.

Taking on antiaircraft fire in their P-51 Mustangs, they strafed their targets and headed home, passing through a thick bank of clouds. Schlamberg, who had previously admitted a sense of foreboding to Mr. Yellin, saying, “If we go on this mission, I’m not coming back,” never emerged from the haze.

Disappearing from Mr. Yellin’s wing, he was presumed dead and considered one of the last Americans to be killed in combat during World War II.


Mr. Yellin in 2015. (Lightfinder Public Relations)

Mr. Yellin, who landed on Iwo Jima to discover that the war had ended three hours earlier, and who later became an outspoken advocate of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, died Dec. 21 at his son Steven Yellin’s home in Orlando. He was 93 and had lung cancer, his son said.

For Mr. Yellin, the war was a hellish necessity, essential for halting the spread of Nazism and Japanese aggression. But he also spoke forthrightly about its costs, including the mental anguish over memories of combat that nearly led him to suicide. He recalled with particular horror the experience of landing on war-torn Iwo Jima for the first time, where “there wasn’t a blade of grass and there were 28,000 bodies rotting in the sun.”

“The sights and the sounds and the smells of dead bodies and the sights of Japanese being bulldozed into mass graves absolutely never went away,” he told the Washington Times in August.

Mr. Yellin, a captain in the 78th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Forces, counted 16 downed pilots in his unit during the war, including Schlamberg. For years afterward, he struggled to keep a steady job, moving a dozen times in the United States and Israel (where he settled, at one point, partly in protest of the Vietnam War).

He eventually found solace through Transcendental Meditation, a twice-daily technique of silent concentration that his wife introduced him to in 1975 after she saw the practice’s originator, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, on “The Merv Griffin Show.”

Mr. Yellin soon began speaking to other veterans who struggled to adapt to civilian life, and in 2010 he co-founded Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation that helps veterans learn Transcendental Meditation. He said he was inspired to start the group after a friend and Army veteran killed himself that year. Mr. Yellin received support in promotional videos by actress Scarlett Johansson, a grandniece of Schlamberg.

“The feeling that one has when a buddy dies? You just can’t emulate that. We have a burden civilians will never understand,” Mr. Yellin told The Washington Post earlier this month, shortly after the release of “The Last Fighter Pilot,” an account of his World War II service written with Don Brown.

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Jerome Yellin was born into a Jewish family in Newark on Feb. 15, 1924. His father was a real estate developer.

Mr. Yellin had just graduated from high school in Hillside, N.J., and was working the night shift at a steel mill, saving money before starting college, when Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Two months later, on his 18th birthday, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces, pursuing an adolescent love of aviation that had led him to build models of World War I-era planes.

Mr. Yellin was slightly nearsighted and initially failed an eye exam for pilots. “The doctor told me to go home and stay in a dark room, eat a lot of carrots, don’t read anything and come back in three days and take the test again,” he said in a 2014 oral history.

In place of the rabbit food, he sought help from his mother, who served on the draft board. She filched a copy of the eye chart, allowing him to memorize the letters and pass the exam on his second try.

Mr. Yellin proved a skilled pilot, successfully bailing out of his plane when the engine locked up during a training mission near Hawaii (he said he spent nine hours in a life raft before he was picked up by a boat) and escorting B-29 bombers on 19 missions over Japan.

His military honors included the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal, and in recent years he served as the national spokesman for the Spirit of ’45, a nonprofit organization that promotes the legacy of World War II veterans.

His wife of 65 years, the former Helene Schulman, died in 2015. Survivors include four children, David Yellin of Winter Haven, Fla., Steven Yellin of Orlando, Michael Yellin of Montclair, N.J., and Robert Yellin of Kyoto, Japan; a sister; and six grandchildren.

Mr. Yellin later told the New York Post he had long believed the Japanese were “terrible people,” and felt no remorse at the time he participated in bombing runs on Tokyo and other cities. “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.”

His views began to change after a business trip to Tokyo in 1983, when he was working as a real estate consultant for banks. He said he “looked up through the buildings in the Ginza” — a popular shopping district — and envisioned B-29s “dropping bombs not on those people but on me.”

Mr. Yellin’s son Robert later moved to Japan and became engaged to a Japanese woman. Mr. Yellin was shocked when he found out her father, Taro Yamakawa, trained as a kamikaze pilot and worked at an airfield during World War II.

The fathers bonded, Mr. Yellin said, after discussing their flying strategies and experiences during the war with the help of a translator. They eventually struck up a correspondence, and Mr. Yellin described Yamakawa as his best friend.

“Taro said that in Buddhism, the soul of the dead is worshiped for 50 years as an individual, then, all souls merge to become one and are looked upon as equal,” Mr. Yellin told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in 1995, describing a letter from his friend. “Taro wrote that it has been 50 years since the war. It is time for the souls to merge and put it behind us.”

Jerry Yellin – Flew and took control of a Stearman PT-17 at the very same airport he trained at decades ago.

As part of a Veterans Day event, WWII veteran Capt. Jerry Yellin, 93, flew and took the controls of a Stearman PT-17, just like the one he trained in when he was 19 at the very same airport he trained at decades ago, today’s Scottsdale Airport – once Thunderbird Field II. Built in 1942 for the sole purpose of training WWII Army Air Corps pilots, Thunderbird Field II didn’t have a memorial commemorating its history until now. Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial Inc., an organization comprised of individuals from many different backgrounds who share a common passion for aviation, history and military heritage, are building a memorial at Scottsdale Airport to honor those early aviation pioneers and all veterans who have sacrificed so much protecting our freedom.

 

WWII Captain Yellin as our honored guest and speaker – 1940’s themed fundraiser

Jerry spoke at the 1940″s themed fundraiser benefiting,  Thunderbird ll and Dreamcatcher on November 10th, 2017. We celebrated our heroes at the Inaugural Swing Time – 1940’s Hangar Party fundraiser. We had WWII Captain Yellin as our honored guest and speaker. Amazing night, proud to be an American. Thank you to Alerus Bank and other event sponsors and attendees for celebrating with us. And thank you to the men and women that serve our country – past, present and future.

  

World War II pilot, 93-year-old Capt. Jerry Yellin, was once again in the pilot’s seat during a special flight on Nov. 9.

Capt. Yellin took part in a Veterans Day appreciation event, in anticipation for the inaugural “Swing Time” 1940s-themed party and gala that will benefit the Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial and DreamCatchers on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Capt. Yellin is a former fighter pilot who flew the final combat mission of World War II and is the subjection of the best seller, “The Last Fighter Pilot,” and an upcoming Hollywood documentary.

The aircraft is a rare WWII Stearman, the type Capt. Yellin trained in during 1943. Capt. Yellin and the Memorial’s Chairman, Steve Ziomek, piloted the plane together.

Capt. Yellin, who still speaks nationally concerning PTSD, will also be the honored guest and keynote speaker at the “Swing Time” party and gala. On Nov. 11, he is scheduled to travel to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California to address the Veterans Day celebration there.

Thunderbird Field II Veterans Memorial Inc., is a non-profit organization 501(c)3 aimed at preserving the history and culture of aviation in Scottsdale, providing a tribute to veterans and create unique educational opportunities for our school children. Thunderbird Field II graduated over 5,500 pilots, many of whom saw military action in Europe and the Pacific. The school was deactivated on October 16, 1944 and is now the Scottsdale Airport.

 

The 100th Anniversary of the Bushmaster’s (78th Fighter Squadron) will be held in Las Vegas on February 16, 2018.

The 100th Anniversary of the Bushmaster’s (78th Fighter Squadron) will be held in Las Vegas on February 16, 2018.

Pilot who flew in final WWII mission to speak at NHS

“It’s a chance to be face-to-face with the people who made history,” said Stephen Quesinberry, department chairman. “Sometimes you don’t really think about people you know having been involved with the events you learned about in schools, and it’s definitely more interesting to hear from the people who were there.”

Yellin enlisted two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, on his 18th birthday. After graduating from Luke Air Field as a fighter pilot in August 1943, he spent the remainder of the war flying P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific with the 78th Fighter Squadron.

He participated in the first land-based fighter mission over Japan on April 7, 1945. During Yellin’s final mission on Aug. 14, 1945, his wingman – Phillip Schlamberg – had the tragic distinction of becoming the last man killed in a combat mission in World War II. According to his website, Yellin battled severe, undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder after the war.

The decorated pilot, now in his 90s, still travels around the country, speaking at events. Quesinberry said Monday’s presentation is one of a dwindling number of opportunities to hear directly from a World War II veteran.

“There are not going to be many more chances to hear these guys,” he said. “It’s an hour presentation, and we certainly think it’s well worth coming out to hear.”

The NHS History Speaker Series features a free, public presentation in the fall and spring of each year with one focusing on the the Vietnam War as part of the 50th Anniversary Commemoration. The NHS History and Social Studies Department is a commemorative partner with the Department of Defense.

 

 

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Ian Scotto Co-Host & Producer of SOFREP Radio Producer of The Power of Thought – podcast

Here is the Link to Jerry Yellin’s interview – podcast

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ep-13-jerry-yellin-wwii-fighter-pilot/id1263228612?i=1000393797828&mt=2

 

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

 

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

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