Capt. Jerry Yellin, a World War II vet and P-51 fighter pilot, talks about the greatest generation and winning the Spirit of ’45 award at the Air Force Association conference.

Air Force Times AFA 2015

WWII Veterans Remember The Surrender

The Japanese surrender in WWII was official with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945. But for #JerryYellin  the war ended with his last combat mission on August 14th, the same day his wing man, 19-year-old #PhilSchlamberg  from Brooklyn New York disappeared over Japan. #Peace #Healing  #PTSD  #TranscendentalMeditation   #Iowa

@IPRTalk River To River

World War II on August 14, 1945. The day the war ended, I flew the final combat mission of World War II. On that mission, my wing-man , Phillip Schlamberg, was the last man killed in a combat mission in WWII. Today is the 70th anniversary of the end WWII.

Please take a moment to honor the men and women who served our country, and still serve our country.

This is a BBC story of how I grew to love Japan.

Jerry lays the ashes of his wife Helene into the river at a temple in Japan.

Jerry lays the ashes of his wife Helene into the river at a temple in Japan.


August 5, 1945, Iwo Jima. The mission statement told us we would be flying to Japan early the next morning strafing  air fields near Tokyo. I never liked hearing about a mission the day before it was scheduled. It disturbed my sleep wondering about my ability to perform and what it would be like, again. 

The next morning was like every other morning on Iwo. The next afternoon, however, changed the World. Forever!
The mission itself was uneventful. We flew over our targets, strafed them until our ammunition ran out and returned to Hot Rocks, our base on the first airfield at the foot of Mt. Surubachi on Iwo Jima. I taxied to the squadron area, pulled the red mixture control handle back and
advanced the throttle to shut the engine down. The propeller was still spinning when Phil Maher jumped onto the wing and shouted, “We dropped one bomb and wiped out a city, Hiroshima!”
“What are you talking about, Phil? What are you smoking?” I shouted back. But it was true. We knew the war was over. But not yet. Nagasaki was the next Atom bomb target on August 9 and the last combat mission was flown on August 14, 1945. I flew that mission too.
August 5, 2015, Kyoto, Japan. The BBC TV crew arrived at Roberts house at 9:30 and began filming at 9:45. I had spoken to Rupert and Jiro on Iwo Jima in March and agreed to meet them when I visited Japan again. We stopped at noon, went to lunch and returned to Roberts home to prepare for my 2:30 appearance at the ancient Japanese Temple near bye.
Robert had come to Fairfield, Iowa for a Memorial service for his Mom in July and agreed to take some of her ashes back to Japan for internment. He chose a local Temple that was started in 1355 and remains active today. We were ushered into a quiet waiting room. Sara, Robert, Louisa and Riley, documentary makers, Rupert and Jiro from BBC and I waited to be called to another room for a ceremony. Kentaro arrived from Tokyo. All of us went into the Temple and sat looking at the box containing Helene’s ashes and a flower filled Bizen vase she loved. It was still, the silence complete, when a Monk appeared and began chanting.
When he had completed his service he picked up the box Duncan MacMaster had fashioned for me and we followed him to the bridge over the still lake Robert had chosen to place his mother’s remains. Kentaro opened the plastic bag and handed it to me. As I started to let the ashes fall a large, fat, long snake began to swim in the water behind me. I turned and watched it swim to the shore and reappear in front of me. The water turned white as the ashes spread below me. It was a shocking sight for all of us. We stood in silence for quite some time. It was a final moment of closure for me.
Shadow Photo
I am on my way home now, alone but grateful for a life so full and so rewarding.


Centuries-old bonsai that survived atomic bomb gets honored 70 years later

I awakened quite early after a restless night thinking about today’s activities. It isn’t every day that one is scheduled to visit a family cemetery in a foreign country to pay your respects to a former enemy who became a dear friend and a grandfather to my son Robert’s children, Kentaro, Simon and Sara.

Kaz Ohno, an English speaking journalist employed by Fuji TV picked me up at 9, Louisa Merino and Riley Morton arrived almost at the same time. Louisa is a documentary maker from Fairfield, Iowa where I live.  Riley is  a photographer  from Seattle who will work his camera magic at the planned ceremony.
We loaded their film equipment into the trunk of Kaz’s rental car and headed towards a small Temple in Tokyo where members of the of the Yamakawa family have been buried for generations. Taro had passed away in 2012 at the age of 87. Sara would meet us there at 9:45.
The Temple was in a neighborhood of small, two and three story homes and apartments on a very narrow road. Two cars could not pass each other without one stopping and juggling for space. Kaz struggled backing into the allotted parking space off of the street after the three of us got out of the car.
We were the first to arrive. I walked quietly into the open door of a waiting room and felt the silence of the interior. It always amazes me that such an orderly feeling can exist in such a bustling area of active people.
Mr. Ishida of Fuji TV and his crew arrived on schedule. Sara was on time too. The two of us walked ahead of the TV people, Sara carried a large wooden bucket of water and a long handled wooden ladle. I held a metal container of wrapped stems of burning incense. We walked the narrow path through the shrines to the rear of the Temple grounds and stopped and stood in front of Taro’s family burial place.
Sara and I stood silently facing the Japanese inscription. She was handed a bouquet of flowers and she placed them in a container, bowed slightly, placed her hands together and remained still. I followed her every gesture. After a few moments of silence she pulled a ladle full of water out of the bucket and slowly spilled the water onto the marble levels of the shrine. She nodded to me and I repeated what she had done. Then we each placed one the burning incense rolls into the slots on the base of the grave marker. We remained silent and prayer like for several minutes. Tears slowly welled in her eyes. I too felt the love of her grandfather and my friend, Taro Yamakawa.

In prayer & remembrance.