Of War and Weddings is a moving and compelling true story of bitter wartime enemies who find peace through their children’s marriage. A mysterious force that weaves its way into the lives of the Yellin and Yamakawa families ends up healing the wounds of war and nurturing a legacy of freedom and understanding for the children of America and Japan. We experience Jerry Yellin’s destiny from childhood to retirement. We feel his joys, his loves, and his pains. We experience the process of healing as it occurs and are moved to discover that the legacy of two fathers is an inheritance intended for us all.
Army Air Corps fighter pilot Jerry Yellin (February 15, 1924-December 21, 2017) flew the last combat mission of World War II. Taking off from Iwo Jima on August 15, 1945 in his P-51 Mustang, he attacked airfields near Nagoya, before heading back to base, his wingman Phillip Schlamberg lost and presumed dead. It was only then that Yellin learned Emperor Hirohito had announced his nation’s surrender hours earlier following the United States’ two atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the war, Yellin had difficulty fitting back into civilian life, and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He would find peace in the 1970s after becoming an adherent of Transcendental Meditation, while the marriage of his youngest son to the daughter of a Japanese kamikaze pilot would take him, he wrote, “from hatred to love.” An author of four books, Yellin toured extensively to bring hope to veterans suffering from PTSD, and to heal wounds brought by war.
CREDIT: Senior Airman Ariel D. Partlow/U.S. Air Force
Ricochet – The Last Fighter Pilot
December 23, 2017
In my year-end round up of notable deaths, I noted that not many names of the Greatest Generation were showing up. The few are getting fewer and fewer.
Add to the list the name of Captain Jerome “Jerry” Yellin. On August 14, 1945 — five days after the 2nd atomic bomb drop — Yellin led a two-man raid against a Japanese airfield in P-51 Mustangs. His partner, Phil Schlamberg, did not come back. When Yellin landed back at Iwo Jima he learned that the war was over. While he was in the air Japan had accepted the demand for unconditional surrender. His command was unable to raise him on the radio to stop the mission.
Yellin then went down as the last combat fighter pilot of World War II and Schlamberg the last casualty. Attached to the 78th Fighter Squadron of the USAAF, Yellin lost 16 buddies in the war and struggled in the postwar world. He became an advocate for vets suffering from PTSD in his later years.
He passed yesterday in Orlando at age 93 from lung cancer.
Published in History
WDBJ7– Jerry Yellin, an American hero, flew the last combat mission of WWII. Yellin visited Bedford County in June as the key note speaker at the National D-Day Memorial. He was a supporter of the memorial and had just signed on to be co-chair of the capital campaign.
Yellin traveled the country sharing his story and others.
“The world has to know that 16 million of us in America and that 8 million young women were Rosie the Riveters,” said Yellin back in June. “24 million people served in uniform for the purity and purpose of defeating evil.”
Yellin was battling lung cancer. He was 93 years old.
National D-Day Memorial mourns the passing of WWII pilot
by Barbara EstradaFriday, December 22nd 2017
Captain Jerry Yellin delivered the keynote address at the Memorial’s commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day. (National D-Day Memorial)
BEDFORD, VA – The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is mourning the loss of Captain Jerry Yellin.
This past June, Capt. Yellin delivered the keynote address at the Memorial’s commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day. One of the nation’s best-known World War II veterans, Yellin shared his harrowing story of having flown the final combat mission of WWII, in which his wingman became the final American to die in battle during the war.
When the veteran paid a visit in June, Yellin became further involved with the memorial and its mission. In September, he raised the flag to open the National D-Day Memorial Golf Classic and played as a celebrity guest golfer. One of Yellin’s final interviews was recorded at the National D-Day Memorial in October, as he joined the Memorial’s capital campaign as honorary Chair.
RELATED: WWII pilot visits National D-Day Memorial on 73rd anniversary of Normandy invasion
“We gave our lives in World War II so that we can have freedom, freedom for our country and freedom in the world,” said Yellin. “Every American should come and see this memorial, to see what we did in my generation so that your generation could live as free Americans. We fought for freedom, but we live for peace.”
Though well-known for his role in the war, Yellin often said he was just one of more than 16 million young Americans willing to fight for freedom in WWII. Yellin’s message and dedication to his fellow veterans will live on through his books, speeches, and interviews.
Staff, board, and volunteers at the foundation offers their deepest condolences to Capt. Yellin’s family and many friends.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jerry Yellin. He was not only a dear friend, but a tireless advocate for veterans who believed in educating our youth about the lessons and legacy of WWII,” said April Cheek-Messier, National D-Day Memorial Foundation President. “He loved the National D-Day Memorial and was working diligently with us as Co-Chair of our capital campaign to build the future education center. He will be remembered as the hero he was, and honored for the inspiring message he imparted to all. Fly high Jerry. We will miss you.”
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.
Notable deaths so far this year
View Photos Remembering those who have died in 2017.
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.”
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