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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Jerry Yellin, WWII pilot, dies at 93

By Andy Hallman, Ledger news editor | Dec 22, 2017
Jerry Yellin

Longtime Fairfield resident and Army Air Corps Capt. (Ret.) Jerry Yellin died Thursday at age 93.

The Washington Post announced Yellin’s passing, which was confirmed on his official website captainjerryyellin.com.

Yellin’s Facebook page posted the following message Thursday: “Today, our dear Captain Jerry Yellin completed his 20th mission, as he called it. Two months shy of his 94th birthday and after a long, powerful and inspiring life, he was ready to leave his body. He will be dearly missed by so many of us. May you rest in peace, dear friend.”

Yellin held the distinction of flying the final combat mission of World War II on Aug. 14, 1945.

According to his website, Yellin was born and raised in New Jersey. He enlisted in the military two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He flew P-40, P-47 and P-51 combat missions in the Pacific theater with the 78th Fighter Squadron.

Yellin participated in the first land-based fighter mission over Japan a few months earlier April 7, 1945. On the last mission of the war, Yellin’s wingman Phillip Schlamberg was killed, making him the last man killed in a combat mission during World War II.

His website states he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, wondering why he survived when so many of his fellow soldiers died.

“Then it was over. One day, a fighter pilot, the next a civilian. No buddies, no airplane, nothing to hold on to, and no one to talk to,” Yellin wrote on his website. “The Army Air Corps had trained me and prepared me to fly combat missions, but there was no training on how to fit into society when the war was over and I stopped flying.”

Yellin wrote that the feeling of hopelessness and restlessness lasted until 1975, when he began practicing Transcendental Meditation. Helping others overcome PTSD became his life’s work. He traveled the globe sharing his story and helping a new generation of veterans overcome their symptoms.

In 1988, his youngest son married the daughter of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot, which Yellin said “took me from hatred to love.”

“I have three Japanese grandchildren,” he said. “I’d like their contemporaries to know that my grandchildren’s grandparents served their countries with honor. No matter what we learned about the Japanese, or what they learned about us, we are not what we believe. We are all human beings.”

Yellin wrote four books, “Of War and Weddings,” “The Blackened Canteen,” “The Resilient Warrior,” and “The Letter.” He was the subject of the 2016 documentary “Last Man Standing,” by director Louisa Merino. That same year, Yellin received the Silver Service Medallion from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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