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Interview with Jerome Yellin [5/3/2014]

Brian Mulcahy:

This interview is recorded May 3rd, 2014, at AIB College of Business in Des Moines, Iowa. It's conducted for the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. My name is Brian Mulcahy. I will be the interviewer. Kelli Mulcahy is the court reporter who will transcribe the interview, and Brian Banse is the videographer recording the interview. Jerry, will you please state your name?

Jerome Yellin:

My name is Jerry Yellin.

Brian Mulcahy:

Your date of birth?

Jerome Yellin:

[Birth date redacted].

Brian Mulcahy:

And your branch of service?

Jerome Yellin:

The Army Air Corps.

Brian Mulcahy:

The highest rank achieved?

Jerome Yellin:


Brian Mulcahy:

And what war did you serve in?

Jerome Yellin:

World War II.

Brian Mulcahy:

Okay. Now we'll begin your story, Jerry. If you'd like to just maybe start with when you got in the military and your initial training prior to going to war.

Jerome Yellin:

Well, I graduated from high school in Hillside, New Jersey, in 1941, June of 1941, with a scholarship to Rider College in Trenton and no money so I took a job with Crucible Steel. I was working seven days a week, ten hours a day, and putting away $100 a week so that I could have enough money to go to college and not have to worry about room and books and food. And I was saving enough money that I went to Rider and postponed entrance to the spring semester of 1942. And then on December 7th, 1941, I woke up and learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by the Japanese, and I made up my mind on that day that I was going to be a pilot and fly fighter planes against the Japanese who attacked our country.

I'd always been a fan of aviation. I made all the models of the World War I airplanes, and in 1939 I had a hero by the name of General Claire Chennault who started the Flying Tigers flying P-40s against the Japanese. Actually, on April 20th after Pearl Harbor, he flew the first mission by Americans against the Japanese and they shot down eight Betty bombers. So he was my hero. You had to have two years of college or pass an equivalent exam to get into the Army Air Corps, and on February 15th, my 18th birthday, I submitted the papers to become an aviation cadet.

I took the exam a month or so later and I passed the mental part and flunked the physical. I had 20/30 vision in one eye. And 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. And I went home, and my mother was on the draft board, and I asked her to bring me a copy of the eye chart, which she did, and I memorized the eye chart. And I passed the examination, physical and mental. And in August of 1942, at 18 1/2, I went to the armory in Newark, was inducted into the Army Air Corps as a private, and we were sent to Fort Dix for three months of military training August, September and October.

And in October I went to Nashville, Tennessee, for classification to see whether I qualified to be a pilot, a bombardier or a navigator. And they did all kinds of tests; physical tests, mental tests, eye tests, you know, the vision, depth of field. And I passed all of the exams and I qualified to become a pilot or a navigator or a bombardier, and I chose pilot. And in late December of 1942, I wound up in Santa Ana, California, for preflight training, which was six or eight weeks of preflight where you learn the Morse code, you learn how to march, you learn how to drill in unity with all of the other cadets.

And then in January I was sent to Phoenix, Arizona, January 1943, for preflight training--I mean for primary training. And on February 22nd, 1943, one week into my 19th year, I soloed after four hours and a few minutes of flying in a Stearman. And I soloed, and I was the first one to solo in the class of 43 not because I was the best pilot, which I really thought I was, but because my name began with a Y and they start five cadets to an instructor at the A's and there were three left over when they got to me so I got my flying time in faster than the others. And I was the first one to solo in front of the whole class, and I ground looped my landing.

I didn't ground loop, but the plane ground looped, and I was in shock. But my instructor saw the strap that held the tail wheel in a permanent position--when you land it you lock the tail wheel--he saw it break and he came out in a jeep and he picked that up and started shouting, "Don't worry, Yellin, you're not washing out. Don't worry," and had this evidence. So I didn't wash out. I went to basic training for--to fly the Vultee Vibrator in Tucson, Arizona, the Marana Army Air Base. Each one of primary, basic, and advanced were nine to ten weeks, 75 to--65 to 75 hours of flying in the airplane. So I had 70 hours in a Stearman and 70 hours in a Vultee Vibrator, and then we went to Luke Field for single-engine training for fighters. And I went to gunnery school in Gila Bend using the two guns, machine guns, and an AT-6 to fire a gun for the first time. I checked out and flew ten hours in a P-40.

And we were supposed to graduate on the 30th of August, and about the 10th or the 15th we took another physical and I flunked the eye test. They changed the chart. And I remember Major Lee, I'll never forget who it was, said to me, "You've come so far with your class that we'll let you graduate. We're going to put you in transport planes, transports, fly transport planes." I said, "Sir, I'm a fighter pilot. I've already flown ten hours in a P-40. I only want to fly fighters." He said, "Well, not if I have anything to say about it." And I said, "Well, who can say--who can change that?" He said, "The commandant of cadets. "And how do I get to see him? "You go through a chain of command. "What's that? "Ask me first. "Sir, I would like to see the commandant of cadets." Now I'm standing in front of a full colonel in his office, and he says to me, "What can I do for you, Yellin?" I said, "Sir, I have 20/30 vision in one eye and they want to wash me out and put me in transports, but I'm a fighter pilot." He says, "You're damn right. Anybody that's got the guts to come to see me, you're a fighter pilot."

So I received my orders to proceed to Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg, California, to await transport to Hawaii to join the 78th Fighter Squadron and get 50 hours more in a P-40 and ship out to another squadron. Well, we flew off of the beach in Haleiwa and they kept five of us in the squadron from our class. They kept me and John Patterson from Hawaii, Al Sherren from Waterloo, Bob Roseberry from Cedar Falls or Cedar--Cedar Lakes and Bob Ruby, who was from the other place, Cedar Falls. So of the five guys that were kept, three were from Iowa. And the next class we got a guy in, Tom McCullough, from Sac City. So 4 of the 30 pilots that I flew with right through Iwo Jima were from Iowa.

We trained in a P-40. On March 10th, '44, on a gunnery mission flying over an overhead target, I had to bail out because I lost my engine. Nobody ever told me what to do, but in hangar flying and thinking about what I would ever do in an emergency situation, I made up my mind that I would get the canopy back, I'd undo my shoulder straps, my seat belt, turn it nose down, turn it upside down, and pop the stick, and that's what I did. And I got out of the chute, pulled the rip cord. It came out in my hand and I dropped it and I figured it was broken, and then, whap, I stopped.

My shoes came off, my wristwatch came off, and I spent nine hours in a one-man life raft until I was picked up. And the next morning, March 11th, at 6 o'clock in the morning, they woke me, told me I had to fly again. And I said no way. My shoulders were sore, my legs were sore. I was sunburned. And they said, "You have to fly," and I did.

It was a tough flight. And then we moved from Haleiwa with the P-40s to Camp Stoneman--to Bellows Field, where we got P-47s. And we were supposed to go on a mission to help MacArthur invade the Philippines. They were going to invade the Island of Truk but that was called off because in September 1944 the Fifth Navy Fleet, the aircraft fleet, by--led by Admiral Marc Mitscher, shot down 1,400 Japanese airplanes and MacArthur bypassed Truk. And we were all very disappointed. And then we got the P-51, and that was the dream airplane that everybody wanted to fly.

And in December of 1944, we flew our airplanes, our P-51s, to Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor. Our planes were put on board, landed, lifted onto the deck of a jeep aircraft carrier called the Sitkoh Bay, and we set out to sea to go to Guam. And about three days out we were called in to a briefing room and we were told that the island of Iwo Jima was going to be invaded by the Marines and when they took the first airstrip that we would fly from Guam or Saipan to Iwo Jima and work with the Marines and then escort B-29s over Japan. So when we got to Guam, we offloaded our airplanes, we flew to Saipan.

The Marines invaded. 67,000 Marines invaded Iwo Jima on February 19th, 1945. They secured the first airstrip, and the first group went down on March 6th, and then on March 7th, 1945, I landed a P-51 on Iwo Jima. And the sights and the sounds and the smells of that day are with me to this day. There are eight-- Iwo Jima's eight square miles of land. There were 67,000 Marines fighting against 23,000 Japanese. 21,000 Japanese were killed. Nearly 7,000 Americans were killed. That's 28,000 people killed on eight square miles of land. Body parts were everywhere and the smell of death permeated the air. You couldn't get away from them. And we lived in a foxhole and we underwent mortar attacks.

And for one month we strafed for the Marines, and then on April 7th, I was the eighth-ranked pilot in the squadron, and the top 16 guys took off on April 7th to Japan to escort B-29s as they dropped bombs on Tokyo. And I remember that day very well. We were flying--my flight of four was flying high cover and I watched the B-29s drop their bombs on Tokyo, and little fires, little fires, little fires became big fires, and square miles of Tokyo were burning. And the smoke and the smell of the smoke came up to 20,000, 25,000 feet. And it never bothered me. I never thought that there were human beings on the ground. They were the Japanese, and they were my enemy.

I flew 19 missions over Japan escorting B-29s. I flew with 16 guys who didn't come back. On the 8th of July, Al Sherren called in that he was hit and he couldn't see and he was killed. My tentmate was killed on the 8th of July. I had three wingmen that were killed, one of them shot down off my wing. That was on August 14th, 1945, the day the war was over. And then two other guys. One guy took my place, Danny Mathis, because I had a toothache and they grounded me, and on June 1st he went in my airplane in my place, and an hour after they took off they went into a storm and the B-29 pilot that they were on the wing of led them into a big front and 27 fighter planes went down in a midair collision, including Danny Mathis, who was in my airplane.

And then Dick Schroeppel was shot down following me on a strafing mission over Chichi Jima and he was killed. And then on the 13th of August, 1945, we saw a bulletin board that we were going to have to go on another mission. We'd already dropped two bombs, one on Nagasaki, one on Hiroshima, and we thought the war was over. And we asked the squadron commander why we were going, and he said, "We have to keep them honest."

And a young guy, Phil Schlamberg from Brooklyn, leaned over to me, he was 19 years old, a second lieutenant, and he said, "If I go, Captain, I'm not coming back." And I says, "What are you talking about?" He says, "The feeling I have." So I went to the CO and told him what Phil Schlamberg told me, and he said if Schlamberg agrees to go to the CO to see Doc Lewis, the flight surgeon, he's the only one that can get him off. So I told that to Phil Schlamberg. He said, "No. I'm going to go." On the morning of the 14th, I briefed him. I said, "Just stay on my wing. We've got Dumbos in the air." There were B-17s and PBYs and then destroyers and then submarines all the way on the 700-mile track that we were going to follow. In case the war was over they were going to broadcast the code word Ohio.

We got to where we had to drop our external tanks. Nobody had heard the code word of Ohio. We dropped our tanks and we were in and we were strafing airfields. We needed 90 gallons of fuel to get back to Japan so the first one in the squadron that called 90 gallons, the whole squadron would fly out to the B-29 that was our escort ship. Somebody called 90 gallons. I looked over, Schlamberg was on my wing. I gave him a thumb's up, he gave me a thumb's up. I led my flight into some clouds. When I came out of the clouds, he was gone. There was no visual of him disappearing, there was no radio contact.

When we got back to Iwo Jima from Japan, we found out that the war had been over for three hours while we were strafing. He literally was the last man killed in World War II on an active mission, and I flew that last mission of World War II.

Brian Mulcahy:

Can you talk a little bit about the living conditions on Iwo Jima?

Jerome Yellin:

When we got to Iwo Jima, we were given a shovel and we dug foxholes and we ate C-rations and K-rations. It wasn't very good food and it wasn't very good sleeping conditions. About a month later we got tents and then we built a Quonset hut as an officers quarters. Most of us complained after the first and second mission about not being able to get out of the airplane when we got back. We complained that the young guys, the younger pilots-- I was one of the older pilots even though I was only 21 years old. We would watch, you can look through your propeller at another airplane and you could see his propeller stopping because you couldn't see through it, you could see the rings.

So we told that to the flight surgeon and they prescribed an upper, a bennie, for an hour before. Well, the Seabees were all over Iwo Jima repairing the runways and doing all the construction work, and Doc Lewis went to the Seabees and said we've got to get some way to get the water out of the hot--out of the ground. Iwo means island and sulfur--and Jima means sulfur, so there were sulfur springs, hot sulfur springs, in the ground, 130, 140 degrees.

So the Seabees--the Seabees rigged tubs of hot water, and on the third or fourth mission we got out of our airplanes, go in, sit in this hot water in the nude, given a cold bottle, be debriefed. We had taken a Benzedrine an hour before we hit the target. This was four or five or six hours later. The Benzedrine wore off, the beer wore off, and you just keeled over and went to sleep in the sand wherever you were. And that's what I did 19 times.

It was eight hours of sitting in a plane about this size, hands on controls (indicating). No automatic pilot, nothing. Everything was manual. Eight hours at a clip. And it was--it was for me, serving my country in war when I had a real enemy, it was duty. There were 16 million of us, 16 million young men in military, young women in the military. And the country was at war. We had Rosie the Riveters building airplanes all across the country. There was gas rationing and food rationing. It was a united effort.

And Tom Brokaw called us The Greatest Generation. Well, we necessarily--aren't necessarily The Greatest Generation, we just had a war that we had to fight against tyranny. Japan wanted to be the rulers of the--of the Pacific. Their war was called the Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere, the Pacific Theater. And Hitler wanted to control the world in--in Europe. Two tyrants, Tojo and Hitler. And literally, when we mentioned the war, we talked about the war in Germany, not the war against Germans, it was the war against Hitler, and the war in Japan was the war against Japan, against the country.

And what made our generation great, number one, was Franklin Roosevelt, who in January of 1941 made a speech to Congress after his third election called the Four Freedoms Speech. The four freedoms are the freedom of expression and speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear. And that's what we fought for, to keep that spirit alive. And then after the war, after the war, after the bombing, after the killing, after all that was done, Americans rebuilt Japan and they rebuilt Germany into the democracies that have become our allies and our friends.

Brian Mulcahy:

How about your return to America or return home after the war, anything significant about your return home?

Jerome Yellin:

Yes. I came home, I was given a 30-day leave in November of 1945 at Fort Monmouth, and in December I was discharged as a captain. I joined the New Jersey National Guard in early 1946 to fly P-51s, but I had no reason to fly a P-51 because my P-51 was my weapon, and I prepared and I practiced and I performed what you do in war, and that's to kill your enemy. When you go to war, you have but one thing that you have to do, and that's your kill your enemy and kill them in sufficient numbers so that someone in that country will say, "We've had enough. We surrender." That's what war is about, killing people.

And flying a P-51 in peace time, I had nobody to shoot at. And I really had no desire to die and I knew that if I continued to fly I would die by chance or by choice because I was depressed, I was angry. I could go to college. I had no desire to do that. I had no desire to do the things that had to be done, educational, to get to work. I couldn't hold a job. I had many, many jobs.

In 1949 I went on a blind date, on Good Friday 1949. I was 25 years old. I met a young girl, Helene Schulman, in Forest Hills. We got engaged on Memorial Day and got married on October 22nd, 1949. We're still married. But for the first 30 years of my life, 1945--after the war, 1945 to 1975, I suffered from what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Every symptom that they now diagnose as post-traumatic stress disorder I had, and it was a difficult time for me.

Brian Mulcahy:

Can you talk about-- I know that you returned to Japan years later as a--

Jerome Yellin:

Well, before I returned--

Brian Mulcahy:

--in your professional career.

Jerome Yellin:

--before I went back to Japan, in 1975, my wife saw Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Merv Griffin's television show and she decided she was going to learn Transcendental Meditation, and she did. That was in July of 1975. Then in August of 1975, I learned TM as well, and I had an instantaneous change in my behavior, my thought process and in my life, and I got my life back. I really captured my life. And then in 1983 I was a consultant to some major banks in California in the real estate business and I was asked to go to Japan to speak to the Mitsui Bank Group about investments in real estate in the United States.

And I said, "I'm not going to Japan. That's not a place that I want to visit, and the Japanese are not people." I carried that from the time that I saw that the war started. But Helene wanted to go, so in October of 1983 we went to Japan for three weeks. And I'll never forget the first night that we stayed there. We stayed in a small room at the Ginza Dai-Ichi Hotel on a Saturday night. We got up on Sunday morning--the Ginza is the Fifth Avenue or the shopping district of Tokyo--and we went out on the Ginza. The place is closed to traffic.

There were well-dressed, well-mannered, beautiful-looking people. And the young kids, young children, gave me a victory thing (indicating) and said hello, and I was overwhelmed by what I saw in Japan. And I looked up through the buildings in the Ginza, some pretty large buildings, and I saw the B-29s. And I saw them dropping bombs not on those people but on me, and I had to do my business and get out of the city. I wanted to see the countryside. And on the last night that we were in Japan, Helene said, "Robert would really love Japan." We have four sons. Robert was a senior at San Diego State. And she said to me, "Why don't we give Robert a present of a trip to Japan for graduation?" And I said fine.

So we came home and we offered Robert a homestay program, six-week homestay program. And he went there in late--well, in sometime in 1984. He came back, he graduated from college, didn't know what he wanted to do, so he took a job teaching English in Japan. And he went there in late fall of 1984 for one year and he hasn't come back yet. He's still there.

We went to see him in 1987, just a few years after he'd been there, and he introduced us to a young lady and told us that he wanted to get married. And I saw the faces of the 16 young men that I flew with flash through my mind immediately, all 16 guys. And I made up my mind it was his life and not my life that was important. And I asked him, "What does her father say?" And he said, "He won't meet me. "Oh?" It was sort of like a relief for me, although I wasn't going to disapprove or say anything.

Seven months later, this man and two of his sons came to meet my son in Japan. And my son looked like the antithesis of everything Japanese. He had a full beard, an afro hairdo, and all the Japanese that I've ever seen were clean shaven. And the two young men, Takako's brothers, older brothers, grilled Robert about his religion, about his education, about his family, about taking their daughter, their sister, back to America. And he answered all of those questions.

And the father, when he spoke, asked five questions. He said, "Robert," and this is all in Japanese, "how old is your father?" And Robert said, "Sixty-three." "Was he in the war? "Yes. "What did he do? "He was a pilot. "What did he fly? "P-51s. "Where? "Over Japan." And then the meeting ended.

That was the end of the meeting. He went home and he said to his wife, "Make the wedding." And she said, "Why? They hate us, we hate them." He said, "Any man that could fly a P-51 against the Japanese and live must be a brave man, and I want the blood of that man to flow through the veins of our grandchildren." And so in March, 5th or 6th, 45--or 43 years to the day that the war--that I went on Iwo Jima in 1945, I went to a Japanese wedding in Japan. And Robert was dressed in Japanese clothes and Takako was dressed.

And after the wedding and after the ceremony and the dinner after the wedding, her father, Taro Yamakawa, and I went into a hot bath in a ryokan, into--into the huge, huge bath with a translator and talked for three hours. And when we came out-- He asked me questions about flying. He had three hours in a Zero and was assigned to a kamikaze squadron, and he and another guy from that kamikaze squadron were sent to China to service Zeros, and every one of the guys that stayed in Japan killed themselves as kamikaze pilots.

And he said to me in that meeting that he had two regrets in his life; one, that he never fired a shot against his enemy, and, two, that he didn't die for the emperor. But when we left that hot tub after three--that hot bath after three hours, he turned to the translator and told him, "I never knew that there were other people in the world who felt the same about family, about spiritual things, about education." And we became brothers, he and I.

I couldn't speak Japanese and he spoke very little English, and we became family. Our first grandson was born in 1990, and he's now 24 years old. And he graduated recently from the Hokkaido University, which is the MIT of Japan, it's a scientific school, with a master's in physics and was one of 20,000 applicants for 100 jobs, and he got one of the 100 jobs as a physicist with a master's in physics. His younger brother Simon, S-a-i M-o-n, pronounced Simon, which was my father's name, graduated from the University of the City of London, a four-year course in three years, as a philosopher student, student of philosophy, and the last two of the three years he studied philosophy in the ancient language of Latin, which the philosophers wrote and spoke.

And he wrote a thesis called, "Seneca and the Benefits of Tragedy," "Seneca and the Benefits of Tragedy," talking about the ancient writer Seneca, who was a brilliant writer. And he got an A-plus on his thesis, graduated with honors, and was ordered--was given a two-year master's program scholarship to Oxford University so he's in Oxford now. And so the grandfather, their other grandfather, wasn't far off the beat. And we have a 17-year-old granddaughter who is a senior in school who will be graduating and going to college in another year, so...

Brian Mulcahy:

You mentioned the Transcendental Meditation, and can you talk a little bit about exactly how that kind of saved you from the PTSD?

Jerome Yellin:

When you learn TM, you learn a word that comes out of your mind as a sound and you learn to use that sound to go into a deeper state of consciousness. It's like without TM, normal life, you have the--like the waves of an ocean; there's loud sounds and there's thoughts and there's things going on through and there's stress and all of that. But when you learn this mantra-- And if you look at the ocean and you go down to the depths of the ocean, it's all quiet, it's all still. The ocean's still. There's no sound. You don't hear anything.

Well, you learn this mantra, this word that means nothing as a sound, and you transcend, you go beyond yourself. You hear things, your thoughts go through your mind, but you're in a deep, deep, deep state of rest which removes stress. It's like having eight hours of sleep 20 minutes a day, twice a day. It removes stress.

Science has--has acknowledged this. There are over 400 studies. There's a study going on now with the Department of Defense at the University of Texas, the University of Virginia, in San Diego. The Department of Defense is studying this for post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2010, a young friend of mine who was a veteran of Bosnia, I knew his mother very well and I knew him just as a guide, he was a veteran of the Bosnia war. And he came home--never drank, never smoked, never did anything--he became a drug addict, a drug dealer. And in 2010, eight years after the Bosnia war--or three or four years after the war in Bosnia, he put a .45 to his head and he killed himself.

I knew the executive director of the David Lynch Foundation and I called them and asked them if they would start a division to teach Transcendental Meditation to the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and we started that called Operation Warrior Wellness. The former director and chairman of the board of the Iowa Veterans Committee for--Iowa Committee for Veterans has learned TM. Denise McKnight from Iowa and--where is she from out west--in the VA, she and five of her young people who work for her have learned TM. And thousands of soldiers from Camp Pendleton, Fort Gordon to Camp--Fort Hood have learned TM and it helps remove stress.

Right now the Veterans Administration, based on 2008 dollars, is spending a billion and a half dollars in 2008 dollars, which is probably three million--three billion dollars a month, for antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs that cause more harm than good according to all of the statistics; that is, in drugs, you have to look at all the side effects. There's a whole page of the side effects. So Transcendental Meditation, for two months of what the drug companies are going to be paying--being paid, for six or seven hundred months in the--down the future, every one of the 3 million veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who served, including the 2 million or 1.8 million who went to war, who went into combat, could learn Transcendental Meditation. So it's a benefit, and I'm trying to get that across to the people in the Government that this is a worthwhile procedure.

I know there are a lot of athletes, I hope somebody sees this, who's been and had a zone experience. When you have a zone experience playing tennis or playing golf or swimming or running, it's not what your brain thinks, because if you think you're tired, you're going to be tired. If you think other thoughts, you know, "I have to make this putt," or, "This is a crucial shot," in tennis, "I have to make this serve," you're not going to make it, so it's not what you think, it's how you think. So it isn't what you think, which is what a religion is, which is what a cult is, which is what what is.

It's not what you think, it's how you think, how you use the brain, that allows you to go beyond yourself and transcend and go into the deep silence that brings you the deep rest that removes the stress that's in our body. Anybody who has been in combat, we lived--I lived, you lived when you were young--by the credo thou shalt not kill. And when you go into the military you prepare and you practice, and then when you perform it's killing that you do.

And there's no cure for killing. Once you've done it, it's in your head forever. We put people in electric chairs for killing civilians, but military can kill civilians and have the guilt and all the feelings about that afterwards and never get over it ever, like I couldn't get over it for 30 years of what I did and what I saw and what the people have done in war in Vietnam, in Korea, in Bosnia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. We didn't have real enemies.

The people in Iraq and the people in Afghanistan who are for us look exactly like the people who are against us. You couldn't tell the difference. They ate the same food, spoke the same language, went to the same temple, did all the same things. Somebody liked us and somebody didn't. So you were tense all the time if you were over there. You were under tension all the time.

We have a young guy by the name of Luke Jensen who went there, is a part of the Iowa National Guard. He was a sheriff's deputy. He went to a small town where there was an incident, a three- or four-year-old girl was killed by Americans. There were several hundred--surrounded by several hundred Afghanis or Iraqis, I don't know where he was. And in 2012, the Des Moines Register had a headline story this big June 12th, "The War On PTSD," and it was all about Luke Jensen and his 59 days in--overseas in either Afghanistan or Iraq, about him because he came home, put a .45 to his head in front of his wife and youngest daughter.

And she screamed and her brother was in the basement, took the gun away, and he didn't commit suicide. And the next day I sent him a copy--I called him on the phone, I sent him a copy of a book I wrote called "The Resilient Warrior: Healing the Hidden Wounds of War." He read the book, came down and learned TM, and now he's a proponent of Transcendental Meditation. I would like to work with somebody in Iowa and somebody in every state and teach TM to students. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan can learn TM for 360 dollars, 360 dollars. And if we can find somebody who can give scholarship money, they can learn for nothing and get their life back.

Brian Mulcahy:

Can you talk a little bit about another pursuit that I know is important to you right now, your Spirit of '45 Day?

Jerome Yellin:

In 2010, Congress, led by--

Brian Banse:

Excuse me. I've got to change batteries here.

Brian Mulcahy:


Brian Banse:

I've got a battery that's going to go down. (Short break for videographer to replace batteries.)

Jerome Yellin:

In 2010, led by Senator Susan Collins of Maine, joined by Senator Frank Lautenberg, now passed away, and Senator Daniel Inouye, the United States Congress passed unanimously a bill called Spirit of '45 Day, which would be the second Sunday of August in perpetuity; not as a holiday but as a day of remembrance for the 16 million soldiers and sailors and Marines and Merchant Marines who served in World War II, a day of remembrance. And I'm the national spokesman for Spirit of '45 Day.

I'm interested, of course, in talking to the young people about the four freedoms, about what we fought for, about what's important in life. My grandson, Simon, in what he wrote, "Seneca and the Value of Tragedy," talked about the tragic things that have happened in the world by nature. And it seems that we as human beings are at our best, especially Americans, at our best when there's a tragedy, an incident, an international tragedy brought on by nature.

Whether it's the Haiti earthquake or it's the 9/11 or it's the fires or--everybody in America joins together to do something about that, to help. We all have the feeling we want to do something. That has to be pervasive in the world. We can't just be here and not take care of our--of all of humanity. What I learned when Robert married Takako and gave birth to Kentaro and Simon and Sara is that the sperm of any man in this country, in this world, can fertilize the egg of any woman in this world, which to me means in the eyes of nature all of humanity is exactly the same.

We are all the same as human beings, and we have to get that across to the young people, that color doesn't make a difference, religion doesn't make a difference, nationality doesn't make a difference, anything. We're all the same as human beings, and we should all serve together as human beings. So that's the message of the Spirit of '45.

I happen to be an aviation guy, and I have put together an idea that was a thought that's now turning into reality of having every flyable World War II airplane up in the air in the area that they are based at nationally, maybe internationally--we might have Mexico, we might have Canada, we might have Great Britain--and fly, because air power really was the big difference in winning World War II, of getting every flyable World War II airplane up in the air at the same time on the weekend of August 14, 15 and 16, 2015, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. And that's going to happen.

We're going to kick that off on August 14th, 2014, in San Diego, with the Commemorative Air Force Squadron No. 1, CAF-1, flying every airplane that they can get in San Diego County. And they said that they would do that if I would sit and fly in the first airplane leading that flight around San Diego County, and I couldn't refuse. So that's what's going to happen on August 14th. But we want the whole world to see what air power did.

I was only 21 years old when I was finished with the war. I was in for four years, three years and eight months, and I, at 19 years old, was a fighter pilot. You can't do that today. Different world. And we have to go back to more communications between human beings. The telephone is an instant communicator where everybody in the world today can talk to each other. Even if they can't speak the same language, they can find some common way of talking to each other, and we have to get them talking about the right things; not about me, because I feel better when the you becomes more important than the me. And that's what we do in tragedies. That's the value of a tragedy, the you becomes more important than me. That's what I learned in the military.

I was just one of a group of guys, and their lives were more important to me than my life was. And that's what they give medals for, to guys who do things for other people. I didn't get any medals for doing that. I just showed up. I got a Distinguished Flying Cross because I flew on the first mission. That's not about me. But when you get a Silver Star or a Medal of Honor, you've done something for your--for some other people. That's the military core. That's the whole thing that they train you for, that you're only one and these guys that you're with were more important to me. That's what caused me to have post-traumatic stress, because of the 16 guys that were killed that I flew with. Some of them I trained, some of them I--was on my wings. It's important that we stop being a me society and we become a you society, and that will make a difference. That's what I'd like to get across to the young people of this country.

Brian Mulcahy:

What efforts or what avenues are you doing to get the word out on the Spirit of '45?

Jerome Yellin:

Well, I'm writing a blog. We have a bugler, Austin O'Neill, who has a bus, it's called Spirit of '45 Day. He's going to hit all 48 states, lower states. I don't know if he's going to go to Alaska or Hawaii. But he's going to be with me at Virginia Beach on the 15th of this month, May 2014. He's going to be in the national parade. And he plays the bugle, is playing, has played the bugle across the country, from San Diego across, at military bases, at military cemeteries and at museums, and he's going to continue to do that until he hits all of the states in the lower of America, all of the states. And we're talking to school kids. We're talking, we're trying to work with the Air Force Association's CyberPatriot Program. We just want the young people to know about the veterans of World War II. And I'm just a messenger with a message of who we were and what we did to make America as it is today, which--or as it should be today, as it was when everybody in America was doing something for somebody else.

Brian Mulcahy:

Well, Jerry, is there anything else you'd like to talk about as part of this interview?

Jerome Yellin:

I can't think of anything, Brian. I appreciate being here. This is-- It's important for me. And, again, it's not about me; it's about the rest of the world. I turned 90 in February of this year, and I'm blessed to have my mind together and physical abilities, and I'll keep going until my time runs out, and this is what I like to do. I like to say I know what I want to do when I grow up, you know, so this is what I'm doing.

Brian Mulcahy:

Thank you. Thank you very much. This concludes the Veterans History Project interview with Jerry Yellin.

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  October 26, 2011
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