Spirit of '45 Day National Spokesman
Jerry with Indy Honor Flight
founder and chairman Grant Thompson
at 2015 Indy 500 Memorial Day Race More ...
Jerry with actress Scarlett Johansson taping a PSA to honor the memory of her great uncle Phil Schlamberg, who disappeared on August 14, 1945, while flying with Jerry on the final combat mission of WWII. Right, Jerry was a special guest at the CAF 70th Anniversary Arsenal of Democracy flyover in Washington, DC on the 70th anniversary of V-E Day on May 8, 2015.
Jerry Yellin was "present at the creation" of Spirit of '45 Day when he joined Ernie Borgnine and Edith Shain - the "Times Square Nurse" - in Washington DC on Memorial Day in 2009, to call on Congress to vote for a national day to honor the legacy of the men and women of America's "greatest generation."
Jerry has the unique distinction of having flown the final combat mission of World War II on August 14, 1945 - the day the war ended. His wingman was the last man to die in WWII.
Jerry was inducted into the U.S. Air Force Hall of Fame with the late Louie Zamperini in August 2014.
Over the past three years, Jerry has volunteered countless hours to help raise public awareness and participation in Spirit of '45 Day, making numerous public appearances around the country throughout the year, and encouraging elected officials to issue annual proclamations in support of Spirit of '45 Day. (Right) Jerry with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Spirit of '45 Day State Proclamation.
Jerry is the honorary chair and senior advisor for the WWII Airpower Legacy Project, a collaborative initiative of the Air Force Association, the Commemorative Air Force, the EAA Warbirds, and other groups that are are organizing flyovers by WWII vintage aircraft in hundreds of communities across America to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII next year on the weekend of August 15-16, 2015.
Jerry has a strong interest and attachment to Japan, the country he fought against while a fighter pilot in WWII. His oldest son, Robert, a successful artist, is married to a Japanese and lives in Japan.
Jerry has made it a personal life goal to take the opportunity of the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II in 2015, help encourage young Japanese to take pride in the postwar achievements of their country's "greatest generation" who sacrificed so much, and worked so diligently to assure that Japan could rejoin the community of nations.
In 2014, Jerry traveled to Glenn Miller's home town of Clarinda, IA to lay a wreath in honor of the great bandleader whose plane disappeared over the English Channel en route to performing for American troops in France on December 15, 1944 - the day the Battle of the Bulge began. More...
Jerry makes the front page of the Daily Mail on August 14, 2013, re-enacting the famous "Times Square Kiss" with Gloria Bullard, "the other nurse" in the famous photograph taken on August 14, 1945. More...
(Left) Capt.Jerry Yellin marches down Constitution Avenue with youth volunteer carrying photo of his wingman Phil Schlamberg, who was KIA on the day the two of them flew the final combat mission of WWII on August 14, 1945. Yellin was the Honorary Grand Marshal of the National Memorial Day Parade in 2014 and 2013. (Right) Jerry greets fellow WWII P51 pilot,Tuskegee Airman during USAF Memorial Day ceremony in Washington, DC.
Jerry's Message to America
I am proud to have been asked to be a national spokesman for Spirit of '45 Day.
I served in WWII as a P51 fighter pilot flying escort and strafing missions from the island of Iwo Jima over Japan. On August 14, 1945, as celebrations of joy and relief were breaking out all over America at the news that the war had ended, I was flying the last combat mission over the Japanese island of Honshu.
In America, it was a day of great national unity and shared community, as our country turned from the terrible work of war to begin to rebuild a better future for the world. It was a time when everyone felt connected to each other and had a common duty to make the world a better place, and to assure a better future for ourselves, our children and our children's children.
Despite a national debt that was more than 125% of our gross national product at the time, America found the resources to welcome home the millions of us who served with the G.I. Bill and other programs to ease our transition to civilian life and to start our lives. These farsighted policies laid the foundations for the creation of the greatest economy in the history of the world.
In an act unprecedented in history, America reached out to both our allies and our former enemies in Europe to help them get back on their feet with the Marshall Plan. In Japan, the people were treated by young GI’s with kindness. Candy and friendly smiles for the young people, medical supplies for those in need, and food and clothing for all. It was the American way.
Spirit of '45 Day is an opportunity for all Americans to remember the sacrifices and sense of common duty to one another that is the legacy of the men and women who were the 'ordinary heroes' of the WWII generation, people who had endured the difficult times of the Great Depression, WWII and struggled to build a more peaceful world.
We did not succeed in all the things we set out to achieve, nor were we by any means perfect, but we did our best to leave the world a better place and to try to set an example for those who would follow us, to inspire them to build on what we achieved and to help America become an even greater country.
Spirit of '45 Day is also an opportunity to remind us that we have an obligation to all those who we ask to serve in the cause of defending freedom and democracy, and to assure that they, too, are welcomed home with the compassionate understanding and support that the deserve.
More than 400,000 Americans did not return from the war. My friend, 2nd Lt. Phillip Schlamberg of Brooklyn, NY, who flew with me on the day WWII ended, was killed, making him the last casualty of the most destructive war in history.
For many of us who did return, the memories of the horrors of war continued to weigh heavy on our minds and hearts, as we suffered from what is now referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I personally witnessed the deaths of 16 men during WWII, memories that linger in my mind even today. You never forget the horrific waste of war.
I had to deal with PTSD myself for decades after the war. I am now doing what I can to help today's generation of returning veterans in the hope that they will be better able to cope with this potentially debilitating condition so that they will be able to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
This is my way of keeping the Spirit of '45 alive -- by caring for veterans who are trying to find peace on their return home.
I hope that you will find your own way to observe Spirit of '45 Day each year with your family and your community as together we reflect on what our country can achieve when it is truly united, and recommit ourselves to becoming the best that America can be.
To invite Jerry Yellin to appear at an event in your community, contact him directly at Jerryellin@gmail.com.