WWII Veterans Remember the Surrender

May 26, 2016

The Japanese surrender in WWII was official with the signing of the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, 1945. But for Jerry Yellin, the war ended with his last combat mission on August 14th, the same day his wing man, 19-year-old Phil Schlamberg from Brooklyn New York disappeared over Japan.

Yellin, who now lives in Fairfield was a Captain in the Army Air Corps and a fighter pilot who flew a P-51. He says he was never wounded and claims he never thought he would die, but he's still haunted by the deaths of every one of the 16 men lost from his squadron of 32. 

When you put a uniform on you learn that the people that you're with, their lives are more important than your life, and to me my life was unimportant if their lives were in danger.

  "When you put a uniform on you learn that the people that you're with, their lives are more important than your life, and to me my life was unimportant if their lives were in danger," he says.

Once he returned home, Yellin struggled for 30 years. He thought about suicide a lot and couldn't hold a job until he found Transcendental Meditation. 

"You go into the military, you put a uniform on and you learn a skill which is to kill other people. Some of the guys use a rifle; some guys a tank,; some guys a bayonet or a cannon. My weapon was the 650 caliber machine guns in the P-51 that I delivered to the enemy. And it was fine, but the reality of life is that we're not born to kill and killing is a very difficult thing to undo once you've done it," he explains.

Wayne Brown is a Marshalltown native who was an infantryman with the US Army's 4th Division.  He was living with his family on a farm north of Marshalltown shelling corn for chickens with his brother when his mother yelled out that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. After Brown graduated in 1941, he was deferred for almost two years because his family ran a dairy farm with 18 cows that had to be milked by hand. When his younger brother graduated, the draft board decided one of the boys would have to serve. Brown says since he was oldest, he decided he should be the one to go.

Brown landed on Utah Beach June 12, 1944, six days after D-Day. From there, he fought his way across Europe and was wounded in Normandy carrying a BAR across a field. Brown was shot in the shoulder and says today it's the better of his two arms.

On this River to River, Brown and Yellin share their experiences in WWII with host Ben Kieffer.

This show originally aired on September 4, 2015.