The pilot who flew the last combat mission of the Second World War died in Florida last week of lung cancer at the age of 93. Army Air Force Lt. Jerry Yellin was with another aircraft attacking Japanese air bases on Aug. 15, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender of Japan. Yellin’s wingman, a younger pilot named Lt. Philip Schlamberg, whom Yellin was mentoring, was shot down and killed. Yellin didn’t know the war had ended until he landed in Iwo Jima as the radio transmission telling forces to stand down didn’t reach him.
Yellin left the Army a short time later with a Distinguished Flying Cross, an Air Medal and a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder. He spent much of his life protesting war and trying to help fellow veterans who’d had trouble rejoining society after the war. In recent years he has been the national spokesman for the Spirit of ’45, a nonprofit organization that promotes the legacy of World War II veterans.