WWII veteran reflects on service on Pearl Harbor Day

WWII veteran reflects on service on Pearl Harbor Day

Posted:
Retired pilot Jack Westbrook knows fellow airmen who died during the war and says he still thinks of them to this day. Retired pilot Jack Westbrook knows fellow airmen who died during the war and says he still thinks of them to this day.
When World War II broke out in December of 1941, Westbrook would enlist less than ten months later. When World War II broke out in December of 1941, Westbrook would enlist less than ten months later.
By 1944, and now a fighter pilot, he would fly a famed P-51 Mustang. By 1944, and now a fighter pilot, he would fly a famed P-51 Mustang.
"I think it's important for people to know there were those before them, who thought it was worthwhile," Westbrook said. "To protect the freedoms, benefits, and responsibilities that we have as citizens of this great country." "I think it's important for people to know there were those before them, who thought it was worthwhile," Westbrook said. "To protect the freedoms, benefits, and responsibilities that we have as citizens of this great country."

By DON DARE
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For the millions of people who served during World War II, Friday's Pearl Harbor remembrance marks the time when lives changed for the entire country.

For one former fighter pilot, Pearl Harbor Day is like a second Memorial Day.

Retired pilot Jack Westbrook knows fellow airmen who died during the war and says he still thinks of them to this day.

When World War II broke out in December of 1941, Westbrook would enlist less than ten months later and the Perry County, Tennessee 20-year-old would soon be assigned to the Army Air Corps.

By 1944, and now a fighter pilot, he would fly a famed P-51 Mustang. While the fast and highly-maneuverable fighter made it's name over Europe, soon some of its pilots would be assigned to the Pacific theater.

By 1945, Lt. Westbrook was in the Pacific at Iwo Jima. Tokyo Bay was frequently his destination flying the P-51.

"We were making ground strikes mostly," Westbrook said. "We were just a pest, I would say, to the Japanese."

A member of the 506th Fighter Group, his aircraft number 579 would get him through the war unharmed.

Near the end, he says the Japanese offered little air resistance.  

"We would hit air fields. We would see a lot of airplanes on the ground because they couldn't fly, they didn't have any fuel. Shoot up water craft in Tokyo Bay and that sort of thing," Westbrook recalled.

Combat flights for Westbrook would end by August 1945.

"My last mission was, I believe, the record would show was the day after the first A-bomb was dropped," he said.

The end of the war came Sept. 2, 1945 when Japan surrendered aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

At the time, the lieutenant was back at Iwo Jima with an uncertain future.

"I was one of the junior officers, so I was one of the last to be relieved and I didn't get home until July of 1946," Westbrook said.

Westbrook continued in the Air Force Reserve retiring a full colonel in 1976.

But it's his war years that he remembers vividly.

"I think it's important for people to know there were those before them, who thought it was worthwhile," he said. "To protect the freedoms, benefits, and responsibilities that we have as citizens of this great country."

A 1949 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Jack Westbrook would later work at the university's radio station, WUOT.

He eventually became an insurance broker - a job he continues to hold.

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