After Jerry Jackson, an airman in 1959 and 1960 in Taiwan, Korea and Okinawa, Japan and a Vietnam War correspondent in 1965 and 1966, recovered from liver failure that resulted in a transplant in May of 1997, he exited the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center with the aspiration to publish a book. That book would be Remembering: Stories From the World War II Pacific, made up of 23 chapters full of first-person accounts of American men’s and women’s experiences from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the American occupation of Japan.
Jackson discovered most of his sources on a cruise to the World War II Pacific battle site 10 years ago. “We sat at a table of WWII veterans, and we became friends,” he said. “They all had a personal story that was very interesting.”
Although none of the memories are told by Jackson, there is one story that connects to him especially. It is written by Jackson’s cousin about his friend Major Richard Bong, a pilot during WWII who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroics. “He shot down 40 Japanese planes, and they actually sent him home to sell war bonds and to protect him because he had risked his life so many times,” Jackson noted.
Bong later became a test pilot when the jet was first introduced. On Aug. 6, 1945, he was assigned to Lockheed’s Burbank plant where he flew P-80 Shooting Star jet fighters at the Lockheed Air Terminal. One of the plane’s fuel pumps malfunctioned during takeoff, but Bong refused to bail from the plane because he had spotted a school below him.
The plane landed into a narrow field at Oxnard Street and Satsuma Avenue in North Hollywood, next to Oxnard Street Elementary School, where Jackson was currently learning. “I heard a loud explosion and there was a flash fire,” Jackson said. “I was a 10-year-old boy sitting in the classroom 25 yards from where this plane crashed and killed him.”
When Jackson first decided to follow through with the book’s production, he figured the process would take only a short amount of time. “It surprised me,” he said. “It took me two and a half years to go through the entire process of getting the stories sent to me, all typed, photographs included.” It was finally published in August of 2005.
Remembering: Stories From the World War II Pacific touched numerous readers as well as troops. On March 26, 2006, David Vankuran, a soldier in the US Army who was serving in Iraq, messaged Jackson. “I thank you, as a member of the armed forces, for creating a medium in which the rest of America can see what transpired not so long ago,” he wrote. “Many of the younger generation have no appreciation for the sacrifices that these men and women went through, so they could be free today. Authors, like [you], help us to remember that the freedom we so clearly cherish is not free. More importantly [are] those who provided it will not be forgotten.”
Soon after Jackson had a liver transplant, his kidneys failed due to the strong medications. After a five-year wait, he received a kidney transplant in May of 2010. Today, he lives in Malibu and is involved with an organ-transplant organization. Jackson said, “I decided since God spared me twice, I needed to give back.”