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WWII Pilot Reunited with Long-Lost Love (And His Wife’s Okay with It)

95-year-old Colonel Ralph Jenkins has had two long love affairs in his life. They began at just about the same time too. He got to live with one of them all of his adult life, the other he never forgot, though he hasn’t seen her since 1945. The first love affair was with the woman who would become his wife and who remains his wife today. The second was with a beautiful lady he called Tallahassee Lassie.

You see, the second affair was with the P-47 Thunderbolt that he flew 129 missions in during WWII. When he got that plane he knew instantly what he was going to name her. He named her for his bride, Tiero. He had met her while he was stationed in Tallahassee, Florida and she was attending Florida State University. He had the squadron painter paint the name onto the nose of the P-47, but he didn’t stop there. He also had him paint his wife’s picture there too. So every time he went into the air, and into combat, he had both of them up there with him.

His long marriage to Tiero is proof that the love that began so many years ago in Tallahassee, Florida had the strength to survive and endure anything that life could throw at it. But Ralph says that his love for that P-47 has never diminished either. It was a sturdy and faithful friend too. He says of her, “That airplane has a great reputation of bringing the pilot back home. It’s a very rugged airplane. I last flew it in 1945, so it’s been a long time.” In Jenkins’ mind, both his wife and that P-47 were faithful ladies. I’m guessing that, if he’s like most of us guys, his wife was probably responsible for “bringing the pilot home” and bringing him back to earth on more than a few occasions too.

Col. Ralph Jenkins meets his Tallahassee Lassie once again.

Ralph and his wife (who is not a bit jealous of the other lady) will be seeing a replica of Tallahassee Lassie this coming weekend at Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection’s Skyfair on July 26th in Everett, Washington. The Flying Heritage Collection will have many other models on display, both on the ground and flying in the air at this event. This will be the first “Skyfair.” The collection and the new Skyfair concept are meant to honor our veterans, especially those who flew those magnificent machines. If you are in the area, this should prove to be a very interesting and entertaining event.

The Veterans Site wishes to add its thank you to all who flew military planes of every make and kind in all of the services. I for one, thank those who flew air support for us in Vietnam. When we heard the deep roar of those jet engines in the distance, or the rhythmic whap-whap-whap-whap of those helicopter blades, we knew we were going to accomplish our mission, or escape a tight situation and live to fight another day. Our respect goes out to all of you.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.