Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
WWII airplane gunner “Pappy” Jenkins
Article Image Alt Text
WWII airplane gunner “Pappy” Jenkins
WWII airplane gunner “Pappy” Jenkins

WWII airplane gunner “Pappy” Jenkins

Funny how time works. You see the 96-year-old man (Gordon Jenkins) holding the poodle in this front-page photo? Looks like he couldn’t or wouldn’t harm a fly, doesn’t he? Go back 77 years (the summer of 1942), and he was flying as a gunner onboard a dive bomber, firing rounds into Japanese Zeros (fighter planes). Ah, the passage of time, how it changes the face of a man. When WWII ended, through countless acts of heroism, Jenkins had earned the AirCrew Wings with three stars, two Air Medals, three Unit Commendation Ribbons, the Presidential Unit Citation, and no less than 10 other medals and ribbons including the Victory Medal for WWII. A lot of fighting for a kid from Berwick, Maine, who had enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1941 when he was still only 17. After the war, Jenkins was sent to Panama for a year before his enlistment ended. After that, he headed here, to the RGV, where he tried his hand at ranching. In the 1950s, when the Korean War broke out, he volunteered once again for active duty with the U.S. Navy, but was instead assigned to inactive reserves for five years. Wanting to get back into active aviation, Jenkins headed to Seattle where he took a job with Boeing as a licensed aircraft mechanic. It was during that “inactive” period that he landed an assignment working on JFK’s Boeing 707, which was the first jet-engine airplane ever designated as Air Force 1 (defined as any airplane the president is flying). Eisenhower flew aboard a four-prop Lockheed Constellation, after which JFK ordered a switch to the 707. Actually, when Kennedy flew to Europe, for example, two 707s made the journey. One flew the president, the other served as a back up in case the first one ran into mechanical problems. If it did, however, Jenkins was one of the maintenance experts on hand to fix the problem. A Colorful Life If you want to talk about some mesmerizing stories from “the old days,” you’d be hard pressed to find a better storyteller than this aging warrior, Gordon K. “Pappy” Jenkins. Those who know him consider it a blessing to be in his presence. Consider, the WWII generation, like that from WWI gone before, are seeing reduced ranks with each passing year. Jenkins was born in 1923 and enlisted in 1941. At 96, he is still sharp as a tack, according to one ...

PLEASE LOG IN FOR PREMIUM CONTENT. Our website requires visitors to log in to view the best local news. Not yet a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Advance Publishing Company

217 W. Park Avenue
Pharr, TX 78577