WWII pilot Jack Rolfson to be honored in Chattanooga this week
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. —
Jack Rolfson grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He would ride his bike down to the local airport to learn about flying, but before that career got off the ground he had another job.
"I wasn't really all that great," Mr. Rolfson said. "I would probably starve to death as a good piano man."
He was a good enough piano man to get a job playing in an orchestra after high school.
"The head man, he said I'm tired of this being gone all of the time. Do you want to buy the band?" Mr. Rolfson said.
He did, and they played shows across the country, but he wanted to go to college and he sold the band.
"By this time England and Canada were at war," Mr. Rolfson said.
This was before Pearl Harbor, and before the United States entered into the war. He left school to go to Canada to join the war effort there.
"All you had to do if you didn't like it was send them you're uniform and come home," Mr. Rolfson said.
He went through flight school in Canada, but by the time he finished the United States had entered the war. Jack Rolfson transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps.
"I got my wings and my commission," Mr. Rolfson said. "I went with the 303rd bomb group, The 427 bomb wing squadron."
In 1942, Mr. Rolfson and the 8th Air Force went to England to fly with the British.
"If you completed twenty-five missions, which very few of us did, you got the Distinguished Flying Cross," Mr. Rolfson said.
Mr. Rolfson was the pilot or co-pilot for twenty-five missions from February to July of 1943. He left the Army in 1945, and went to work for the airlines. He first worked for American Airlines and then Eastern Airlines. He spent forty-nine years flying airplanes.
On Friday, Jack Rolfson will be honored as the marshal at the Chattanooga Armed Forces Day Parade.
"This was a complete surprise to me, and what a tremendous honor," Mr. Rolfson said.