Retired Air Force general reflects on three wars - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Retired Air Force general reflects on three wars

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

Jesse Allen always knew he wanted to serve his country. When he joined the military in 1943, it would mark the beginning of an extraordinary career.

His first assignment was driving a jeep in General George Patton's army.  In fact, he was there at  Normandy, France on D-Day.

He also helped to liberate the notorious Nazi death concentration camp at Dachau. During our interview, you could see the sadness in his eyes when describing what he saw at that horrific place. 

"You could not believe that one group of supposedly civilized people could treat other people that badly," he said.  "If they were hurt or anything, they just laid there and died, essentially rotted away, it was a horrible sight."@

Jesse Allen's second war was Korea, where he was a fighter pilot. Often times, he found himself flying as low as 1,000 feet to drop napalm on Korean forces.

"Your mission was to kill as many of them as you could," he said.

Of course, flying that low was incredibly dangerous. Many of his fellow pilots, good friends of Jesse's, were shot down over Korea. "I lost 14 of my classmates in about a 5 month period," Allen said.

He could not help but let the emotion show when he talked about those men he lost so many years ago.  "You wonder, even after all these years," he said fighting back tears. "How did I make it through that when so many of my buddies did not. You wonder who was looking out for you."

Jesse Allen made it home from World War II, Korea and Vietnam, where he was also a fighter pilot. In his long career, he flew 237 combat missions.

That career, which began as a private in 1943,  ended as a Major General with 15 combat campaign stars and numerous combat decorations. 

Over the years, many people told him he should write a book about his life and career, so he did. It's called, From Jeep Driver to General.

When asked how someone goes from being a jeep driver to a general, he could only chuckle and say, "Luck. Pure luck."  

General Allen will soon turn 87. He has lived in Biloxi for nearly a decade. These days, when he reflects on his life and career, he looks back on it with both pride and humility. 

Proud to have served this great country in three wars, yet humble because he has had the honor of serving with so many great men. 

His book, From Jeep Driver to General, is available at Barnes & Noble book store, as well as Amazon.com.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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