91-year-old Jimbo Wandless, of Broadway, VA, proudly wears his Air Force hat in honor of his service and his Air Force crew during WWII. At 18 years old in 1943, Jimbo enlisted in the Air Force. During WWII, he served in the Eighth Air Force as a staff sergeant and a B-17 waist gunner. He and his B-17 crew went on 24 missions over Germany. Jimbo’s Wish was to visit the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force to honor and commemorate his service and his crew.
After the war, Jimbo went on to become a computer operator for the government, and after that, worked as an engraver. He married his lifelong sweetheart, Carolyn, and together, they raised their son, Ken. Now retired, one of Jimbo’s favorite activities is karaoke and performing his renditions of Johnny Cash. At the restaurant where Jimbo frequents for karaoke, he met Casey, one of the waitresses, who he became very close with.
Casey said that Jimbo would often talk to her about his experiences in the Air Force during WWII and his B-17 crew that meant so much to him. He told humbling stories of all the “tight spots they were able to survive.” Jimbo greatly admired the bravery and fearlessness of his pilot and crew. “I never saw our pilot without his shirt, but I’m sure there’s an ‘S’ on his chest,” Jimbo said.
Today, Jimbo is the last surviving member of his crew. For a long time, Jimbo has wanted to dedicate a plaque to honor his crew at the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, but never had enough money. As a gift, Casey got the plaque that Jimbo designed for his crew installed in the museum last year. Jimbo was sent a photo, but he wished to see it and honor his crew in person.
Wish of a Lifetime sent Jimbo, with Casey and Ken, to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force to see the plaque in-person for the first time! “Casey and I planned to go on this trip four years ago,” explained Jimbo, “Somehow we were going to tour together. It took four years and finally Wish of a Lifetime made it possible. It’s a weekend I’ll never forget. It’s like a dream come.”
Special thanks to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force for “rolling out the red carpet” for Jimbo.
Photos courtesy of Melanie McCullough.