John Innes Jenkins passed away in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2013 following a brief illness. He had lived in Alamogordo since he was transferred from the 509th Bomb Wing at Walker Air Force Base to the Missile Development Center at Holloman AFB in 1958. John was born on March 16, 1925 in Waterloo, Iowa, to Peter and Mary Jenkins who had emigrated from Scotland shortly before World War I. After graduating from high school in Waterloo, he began his life long interest in aviation while taking flight lessons in Taylorcraft in the Civilian Pilot Training Program. John briefly attended college before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1943. Following his commissioning, he flew 35 combat missions as a B17 navigator over Nazi occupied Europe with the 303rd Bomb Group based at Molesworth, England. The worst mission he could recall was the bombing of the Leuna oil refinery at Merseburg, Germany, in November 1944 where many allied aircraft were lost. He also participated in bombing which supported allied ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, John returned to Iowa and to school where he received a degree in engineering from Iowa State University. Upon completion of college, he was recalled to active duty in 1950 for pilot training with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict. It was during pilot training that he married Twyla Stammer in Sherman, Texas. John and Twyla had attended the same high school but did not know each other well at the time. Happily, they were eventually brought together through John's father, with whom Twyla worked. John's service included tours at bases throughout the United States, Canada and overseas. John would ultimately fly many aircraft, including the B29, B50, B47 and B58. Overseas assignments took him to locations in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Morocco and Thailand. He retired from the Air Force in 1967 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after a staff tour in southeast Asia during the Vietnam conflict. Following retirement, John and Twyla remained in Alamogordo because it was "a good place to raise a family" and had "excellent weather," which was optimal for flying.
Upon leaving the service, John worked for several military contractors as a statistical analyst at Holloman AFB, White Sands Missile Range, and in Texas. Additionally, he pursued his passion for flying as a flight instructor for Ed's Flying Service in Alamogordo. John was very happy to share cross-country flying with his children, John and Ann, whom he also instructed and helped to earn private pilot certificates. He frequently commented on how lucky he was to have been able to work at what he loved. Reading, listening to big band music, model railroading and traveling to visit relatives in this country and the British Isles were all enjoyable activities for him.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his elder brother James, his wife of 49 years, Twyla, and an infant son, Michael. He is survived by a son John (Audrey) of Alamogordo and two daughters Ann Walsh (Mike) and Susan Queen who reside in Washington state. He was adored by his grandchildren: Amber Anne Crim, Michael Crim (Michaela), Megan Jenkins Orzalli (Ian), Anthony Queen, Dara Lynn Horn (Stuart), and Alec David Walsh. John was very proud of grandson Michael who is currently serving in Afghanistan. John's great grandchildren are Austin, Evan, Brianna and Aereana.
At John's request no services are planned. In lieu of flowers, it is requested that donations be made to the American Air Museum in Britain, the American Military Cemetery at Madingley, England, the Wounded Warrior Project or the Salvation Army in memory of John I. Jenkins.
A Scottish toast to John: "Here's tae us. Wha's like us? Gey few, and they're a' deid. Mair's the pity!"
The Jenkins family has entrusted their loved one to the care of Hamilton O'Dell Funeral Home to direct the arrangements. Cremation has taken place at PCS.
Hamilton-O'Dell Funeral Home - Alamogordo
1334 N. Scenic Dr. Alamogordo, NM 88310
Published in Alamogordo Daily News from Oct. 30 to Nov. 29, 2013