Dr. William “Dub” Jackson has never been a man to move through life in a half-hearted manner. The title of his book tells you his energy for life and ministry – Whatever it Takes. His passions in life have been his God, his family and his love for flying.
Dub’s father was a pastor in West Texas as he was growing up, and he remembers the discipline and love of his Godly parents. He says that it was a special privilege to be “raised in one of the greatest Christian homes in all the world.” He doesn’t believe that he would have found God’s plan for his life without the home that William H. and Margaret Jackson provided.
The fascination for airplanes and flying began early in life for Dub. At ten he was building model planes and studying airplanes day and night. By sixteen he could name every plane in America, commercial and military, and identify all their types of engines, horsepower, propellers and speed. At fifteen he took his first flight in an open cockpit biplane. He was hooked now for the rest of his life.
Only seventeen and too young for the military in 1941, when America entered the War, Dub was attending Hardin-Simmons University and joined the Army Air Corps Reserve. He has a fond memory of his call to duty in 1943. “Someone from across the campus shouted that my unit had been called to service. Man, I threw my books in the air and was gone. For all I know, those books are still laying there.”
Based at Clark Field in the Philippines, his first assignment was as a bomber pilot. Being a man of action, Dub was bored to tears with this duty. He says, “You just sit there like a truck driver.” Nope, that would not satisfy this young pilot that desired to fly fast and free. His goal was to be a fighter pilot, and he wanted to fly the fastest one that was made. He asked every outfit he was in to allow him to transfer to a fighter group, but the answer always came back, “No.” But, of course, he was not one to settle for that and kept up his inquiries and search.
Finally, a Major at the Headquarters at Clark Field said, “If you can find a fighter outfit that will take you, we will approve it.” That is all he needed to hear and he took that bull by the horns, ending up at a fighter group operations hut in New Guinea. “They told me I could transfer to a fighter group if you’ll take me,” he announced. The officer handed Dub and his friend, Bill Hamilton, who was also transferring, the tech orders for the P-38 fighter and told them to go and study them until they were ready to fly.
There were no P-38 instructors in this advanced combat unit and they would have to learn on their own. So they went to the officer’s club and began their study – 2700 RPM’s at takeoff, correct manifold pressure, etc, etc. By 1:00 that afternoon they knew the numbers and felt they were ready. So they blazed a trail back to the operations hut.
Upon arrival, Dub confidently said, “I think I’m ready!” And was he ever ready! Pointing to two new P-38 Lightning fighters, the fastest fighter in the world, the officer said, “Take ‘em up and from here on, you’re on your own.” His heart was racing as he climbed into the cockpit, started the powerful twin engines and raced, full throttle, down the airstrip. The P-38 leaped into the air and Lieutenant Dub Jackson’s dream had come true.
“A fighter was unlike any of the planes I had flown before,” Dub remembers. “In a fighter you could roll, dive and loop as you pleased, while as a bomber pilot, it was straight and level! This was real flying!” It was a very emotional first flight for Dub because nothing had been more important to him than serving his country and flying that great aircraft.
Dub was now in the Fifth Air Force Fighter Command and assigned to fly the P-38 with the Forty-Ninth Fighter Group. This squadron would be the most successful squadron in the Pacific during the war, downing a record 678 enemy aircraft. They would be selected by General Douglas MacArthur to be his escort into Japan to accept their surrender. On August 30, 1945, Lieutenant Dub Jackson and his squadron members would be the first Americans to fly into post-war Japan.
Dub Jackson’s life story is filled with obvious examples of how God has protected and led him through the years. One such time was a night mission when he was flying B-24 bombers in the Forty-Third Bomb Group of the Fifth Air Force. The mission was to fly from the Philippines to the target, an airfield in Canton, China. The Japanese spotted the formation. Searchlights came on and anti-aircraft guns began their attack as the squadron made evasive moves.
Nothing they did worked to rid the bombers of the danger. Then an old trick was finally tried. The waist gunners had brought along empty beer bottles for an occasion such as this. They began throwing them out and the noise they made as they fell sounded like the B-24’s were releasing bombs, and all the lights went out from the ground. They flew on, completed their mission and on the return flight a group of Japanese fighters began pursuing the bombers. Dub said, “As they prepared to attack, we flew into some thick clouds that I have to believe God prepared for us, and we were able to return safely to our base in the Philippines.
Amazingly, when the conflict of World War II was over, Dub and his wife Doris had a deep conviction they were to be full time missionaries in Japan, the very nation that had been his enemy just months previous. “I never cease to give thanks to God for His constant care,” he says. “Clearly on this flight and every flight in World War II, I firmly believe that He preserved my life for the missionary service He later called us to do. I could not have imagined all of the spiritual joys, battles and victories He was going to give us in our missionary service and witness to the Japanese who were so aggressively seeking to destroy us!”
In my next post I want to tell you about some of those joys, battles and victories. In the meantime, if you are looking for a great book to read, I encourage you to get Dub Jackson’s Whatever It Takes. It is a thrilling life story of a man and his wife who trusted God at every turn.