Today we’re talking about the reunion of two Navy Veterans who were best friends in World War II and had lost connection with one another for 75 years.

Today, we live in a world with social media, cell phones, and the internet, where it’s very easy to reconnect with an old friend or check in with someone we may have lost contact with over the years. But, it wasn’t always so easy, especially 75 years ago, for two Navy buddies that got separated and were left wondering what happened to their dear friend over the years.

My dad, Jack Gutman, and his best friend, Jerry Ackerman, met at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California during World War II, and were instant buddies who were both from New York and had a lot of things in common. They formed a club called “the 3 jays” with another friend, Joe Gagliardi, who had also become a part of their group. Unfortunately, they were all eventually reassigned. Jack and Jerry were assigned to the USS Cullman, a troop transport, and they lost contact with Joe. Jack ended up being transferred to another ship, and that was the end of a very beautiful friendship.

For 75 years, they wondered where the other was, how the other was, and if the other was even still alive. They both went about life, going to school, falling in love, and raising their families. Fast forward to 2022, Jack and Jerry, who are now both 96 years old, have finally been reunited, all thanks to Jerry’s son, Peter, and a search on Google! In this episode, they reminisce about fond old memories and their fast-growing friendship during World War II, share their individual stories about meeting their wives and building their families, and talk about their plans to meet again in person for the first time in over 7 decades!

Jack also shares how his friends Jerry and Joe were both incredibly helpful in his healing journey, even though he never said this to them back then, and he shares that being reunited with Jerry again has served as a form of closure to his post-traumatic stress that he had gone through for 66 years. This is a truly beautiful conversation that you do not want to miss!

“75 years had gone by, and I’ll tell you something… it was like an angel had come to me. And I thought about it, here’s a man that took the time to find me after 75 years. I wondered, I thought he was dead. And he just picked me right up. It was something I needed so badly. As a matter of fact, it was almost a closure to my post-traumatic stress that I had been going through for 66 years.” – Jack Gutman

About Jack Gutman:

Jack Gutman Image - on Change It Up Radio with Paula Shaw - A Reunion... 75 Years in the Making! with Jerry Ackerman

Born in San Francisco in 1925, Jack Gutman grew up in a tough neighborhood of New York City where survival meant belonging to a gang. His gang was the Panthers.

At 17 ½ years old, wanting so desperately to serve his country, Jack convinced his father to sign for him and he enlisted in the Navy. After training for months as a Medical Corpsman, his first active-duty took him to England to prepare a hospital for the aftermath of the invasion of Europe.

On D-Day he landed between Utah and Omaha Beaches in the invasion of Normandy, having the difficult task of caring for those killed and wounded during the attack.

After dealing with undiagnosed PTSD for 66 years, he finally got counseling from the VA and today leads a happy, healthy life. Today, Jack is one of the last living World War ll Veterans who are healthy, lucid, and able to share with us the realities of D-Day.

He is also an active comedian, public speaker, and author who loves speaking to students and touching lives with his story. He wrote his book, One Veteran’s Journey to Heal the Wounds of War, to help people with Post-Traumatic Stress and other problems such as sabotaging their lives by drinking to cope. 

Jack was video interviewed by the Smithsonian World War ll Museum in New Orleans and this interview is now part of the museum’s archives. He has appeared on Martha MacCallum’s Fox News show, The Story, on Ben Shapiro, in countless video interviews, and of course, on his daughter, Paula’s, radio show and Podcast, Change It Up Radio.

About Jerry Ackerman:

Jerome “Jerry” Ackerman was born on March 16, 1926, and he is 96 years old. He was brought up in the Bronx, and his family consisting of his Mother, Father, Grandfather, and older brother lived in a two-story walk-up in the East Bronx. 

Jerry was a kid of the streets playing everything you could play with a ball – stickball, handball, punch ball, stoop ball, basketball, baseball, and football.

When he became 17 years old, World War 2 was raging. Jerry convinced his parents to allow him to join the navy. They consented and off he went to boot camp. After boot camp at Sampson, New York, Jerry was transferred to St. Albans Naval Hospital on Long Island. 

From there, he was transferred to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and that is where he met Jack Gutman. They became instant buddies as soon as they met, and he was the most jovial, fun-loving guy ever. Always smiling and always happy. 

Jerry and Jack went on Liberty together and formed a club called “the 3 jays.” Joe Gagliardi became part of their group. They called themselves the 3 Jays because the first initial of their first names was a J. 

Camp Pendleton was an underwater demolition team training base, the forerunners of the Navy seals. The three jays were kept busy tending to their medical needs. They were all eventually reassigned. Jack and Jerry were assigned to the USS Cullman, a troop transport. They don’t remember what happened to Joe. 

Jerry then was assigned to the Cullman’s ships company. Jack was transferred to another ship, and that was the end of a beautiful friendship. Fast forward to the present, Jerry was having dinner with his son Peter at a local restaurant. Jerry doesn’t know where it came from, but he started singing an English tune that Jack had taught them. 

Peter was curious and asked him where Jack lived. Believe it or not, he was able to get him on the telephone. Jack and Jerry talked for a long time and finished by promising to keep in touch.

“It was a sad day for me when Jack left and I didn’t see him anymore. It was a very sad day for me.” – Jerry Ackerman

Check out the video below to watch our interview:

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