The December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II, and changed the lives of millions of Americans forever. Len Zerlin was a young man from Brooklyn who had barely graduated from high school when he decided to volunteer for the Army Air Forces, the precursor to today's Air Force.
Zerlin flew his first combat missions as a turret gunner in a B-26 bomber in 1943, based in England but hitting targets on the Nazi controlled European continent. The now 95 year old Thousand Oaks man admits it was rough. With losses of around 20% on early missions, many of his friends and barracks mates never made it home.
He flew 36 missions. His plane was hit a number of times, and some other members of the crew were killed by ground fire, but the plane was never shot down.
Zerlin flew two combat missions on June 6th, 1944, which was D-Day, the invasion of Europe by Allied forces. He also made friends with some French civilians, and re-connected with them a half century later.
He moved to Thousand Oaks more than 50 years ago, and had a career in electronics. He and his wife had two children and more than a dozen grandkids, and great-grandkids before she passed away.
His story is among those featured in a new book, "Pictures For Heroes." But Zerlin says he's never considered himself a hero. He says he's a guy just answering his country's call.