There are two truths you’ll learn about Mr. Jack Bradshaw. One of them, he says, is that he's been lucky most of his life. The second is that he absolutely loves flying airplanes.
“I’m 96 now and I flew up till I was 88,” said Bradshaw, while sitting in his Dallas home.
At just 8-years-old he told his dad about secretly going on his first flight.
“I said, ‘Hey, guess what? I flew in an airplane today,’ and he thought, ‘You’re crazy. What are you talking about?’ And I told him,” he said with a huge smile.
That joy from flying has lasted his lifetime, but he’s had some turbulence.
First was when he learned about Pearl Harbor. He said he tried to fly for the U.S. military, but he got denied.
“[They] said, ‘go back to school. You have to have two years of college at that time to get into flight training,'" said Bradshaw.
But then he heard from his college roommate that the British Royal Air Force was letting in high school graduates if they could pass their tests.
“Read the first line on the chart, letters about that high you know,” Bradshaw said, while referencing a width four inches big.
Less than a week later, he got accepted into flight school and moved to Miami, Oklahoma, which was one of five British flying schools in the U.S. at that time.
“I trained with 100 British cadets,” said Bradshaw, while looking at pictures of his flight school crew.
He said he was one of two Americans in the Miami flight school at the time, but the only American in the group to graduate the program.
He flew all over the world for the Royal Air Force until 1944, that’s when the handsome fella fell in love with a pretty girl from England.
“Beautiful girl, yeah,” said Bradshaw.
It was time to adjust course.
“I decided that I wasn’t making enough money to keep my wife happy, so I put in for my transfer to the U.S. Air Force and made about four times as much,” said Bradshaw.
He also got to name his plane.
"Well, I named it ‘Yorkshire Lass’ because my wife was from Yorkshire,” said Bradshaw.
And her name brought him luck.
“Oh man, I was lucky. You’re not kidding,” said Bradshaw.
He was especially lucky when the Yorkshire Lass got hit by friendly fire.
“Everything turned black, and I got hit in the engine and the engine oil just was black, but the engine kept running and I was able to get all the way to an emergency field in Belgium where I bellied it in. [I] walked away from it. In fact, I didn’t total the airplane,” said Bradshaw.
Yorkshire Lass got fixed and he kept flying her.
“This is the Air Force achievement medal,” Bradshaw said, while pointing to a certificate framed on the wall. “And it was for landing that airplane when I got shot down.”
In all, he flew 136 combat missions. Now, his home is full of various honors.
“I just enjoyed flying,” said Bradshaw.
And in November, he was flown to Washington D.C. to be honored again, this time, by the head of the British Royal Air Force.
“So he came over in his full uniform, all his medals and everything, he was outstanding and he knelt down beside me and we chit-chatted,” said Bradshaw, with a wide grin.
At 96-years-old, he’s accomplished a lot.
“Yeah, it’s been over a long period of time!” said Bradshaw with a laugh.
He’s lived a life filled with love for his bride and his airplanes, and both are thanks to the British Royal Air Force .... and that other thing.
“Luck!” said Bradshaw. “Yes, a great deal of luck. I got some excellent training, but I had a bunch of luck.”