Haile "Jake" Jaekel, a Pearl Harbor survivor and rocket engineer, died Tuesday, Sept. 14th, of cancer,his family said. He was 86.
Mr. Jaekel was a 17-year-old Navy seaman apprentice on a coal dock at Pearl Harbor when Japanese planes began attacking Dec. 7, 1941. Marines handed him a Browning automatic rifle, which he used to shoot "at everything that went by," he told The Bee in 2007. He took a 35-foot boat to rescue men from sinking battleships and suffered a leg injury from enemy strafing.
He returned the next day to his post aboard the USS Salt Lake City and fought in major World War II campaigns, including battles at Marshall, Wake and Marcus islands, the launching of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, and landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi. He also flew anti-submarine patrols over the Atlantic Ocean.
"He was really about peace," said his daughter Kristine Wilfong. "He wanted people to remember Pearl Harbor so that we would be prepared and stay strong so that it wouldn't happen again."
Mr. Jaekel devoted his life to serving his country. Recalled to active duty in the Air Force in 1953, he was assigned to the 497th Fighter Squadron, 503rd Air Material Group, and taught at Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois. He later served in the Air Force Reserve and retired as a California National Guard captain in 1980.
Meanwhile, he graduated from the University of Washington, settled in Sacramento by 1958 and spent nearly three decades as an aerospace engineer at Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Aerojet. After the Soviet Union sent a Sputnik satellite into orbit, he joined a team of Douglas engineers who designed and launched the Thor missile.
He worked on Titan, Apollo and anti-missile rocket programs. With his family, he lived from 1970 to 1972 on Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific to conduct missile launches. He also served on Apollo launch crews at Kennedy Space Center. He retired at Aerojet in 1986.
Haile (pronounced "hail") Hamilton Jaekel was born in 1924 on his family's sheep ranch in The Dalles, Ore. After his father died, he left school as a boy to support his family.
"He was on his own since he was 12," said Merle Jaekel, his wife since 1946. "He had to help take care of his grandma."
Mr. Jaekel was a licensed aircraft mechanic who restored aircraft and built a Rutan Long EZ plane that he flew around the country on trips with his wife. An imposing 6-foot-4 figure, he was a softspoken man who enjoyed fishing trips with his two young daughters.
He held offices in the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, including national secretary and state chairman, and created the group's website. He returned often to Pearl Harbor for commemoration events.
"He didn't think he was a hero," his daughter said. "He was the consummate patriot. He loved his country."
Haile "Jake" Jaekel-Born: Aug. 21, 1924-Died: Sept. 14, 2010
Survived by: Wife, Merle, daughters, Pamela Roesijadi, and Kristine Jaekel Wilfong; three grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/20/3041752/obituary-haile-jake-jaekel-rocket.html#ixzz106dlclUA
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