What does a World War II veteran have in common with Miss America? Probably not much, unless your name is Howard Jensen.
The B-24 bomber was one of the workhorses of World War II.
This one in particular, named ‘Miss America’ is famous for flying the most combat missions over Europe – 133.
“My name is right by the turret,” Howard Jensen said.
94-year-old Howard Jensen of Sioux Falls flew in 27 of those missions late in the war from 1944 to 1945.
Jensen, who’s a bit of a jokester, was a flight engineer on ‘Miss America.’ He says she was “the bomb,” but because she was a little rough, the plane was often ridiculed by other pilots during the war.
“If we had some B-17 people hitchhiking back our way when we’d go to Rome or Naples, they’d say ‘what you flying?’ B-24, well maybe we can catch a truck,” Jensen joked.
Wednesday, Jensen presented four signed prints drawn by a local artist of ‘Miss America’ to Julia Olson, who’ll compete next month in the Miss America pageant.
“I think it’s just such a cool connection that he flew a bomber plane called ‘Miss America’ and I’m leaving in a week to go to Miss America,” Olson said.
Olson, who is going to be an elementary teacher, was honored to meet Jensen, but was more impressed with Jensen’s service to our country.
“My platform is ‘Worth It: Diamonds in the Rough,’ it’s all about the worth of children, but we need to understand the worth of our older generations and all of the valuable advice they have to offer us as well,” Olson said.
Jensen says he doesn’t usually give advice to the younger generation, but did offer this tip to Olson when she takes the stage in the Miss America pageant.
“Well, watch your step as you step in, because you might trip,” Jensen said.
Olson is going to auction off the signed prints to help raise money for the Miss South Dakota Scholarship program.
Jensen says he usually doesn’t pay too much attention to the Miss America Pageant, but will now when it airs next month.