They took off from and landed in rutted, unlit grassy fields. They slept in floorless tents on the cold ground. And when they flew, they left their dog tags behind so if captured, they couldnt be identified.
Although his sister sent packages regularly, he said, my family had no idea what I was doing until a distant relative picked up an issue of Time magazine and read about Jaffes role in the Battle of the Bulge.
The war changed him profoundly.
It made my whole life different because I appreciate my life, said Jaffe, who survived open-heart surgery.
Jaffe was born Aug. 17, 1924, the son of Eastern European immigrants. His father, a Socialist, was so involved with social-welfare groups that his four sons grew up, Jaffe said, unsupervised in the streets.
He was born with chutzpah, said Edith Berman Jaffe, a Brooklynite who worked for the Army Signal Corps during the war. They met at a post-war veterans dance in New York, eloped the following year because her mother couldnt stand him and in 1947, moved to South Florida.
A frail child, Jaffe built himself up in Police Athletic League programs and started winning neighborhood brawls. By 11, he was earning his own money delivering milk before school.
He always wanted to fly, and as a boy built intricate model airplanes. At 15, he got himself appointed air-raid warden in the Bronx, his task being to enforce blackouts...due to very active German submarine of cargo vessels off the East Coast.
With war looming, Jaffe built models of German aircraft for the Navy and worked the midnight shift at a Brooklyn machine shop that made military-weapon firing pins.
He headed for Europe in September 1944, barely out of his teens, and flew his first combat mission days later with the Ninth Tactical Air Forces 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group: Col. George Pecks Pecks Bad Boys.
His 29th mission was so perilous that pilots were asked to volunteer. He was one of two, alongside Capt. Richard Cassady, now of Mobile, Ala., who did.
They left the base at Charleroi, Belgium in a dense fog, looking for a German tank column under the command of Field Marshall Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt that was breaking through Allied lines.
The pilots, who knew theyd take ground fire, had been given old, war-weary thus expendable planes with fuel to last two hours and 18 minutes.
Jaffe called the mission a one-way ticket. You didnt come back unless you were all shot up.
A Stars & Stripes booklet about the Ninth Tactical told how on the field phone, Gen. [E.R. Pete] Quesada briefed his two volunteers, Mustang pilots Capt. Richard Cassady...and 2nd Lt. Abraham Jaffe [on] where to go, what to look for.
On Dec. 18, the two-man team flew in valleys, sometimes less than 100 feet off the ground, at 350 miles per hour, in order to see below and still miss the hills. Near Stavelot, they spotted 60 Nazi tanks and armored vehicles moving through the mist.
As Jaffe described it, because of the fog and mountains, the only place he could fly was under Cassadys plane.
I could count the rivets in his plane, he recalled. If he went higher, hed be in the clouds. If he went lower. hed push me into the ground...He was going to take pictures to show that the tanks are there.
The pilots called for bombers. A Jan. 5, 1945, front-page New York Times article headlined Bronx Flier Proves Hero in Air Blow at Enemy, describes the result.
A German armored force highballing toward Liege through a gap in the American lines was stopped on the third day of the German counter-offensive by American Thunderbolt planes in a breath-taking battle between air forces on one side and ground forces on the other, it was revealed today.
The Thunderbolts destroyed 126 enemy armored vehicles and trucks, probably destroyed [another] six, and damaged 34.
There were many heroes in this battle. The first two were Lt.. Abraham Jaffe of 1365 Rosedale Ave., the Bronx, and Capt. Richard Cassady of Nashville, Tenn. [who] saw through the mist the onrushing Germans and gave the alarm that ended in the German rout.
Jaffe and Cassady neither of who considered themselves heroes were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight.
Who needs the medals? Jaffe later said. I was just trying to stay alive.
In addition to his wife and son Arthur, Al Jaffe is survived by son Larry, of Weston. A third son, Bernard, died of heart disease in 1977.
Jaffe was buried, with military honors, at Miamis Mount Sinai Memorial Park.
The family suggests donations to the Deborah Hospital Foundation: deborahfoundation.org.