Oral History of Robert Jones

The worldwide gloominess caused by the Great Depression allowed dictators like Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler to come to power. Hitler became the president of Germany in 1934 and quickly built up the German Army. Not wanting to start another war, the United States and Britain initiated the policy of appeasement. The Munich Conference gave Hitler the Sudetenland. He was given this land so he wouldn’t take all of Czechoslovakia, but in March 1939, Hitler took the rest of it. When Hitler invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, World War II began. The United States stayed out of the war until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt, quickly declared war on Japan, then Germany declared war on the United States. After over six long, challenging years of conflict, Germany surrendered in April 1945, and Japan surrendered in August 1945. World War II became the most devastating war in history, with about fifty million deaths.

Robert William Jones was born on December 24, 1925 in Voorhies, Illinois. He was the youngest of his two brothers and three sisters. He grew on a farm in Voorhies. As a child, Jones dreamed of becoming a pilot, always admiring those who flew. After graduating from high school, Jones volunteered in the United Stated Navy in 1943; although did not know how to swim, he still deeply desired to become a naval pilot. Because the flight training in St. Louis was full at the time, Jones was sent to college in Marshall, Missouri. He spent a year at the college, and then returned to training in St. Louis. Instead of training to become a pilot, Jones trained in Naval Air Transport.

However, before training to become a naval air transporter, Jones was sent to the Great Lakes for reclassification of jobs after the end of his year of college. There, he volunteered for a 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. job before even knowing what it entailed. He was stationed at the “main gate,” escorting drunken nurses and WAVES back to their barracks. As a Naval Air Transporter, Jones was in charge of transport trade. He checked the weight of the incoming planes and made sure the outgoing planes were balanced. After the schooling and the escorting job, he was stationed in Hawaii, and was later stationed on Kwajalein, a Japanese Island. A typical day was spent doing regular flight work, taking care of the aircraft, getting planes ready, and taking care of the passengers.

Being fifteen when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Jones knew the effects the bombing and the early years of the war had on America and Americans. Because the Pearl Harbor attack unified the American people, Jones, like the other soldiers serving in World War II, took his job of protecting Americans proudly and very seriously. When asked what kept him going through this rough time, he replied, “This is my job and I have to do it well.” Because all the soldiers took their jobs so seriously, the Americans were successfully able to defeat the Japanese and the Germans, with help from the Allies. Jones believes he did well on his air transport duties, and he would not have done anything differently if given the chance. He also said he would definitely serve in the war again, even if he knew everything about his time spent serving.

Although Jones never saw combat, he did see the gruesome horrors of the war. His office was only two hundred feet from a compound full of Japanese officers. The compound was only surrounded with a wire and marines standing in the corners, guarding. One day, Jones asked what would happen if an officer tried to step over the wire, and the Marine replied, “They would only get one leg over the wire.” Jones’ military experience, especially in Hawaii and Japan, showed the abhorrence toward the Japanese, which was caused by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Jones also told me that someone with higher rank gave him a crate. His job was to keep the crate in sight at all times. A few days later, Jones was told that the crate contained a Japanese officers’ brain that was being sent to Washington D.C. for examination.

As a Naval Air Transporter, Jones did not face immediate danger, having never seen combat. However, the intensity of the war left little time for soldiers to go on leave. Jones’ greatest hardship during his time serving was being away from home. Living on a farm, with houses located far apart, probably gave Jones an opportunity to become very close with his older siblings and parents. Although he kept in contact with his family through letters, Jones always looked forward to visiting his parents. However, serving with the other soldiers, and facing some of the same challenges, most likely made the unit seem like another family, full of love and support.

Bob was discharged from the military in April of 1946. The G.I. Bill allowed him to learn to fly after the war, though was never able to fly professionally. He got married to Jeanne two years after serving. For a while, Bob worked for one of his brothers as a farm dealer, and then he switched careers. He worked at a gas station, selling gas and fixing cars. He later made another career move to Ivesdale, Illinois to become a farmer. He still lives on the land that he purchased then, but is retired from farming. His only child, Kim, was born on July 22, 1960. From his time serving, he gained a more serious outlook on life that allowed him to grow up and mature faster. Bob has been a member of the Veteran of Foreign Wars and the American Legion for over 50 years.

Research by Megan Skochdopole
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School

Sources:

Jones, Robert W. Telephone interview. 06 Apr. 2008.
“World War II.” World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 13 May 2008
http://www.worldhistory.abc-clio.com.

Willmott, Hedley P. and Michael Barrett. “World War II (Overview).” United States at War: Understanding Conflict and Society. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 13 May 2008
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