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Interview on experiences in World War II

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CB: My name is Clint Bain and Im here with Virginia Jones, Lynnette Stenzel, Kay Wassinger, Casey Pridey, Megan Gerstner, and


INTERVIEW OF CECIL JONES, WORLD WAR II VETERAN



Interview conducted by Ness City High School Audio-Video Technology Class students Benjamin Henning, Clint Bain, and Katie Flax on January 10, 2007. Adult supervisors Lynette Stenzel and Kay Wasinger.

CB: My name is Clint Bain and I'm here with Virginia Jones, Lynnette Stenzel, Kay Wasinger, Casey Pridey, Megan Gerstner, and Benjamin Henning. And we are here to interview Cecil Jones as we record his World War II experience. Now, could you please state your full name please?

CJ: Cecil Jones.

CB: And now what was your date of birth?

CJ: May 13, 1923.

CB: Where were you born Cecil?

CJ: In Utica.

CB: Who were your parents?

CJ: Dale Jones and Edna Jones.

CB: Did you have any siblings?

CJ: Oh yes. There were eight of us in there, eight siblings. Six boys and two girls in my family.

CB: Did you attend high school?

CJ: Yes. I graduated from Utica High School in 1942.

CB: What was your job prior to your military service? Did you work on a farm?

CJ: Some. I worked for Bill Stutz in summer of 1941. All that summer and some in the spring of '42, I think. Then after I graduated from high school, I went to Le Junta, Colorado and went to work on a. . .to help `em build a army airbase up north of Le Junta as a carver. I worked there all summer then later on I worked at the…helped build a airbase at Dodge City, out North West of Dodge City where the feedlot is now a days. I think had some big wooden hangers out there. I helped build those. I think some of `em are still there.

CB: Do you remember the announcement of Pearl Harbor?

CJ: Yes.

CB: How did you think that was going to affect you?

CJ: Well, that day Gordon Wheatcroft, friend of mine from Utica, went duck hunting and when we came in that afternoon, I think it was in the afternoon when we heard about it, was when we first heard about Pearl Harbor being bombed. My first reaction was, ``Where's Pearl Harbor?'' I didn't know where it was at that time. Little I knew that two years from then I would be stationed just ten miles West of Pearl Harbor for about six months.

CB: Did you enlist voluntarily?

CJ: No.

CB: Or drafted.

CJ: No, I was drafted. I was working on the airbase in Dodge City when I got my draft notice. We took a train, there was several of us from Ness City, went the same day. Don Webster who's up here in the Nursing home was in that bunch and Bill Rawlings, I think was a Rawlings anyways from Ness City. The three of us is the only ones I remember. Rode the train at out Ness City to Kansas City, then up to Leavenworth. I got up there, I asked for the Marine Corps and so they sent me back to Kansas City to join the Marines. I was sworn in there at Kansas City.

CB: And do you remember what date that was you were sworn in?

CJ: February 11, 1943.

CB: Did… I heard your wife's interview, how many siblings did you have also go into the Marine Corps?

CJ: Well, there was four. Myself and three brothers were in the Marine Corps. I had one brother in the Navy and one in the Air Force. My oldest brother was a B-24 pilot, was killed in World War II, bombing oil fields in Romania. He was stationed in Italy.

LS: Cecil, did that happen before you were drafted?

CJ: No. I was over in Hawaii when he got killed.

BH: How much longer after he was killed did you find out?

CJ: Well, just a few days. My mother first got a notice. . . a telegram that he was missing in action. She wrote a letter to me I suppose that time. First he was missing in action and then it was probably a couple of months before they declared him killed in action. I was over in Hawaii when I got notice of that.

LS: Were all the other brothers serving at the same time too?

CJ: Three of us were in at that time. Ellsworth was stationed in Italy, the one that got killed. George and I were over in the Pacific; I was in Hawaii and George further down. Ramaul or somewhere down in that area. He was a crew chief on a B-25 bomber squadron. So there were three of us in at that time. Then my brother Don enlisted in October, I think it was, of '44. He went in the Navy.

LS: Now when I was at the Utica Post for one of the get togethers we had up there, they had one of the service banners that your mom…is that correct? Was that your family that they have a service banner. . you know the blue star banner that hung in the window?

CJ: Probably, I don't know.

LS: Ok, I'm thinking it is of your family.

CJ: The post?

LS: The Post home up there at Utica?

CJ: The Legion Post up there is named after my brother.

LS: Right. Right.

CJ: McKenstry was a World War I veteran that got killed and the Jones part of it is my brother, Ellsworth.

CB: Do you have anything to add about your basic training? Where was that at?

CJ: At San Diego. We were sworn in at Kansas City and they put us on the train, everybody traveled the train back in them days there's very little flying done. And, we went right back through Utica on the train. I left. . .the morning I left Utica, I told them I'd be back and I'll see you in two or three days. I thought I'd get to come home for a week or two before went in the service see. So I said I walked out the door and I didn't even tell them goodbye, said I'll see you in two or three days. And it was 32 months later when I got back. So you never know what's gonna happen. Any way we rode the train right back through Utica to San Diego. With. . . had seven weeks of intensive training and boot camp. Including about three weeks on the rifle range. In which I really enjoyed and excelled at pretty well. I earned expert rifleman's badge. Of sixty some men I was the highest man in my platoon. And of the five hundred and some that fired that day, I was third high. So I felt pretty good about that. But, they almost stuck me on the rifle range as an instructor, for getting such a high score. And but I got out of that. I didn't want to be stuck there the rest of the war.

CB: So what was your job?

CJ: Well after I finished boot camp, why I applied for Marine Aviation. I wanted to go to airplane mechanic school. And after taking a few aptitude tests, why they said I was eligible for that. So, they sent me to. . .by train again, to Norman, Oklahoma. To an Airplane Mechanic School that the navy had set up down there. That lasted for five months, and then we took a train back to San Diego. I was put in a squadron of fifteen big transport planes. I was a mechanic in that outfit. Shortly after that, why we went overseas. And spent six months stationed about ten mile west of Pearl Harbor. Later on we flew on down just north of Guadalcanal area. . .down in that area, Little island of Hemeru. It is so small it isn't on most maps. You rarely find it on a map, I did one time. I was there four months, stationed there. We flew all over from there. We flew a lot of mail and cargo all over the southwest Pacific. And when they were having a battle somewhere like Iwo Jima or Palau or somewhere, we would fly wounded Marines back to the hospital in Guam. And, but we flew more mail than anything else. But I went along I wasn't working on other people's planes; I just maintain our planes. Whenever our plane went up why there was two mechanics went along with it. So I went a lot of the time. I never was in combat, but I was awful close to it a lot of times. And the only time I ever remember getting shot at was the day we flew over a convoy of U.S. Navy ships. With our. . .didn't have our IFF radio signal turned on and they got our attention by shooting a few flack up out our window, bursting out there out side of our window. Pilot wised up and decided he'd better turn the radio on.

CB: Can you tell us a little bit about your living conditions, when you were stationed by Guadalcanal there?

CJ: Well I spent a lot of time in an 8x8 pyramidal tent I'll tell you. Or 16x16, I think they were. Sixteen feet wide or square. It would hold about eight men in each tent. We had that one. . . but when we was in Hawaii we had barracks with no windows in them. They had screens on each side but no windows. Cause you don't need windows, the heat in Hawaii. It's the same about temperature all year round down there. And, but after we left there, we was in tents about all the time in Hemeru and Guam. And boot camp I was in a tent too. They had this big building over there along the other side of the parade route, but I don't know what they served that for, but we was over here in tents. The whole time I was in boot camp.

CB: Were you at the El Toro Boot Camp?

CJ: No. No.

CB: That's San Diego.

CJ: El Toro was a Marine Corps Air Station, it was at that time anyway. And, I was stationed at the Marine Corps Recruit depot in San Diego.

CB: Back to the island, were you well supplied? Did you ever run out of food or anything?

CJ: No. I don't think so. We ate a lot of mutton we called it. I don't know, I think it was mutton for sheep from either New Zealand or Australia. They, the Army secured I guess and fed a lot of mutton to us. We didn't like it very well but it was better than nothing.

CB: How was your relationship with your commanding officers?

CJ: I hardly knew my commanding officer. Although, I did fly with him a few times. He was a pilot. A few times when I went along on flight, so I hardly knew him.

CB: Now, were you able to stay in contact with home while you were over seas?

CJ: By letters, yes. Yeah.

CB: Was this the first time that you were away from home?

CJ: No. In 1938 my parents separated. My dad went to Colorado, out to Gunnison, Colorado. He took Don and I with him and left the three younger siblings with my mother. I was gone two and a half years that time. I went out there when I was fifteen and came home when I was seventeen. So, I was pretty homesick that time so I didn't get homesick when I went to the Marine Corps, I don't think.

CB: Do you remember how you spent your holidays like Christmas and Easter?

CJ: Not really. This Gordon Wheatcroft, that I graduated in high school with. A good friend of mine from Utica, He was in the Marine Corps at the. . .on the west coast the same time I was, most of the time. We'd get together and go to Los Angeles on weekends quite a bit. I remember going to Beverly Hills Hotel one Sunday morning. Walked in the lobby and there was. . .oh boy. No it was outside, this woman….this woman playing tennis. It was, what was her name I told you about it?

VJ: I wasn't there.

LS: But he' told you about it.

CJ: Well some famous movie star woman. I can't recall her name right now. She was playing tennis outside and we watched her awhile. Then inside there was a soldier that sat down on the piano and he was playing the best boogie woogie music that I'd ever heard in my life. We watched him for quite awhile. He was really talented. Then I remember going to the Palladium Club in Hollywood and Les Brown, was playing the band. . .his band was playing. We danced and I don't know whether we went more than once to that place or not, I can't remember. Then I had another…there was a girl from Utica living in El Monte, California, East suburb of Los Angeles. We looked her up one weekend. That's all I recall.

CB: Do you remember what your service pay was?

CJ: Not really. But it was around fifty dollars a month, I think. When we went overseas why we got I think fifty percent increase, I believe, if I remember right. Overseas pay and then I got a flight pay too on top of that. Flight pay was an addition. So it wasn't too bad. Didn't have any place to spend it.

CB: Do you remember where you were when the announcement came for the end of the war?

CJ: I remember one time, I sent six hundred dollars home to my dad to save for me. He wrote back said, ``Money growing on trees over there?''

LS: When you sent that cash or how would you have sent that?

CJ: I don't remember. I probably had a money order made out and I sent it home to him. I was afraid somebody would steal it over there if I didn't do something with it. I just didn't rob my pay, see, till it `d build up. Then I'd mail it home. And getting back to this deal on these air bases, La Junta and Dodge City I was working for a dollar and a quarter an hour. I thought that was a good job. It was at that time. You got time and a half for overtime. So there has been a lot of inflation since then.

CB: Do you remember where you were when the announcement came for the end of the war?

CJ: Where I was? I was stationed at El Central, California. Which is fifty feet below sea level and one of the hottest places on earth. We were stationed there getting ready to regroup to go back over seas for the invasion of Japan, I suppose. They hadn't told us that, but I realize now what we were there for. That's when they dropped the A- bombs and the war ended. I was stationed at El Central. Yeah. And the war ended, I think, September the 2nd, `45. Three weeks later they sent me to San Diego to get processed for discharge. I got discharged October the 2nd `45.

CB: How did you get home?

CJ: I had a car. I bought a used…I bought a used '39 Chevy in Los Angeles on one of my trips up there. Another guy and I did, a buddy of mine from El Central. When the war ended, why, I bought his half out and I drove it from El Central to San Diego to get my discharge. Then I got a discharge, why we…I had two. . .my buddies went with me. One from Idaho and I forget where the other one is from. They rode with me then we went to Los Angeles and then headed towards Las Vegas. Spent one night in Las Vegas. One guy rode with me clear to Utah. He was from Idaho before I dropped him off. I don't know where the other guy went, I can't remember. From Utah I drove all the way, rest of the way by myself.

LS: What did you do with your car while you were in the service? Did they let you park it on base or. . .?

CJ: Yeah. Yeah. I didn't buy it until after I came back from over seas. I had a thirty day furlough after I came back from overseas. Then when I reported back to El Central, California and nothing to do around there so we'd hitch hike or do something, go to Los Angeles every weekend almost. Got tired of that so I bought a car. It ran pretty good. I brought it. . . drove it clear on back to Utica.

LS: Do you still have it?

CJ: Oh no. No.

CB: Did your military experience contribute to your career choice? Being a mechanic, did you carry that on?

CJ: Not really. No. No, I went into the engineering work shortly after I got out of the service. That's how I wound up in Russell doing surveying work and drawing road plans for secondary roads, when I met her. I worked three years down at Jetmore as a county. . . assistant county engineer drawing plans up there. Before that, I worked a year or more on the State Highway road crew. I went. . . took advantage of the G.I. Bill shortly after I got out of the service and went to K-State for one year for studying engineering. Started my second year and went two weeks and decided that wasn't what I wanted so I quit. I got two grandsons down at K-State right now so. One's a senior and one's a freshman.

CB: Are you a member of a Veteran Service Organization?

CJ: Yes, a member of the Utica Legion Hall. . . Legion and a life member of the V.F.W. in Ransom.

CB: Do you have any souvenirs that you brought back with you?

CJ: Souvenirs? Oh a few. I didn't bring them with me.

CB: Any pictures?

CJ: I got pictures at home, yes. I brought a Japanese helmet from Iwo Jima that I picked up. It's up in the Legion Hall in Utica. Some Japanese money, Philippine money. American money with Hawaii printed through on the back side of it.

CB: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

CJ: I don't know. Well there was six of us brothers in my family and we were all in the service. Four of us during World War II and two. . . my two younger brothers joined the Marines afterwards. They were both in the Marines. That was during the Korean War, I think about that time. Besides my wife being an ex-marine. I can't think of anything else right now.

LS: You said you were stationed not to far from Pearl Harbor.

CJ: About ten miles west of there, yes.

LS: Had it been pretty well rebuilt by the time you got back over there?

CJ: Well, that I can't really answer. I think it had been, yes. Because we flew over it once in awhile. But I really don't know.

LS: Did they let you come home when you found out your brother had been killed?

CJ: Oh no. No.

LS: And then your other brother was somewhere else?

CJ: Yeah, he was on down near Solomon Islands or somewhere in that area. No, we never got to come home. No. Well, we rode a lot of trains back in them days. Everywhere you went. Convoy or troop movement, boy it was all, just about the train. And even when I got. . .of my six brothers I was the only one drafted, all the other five were volunteers. The only reason I got drafted was too busy working on these air bases and they were short of help so I hated to quit. Besides that dollar and a quarter, I was making good money I thought.

LS: Well, look how much money you must of made in the service because you were able to send money home.

CJ: Yeah.

LS: And buy a car.

CJ: Well I never did gamble. Played poker for one thing. I think a lot of guys lost their money gambling.

LS: In some of the interviews that we`ve done, you know the guys said that cigarettes were pretty easy to come by.

CJ: Oh yes.

LS: And that you could trade… you could sell cigarettes for. . . to the people who did smoke.

CJ: When I was over seas, we could buy cigarettes fifty cents a carton in the PX over there. When I found out I was being shipped home I bought… I went to the PX and bought thirteen cartons and put them in my ski bag and brought them home. Thirteen cartons home with me. Fifty cents a carton. We had a ration of beer too. I can't remember whether it was two bottles a week or six, I can't remember anymore. Two bottles probably. But my best buddy, my best buddy didn't drink at all so I got his too.

I had a buddy by the name of James Dixie Jones from Kentucky. And everybody gets assigned alphabetically in the Marine. . .or in the service, you know. So we Jones's were stuck together all the time whether we liked it or not. He and I became quite good friends. I went and saw him. . .well she was along when I was working in Memphis, Tennessee in 1956. They sent me to. . . Black and Beach Engineers out of Kansas City. They sent Memphis to Decatur, Illinois for another job. On the way up there, why, we stopped by Princeton, Kentucky and looked up my buddy Jones down there, spent the night with him.

KW: I bet he was surprised.

CJ: Yeah. Everybody in our outfit called him Dixie. He was quite a character.

LS: So when did you move back to Utica then?

CJ: I came back right after I got out of services, October '45.

LS: But then when you said you worked at Russell?

CJ: Well, that was a little later. I was around Utica till '48 and I went to work for the State Highway Department. They sent me down to Southwest Kansas. Hugoton, Sublette, and Elkhart. Then I worked there about year or a little longer and I quit and took a job at Jetmore. Worked there three years. Then I…spring of '52 I quit at Jetmore and bought a tractor, a new tractor and terracer and went in the terracing business. And that's when. . . I don't know, were you in the office then?

LS: Do you feel like any of your…I know he asked Virginia. Do you feel like any of your military experience helped you acquire any of those jobs or other than you said you took advantage of the G.I. Bill? Do feel like Veterans were given any special consideration when you went to be employed?

CJ: Well yes. It did when I applied to the Rural Mail Route in Utica in 1959. And I got it because I was a Veteran or that helped anyway. I carried mail up there at Utica for twenty years. Rural Mail carrier.

CB: We really appreciate you guys coming.

CJ: Thank you

MG: Thank you.

CB: Thanks a lot.

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