CPL William Kermit Jones
9th Air Force, 409th Bomb Group, 642nd Bomb Sqdn
KIA 23 January 1945
Crashed at Stolzembourg, Luxembourg
-- Elizabeth Ellen Jones --
"Kermit," as his family and friends always called him, was born in Bluefield,
West Virginia, the blue-eyed golden-haired youngest son of a self-made man,
Emory E. Jones, and his wife, Bessie Keys Jones. My grandfather "E. E." was a
native Virginian, born in Bedford in 1882 to a family whose fate followed the
doomed Confederacy. Once prominent landowners, loss of capital and bad investments
led them to near poverty and E. E.'s father, my great-grandfather, was a photographer,
often traveling from place to place, recording family life of those days.
E. E. fired furnaces in Chicago while attending Lewis Institute to become
skilled as an engineer in the new technology of electricity. He later
supervised the electrification of coal mines in West Virginia, rising to
superintendent of mines, general manager, and, finally, Vice President and
General Manager of Winding Gulf and Lamar Collieries, coal producers in
southern West Virginia. It was during the middle years of E. E.'s career that
Kermit was born, and he grew up in a privileged household, with many of the
luxuries of the times.
I feel fortunate to have had a close bond with my grandparents, who told me
funny stories about my dad and showed me his baby pictures, early art work,
and places around the house where he had made his mark...such as the birdbath
he built with a friend, the tree outside his bedroom, where he climbed in
after late-night parties, and the big old-fashioned bathtub where he bathed
his beloved German Shepherd, Flops. The dog himself was special to me; when I
was learning to walk, Flops let me pull myself up holding onto his fur, and
he walked very slowly as I tottered along with him. As a child I spent many
happy summers in Bluefield, where my dad's presence was almost palpable in
every room and corner of the house. I even heard his voice on old wax
recordings the family made together in the late 1930s. The companionship of
my aunts and uncles, who told me loving stories of my dad and his escapades
and adventures, helped me to know him. My Uncle Edward, now 87, is especially
beloved; he roomed with my dad as they grew up and knew him well. Edward
built my swing and hung it from the highest limb; he took me on jaunts with
him in the car, taught me to count money and play Monopoly, and to shoot
craps, "like the boys did."
Kermit attended Bluefield College, where he distinguished himself as a ladies
man with beautiful manners. (I was told the latter by a dignified old lady
who had known him in those days). He later entered the cadet corps at
Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg. While there he suffered an
appendicitis attack and was taken to Lewis-Gale Hospital in Roanoke, where my
mother, Hope Ervine, worked as a laboratory technician. She took blood, he
flirted, and sometime later, as she left work, there he stood, with a bouquet
They are a handsome pair in the only photo I have of them together -- his hat
at a jaunty angle, big grin on his face; my mother looking proud as punch. They
were married quickly, in March 1942, and I followed shortly, in August. On
the day I was born, my dad was on a troop train headed for basic training at
Kelly Field (now Lackland AFB), in San Antonio, TX, one of many stops he
would make on his long journey to Europe and the war.
He entered aviation cadet training at Cimarron Field in Oklahoma City, then
went to Enid Army Flying School; his letters overflow with his love of
flying, but he washed out in December 1942 because, he said, "they think I'm
too technical a pilot." He was crushed, because he wanted to prove to E. E.
that he could succeed on his own, but he was relegated to instructing new
recruits in various basic studies. Later, he and others who washed out after
only 30 hours' flying time were offered a chance to try again, but he did
not. By then he was suffering recurrent severe respiratory infections.
Kermit shipped over to Europe in July 1943, after coming east on two visits
where he saw me...his only child. My mother and I were then living on her
family's Virginia farm, with her sister and my cousins. Less than a year old
on his last visit, I don't remember my dad, but my mother told me a sweet
anecdote: He was wearing a light jacket, and he zipped me up in it with him,
holding me close to his chest as they walked up the hill to visit the old
aunts. He held the umbrella carefully over me, while my mother got a soaking
in the cold spring rain.
In England, my dad was assigned to the 20th Bomb Wing, 8th Air Force, near
London. In an office job, he could have stayed safe until the war ended;
after all, Army doctors had warned him not to fly again, but he wrote my
mother in early 1944 that he had to get into the fight. Too many of his
friends had been killed for him to continue in good conscience as a
noncombatant. He went to replacement gunners school in Ireland, and by
October 1944 was assigned to the 9th Air Force, 409th Bomb Group, at "A-48,"
Bretigny, France. His letters described the countryside and the people, and
how his French accent was improving. Several times he went into Paris, not
far away, which he said was the most beautiful city he'd ever seen.
Conditions at the 409th were less spectacular; one letter said their
quarters had improved, since their tent now had a floor.
He wrote very little about the missions, but said sometimes the flak came
"close, mighty close." He knew he'd be ok, he said, since "you know they say
that only the good die young." He said he couldn't wait to see the hills of
West Virginia again. On his 10th mission, about to make sergeant, he went as
a gunner with a flight of six A-26 Invaders to bomb and strafe a German road
convoy, supporting the American infantry as they pushed the Germans back
across their own borders. Flying in the lead aircraft, with "the best pilot
in the squadron," he died. The mission was described as a turkey shoot. I've
been told by a German historian that the road convoy was armed with a secret
weapon that day...a Foenrockete...a ground to air missile. The experimental
mission, meant to prove the versatility of the A-26 at low levels, was flown
at less than 1000 feet over a road in Germany, between Dasburg and Arzfeld.
It was a disaster. The plane my dad was in crashed at Stolzembourg,
Luxembourg, a few minutes' flying time from where they were hit. Oddly,
perhaps prophetically, my mother and father were both born in June; they both
died in January.
Buried in the American Cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg, Kermit was never to see
those hills in West Virginia again, but he is remembered every day in the
hearts and minds of his loved ones back home. My uncle Edward still tells
funny stories about Kermit and his bizarre and irrepressible humor. And my
father couldn't have asked for a more beautiful place to rest for eternity,
or for more kindly and loving friends to remember him than the citizens of
that tiny country far away. The people of Luxembourg have big hearts.