Friday, January 11, 2013
"I SAW ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS SHOT DOWN IN FLAMES" - Lieut. Eugene B. Jones
I was in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie this past summer doing research on the owners of 301 Asbury when I came upon a distinctive monument:
EUGENE B. JONES
95th & 103rd
June 9, 1895
Sept. 13, 1918
Killed in Combat
The Chicago Daily Tribune from November 2, 1918 told me the whole story.
WILMETTE PILOT IS SHOT DOWN IN FLAMING PLANE
Lieut. Eugene B. Jones' Death Described by Chum in Letter
Official Chicago Casualties Yesterday Were:
Wounded Severely......................... 6
Wounded, Degree Undetermined....12
Wounded Slightly............................. 2
Mr. and Mrs. Ira A. Jones of Wilmette have received notification that their son, Lieut. Eugene Blanchard Jones, pursuit pilot of Major William Thaw's One Hundred and Third aero squadron, was killed in combat Sept. 13 when his machine was shot down in flames.
Details of his death were contained in a letter from a comrade, Lieut. George Willard Furlow, to his mother, Mrs. Furlow. It reads:
"I saw a sight today that will not leave me for some time, and the more vividly I see it the more intense is my hatred for the Germans. I saw one of my best friends shot down in flames. I can't seem to get over it, for he certainly was my friend, and I his.
Attacked by Eight Huns.
"We were a patrol of four squads going out to strafe a road where enemy troops were reported moving. Just after we crossed the lines we were attacked by eight German chasse planes, and I tell you it was an awful fight. We lost one man, and this was my friend, Gene Jones. the Germans lost four."
Just what else can we learn about the short life of World War I Flying ace Eugene B. Jones? Let's find out.
Eugene Blanchard Jones was born in 1895 in Indiana to Ira Jones and his wife Josephine. Eugene had an older sister - Janet, born in 1894. Ira Jones was an agent for a manufacturing company.
Eugene enrolled in the School of Commerce at Northwestern University and was elected Vice President of his class in 1916:
(Note: Eagle-eyed reader Charley Gosse points out an error with the yearbook photo: The yearbook photo is incorrectly labelled - Gene Jones is the individual labelled "Bosser." Thanks Charley!)
In 1917, Gene enlisted in the aerial corps as mentioned in the Chicago Daily Tribune article of July 3, 1917:
It didn't take long for Eugene Jones to be elevated to the rank of Lieutenant and be considered as a flying Ace:
Chicago Daily Tribune - July 14, 1918
The celebration was short-lived, however. As mentioned above, Lieutenant Eugene B. Jones died on September 13, 1918 when his plane was shot down during a fierce air battle.
"The War to End All Wars" ended at 11:00 AM on November 11, 1918, too late for Gene Jones.
Early on in the war, the US government announced that anyone who fell in battle would be buried where they fell. No bodies of those killed in the war would be returned to the US. The War Department felt that it would be almost impossible to preserve the remains and ship them back home, not to mention the expense that such a huge undertaking would entail. It's no surprise that this policy was met with howls of protest. Through the influence of many of the wealthy and powerful, the War Department finally backed down - but they insisted that no remains would be returned to the US until the war was over. This change in policy came in no small part, through the efforts of Evanstonian "Lumber King" Edward Hines and his wife Loretta, whose son Edward Hines, Jr. died in Chaumont, France in June of 1918.
The "Echoes" column of the Chicago Daily Tribune for May 16, 1919 carried the following item:
Memorial services will be held at St. Augustine's Episcopal church in Wilmette at 5 o' clock Sunday afternoon in honor of Lieut. Eugene B. Jones. son of Mr. & Mrs. Ira A. Jones, 1037 Central avenue, Wilmette, a member of the Lafayette Escadrille, who was killed in action September 13.
and a small item in the Chicago Daily Tribune for May 18, 1919:
JONES - Lieut. Eugene B. Jones. Memorial services will be held at St. Augustine's Episcopal church, in Wilmette, at 5 o'clock this Sunday afternoon, in honor of Lieut. Eugene B. Jones, son of Mr. & Mrs. Ira A. Jones, 1027 Central avenue, Wilmette, a member of the Lafayette Escadrille, who was killed in action Sept. 13.
Unlike his comrade Philip Comfort Starr, (see entry at http://undereverystone.blogspot.com/2012/06/killed-in-action-philip-comfort-starr.html), whose family decided to leave his body buried in Europe, the family of Eugene B. Jones decided to bring Jones' body back to Chicago for burial. Today, almost one-hundred years after his service and untimely death, Lieutenant Eugene Blanchard Jones lies beneath his elaborate monument in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.
As I have mentioned before, the heroism of those who fought in World War I are almost forgotten today - overshadowed by the so-called "Greatest Generation" who fought in World War II. As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of World War I (July 28, 1914) let us remember the brave young men like Gene Jones who left their lives of ease and comfort to fight against tyranny, and who made the ultimate sacrifice.
May he rest in peace.