2006: POW LEE JONES GETS MEDALS 61 YEARS LATE - "I Thought I Was Going To Die"


Ninety-year-old Calhoun Pfc. Lee Jones (front), 61-years after World War II was over, received his medals this week, eleven in all, including the Bronze Star and a POW flag, shown with Mike Myers (left), who led the awards effort, and Roane County veteran Denver Gandee (right)

Jones, likely the first soldier to enter World War II
from Calhoun, joins soldiers, remembering that long-ago conflict

(Hur Herald Photos)

By Bob Weaver

Republished from 06/24/06

Ninety-year-old Lee Jones was likely the first Calhoun man to enter service in World War II on April 4, 1941. A country boy who had rarely crossed the county line, was thrust in the battlefields of Germany, to end up a prisoner of war.

This week, 61 years overdue, Lee received his medals, eleven in all, including the Bronze Star.

The ceremony was held in front of the Big Bend post office, not far from his Yellow Creek farm, with his wife, family members, friends and several soldiers present.

Well-known Roane County veteran Denver Gandee told Jones "It is an honor and a privilege to recognize you, at long last."

There were solemn moments during the presentation, held before a "Missing Man Table," displayed to represent and honor missing loved ones and comrades in arms.

Old and new soldiers paid homage to the old soldier from that long-ago war.

Jones said "I never expected this and it has never really bothered me (not getting his medals), but it has been something to like at the end of my days."

"It is a time to honor and a time to remember,"
said Big Bend postmaster Rick Dobson

Big Bend postmaster and retired Marine, Rick Dobson, led the ceremonies, reading the old soldier's military exploits, with the help of servicemen and veterans who attended the event.

Shortly after Jones' arrival in Europe, he found himself defending a 31-mile sector along the Rhine River. His 242nd Infantry regiment broke through the Siegfried Line after bitter conflict and loss of life, capturing a number of German towns, including Schweinfurt.

Jones and his outfit engaged in hand-to-hand combat in Schweinfurt, later liberating 30,000 inmates held captive at Dachau, the most notorious Nazi prison concentration camp.

Jones was captured and held in a German prison camp at the end of the war, to be later liberated by American troops.

Jones said "I never expected this and it has never
really bothered me (not getting his medals), but it has
been something to like at the end of my days."

During an interview with the Herald, Jones said "I've never forgotten what happened to me during the war, but I did forget about not receiving my medals. I was a prisoner of war when the gates sprung open," he said, "The war was over and I just wanted to get home."

He had married his Calhoun sweetheart Edith Eagle on a furlough in 1944, then returned to the front lines only to be captured.

He was held at least four months in a POW camp with 30 other Americans. "They treated us like dogs. I thought I was going to die there."

Jones said he and his captors scavenged for food, often going to a train car during bitter snows to get sugar beets, eating them raw.

"We never got a one of those Red Cross food boxes. They stole them all," the Germans kept the food in locked stores. He recalled a captor running full-steam through a plate glass store window to make entry, receiving severe cuts, but quickly discovering a barrel of apple butter.

Suffering from malnutrition, "They cracked open the top and dipped out apple butter by the hands full," said Jones.

When the prisoners were released from the camp in 1945, other soldiers gave them guns and told them to kill their captors, "But we knew it was not the right thing do, we ran over the guns with a tank."

Jones said his group took over a hotel and slept on feather ticks, after months of sleeping on boards. "We found beef in the kitchen and fried it to eat," he said. "It sure did taste good."

"You can't imagine what it was like, those were rewards," he said, "Things that we all take for granted."

An officer told the POWs how they should eat after being rescued and malnourished.

"I listened to what they said, but another soldier gorged himself and his stomach busted."

"People back here don't know what war is like, if they haven't been there" he said.

Jones with wife and grandson (left) and his POW flag (right)

The Jones Family

Jones and his wife, who is 85, live in the same house they bought when he returned from the war. They enjoy their family and friends, they've been married 62 years. They have two living daughters, Sharon Miller of Sugar Camp and Laura Marks of Big Bend, and a son Michael Myers of Annamoriah. A daughter, Linda Keller, died in 2002.

Jones' wife, Edith Eagle, grew up in the next hollow up Yellow Creek.

Jones worked for the State Road, Okmar Oil and for Alfred Holbert on a sawmill.

He is the son of late John and Samantha Kirby Jones, and has three living sisters, Alice Richards of Yellow Creek, Mary Jones of Leading Creek, and Alma Lanham of Glenville; a brother Willard of California and Harley, deceased.

Pfc. Lee R. Jones belonged to the US Army, Co. E 242nd Infantry.

Spencer resident Denver Gandee, who was at the
Bridge at Remagen, takes a prayerful moment (L)
Soldier representatives came to honor Jones (R)