Robert Blish Jones
As Remembered By His Friend
and Coworker Dick Sawyer

Robert Blish Jones was my hero, my mentor, and my best fri
end. He was born in Culpepper, Virginia in 1922. He was a Civil War Buff and Captain of his High School Football Team. He called all the plays and helped the coach design the other plays. He went to VMI (The Virginia Military Institute), took some flying lessons and then volunteered for the United States Army Air Corps in World War II.

He became a fighter pilot flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. He was shot down on his last mission over Germany. He was opening up his canopy to bail out just before his plane blew up and blew him out of the plane. The last thing he remembered was looking up and all he could see was burning holes in his parachute.

He passed out and when he woke up he found two German soldiers standing over him with rifles aimed at him. They interrogated him on the spot without giving him any medical aid. All he would give them was his name, rank, and serial number.

He was sent to a prisoner of war camp. He was badly burned in his face and on his body. In his first prison camp he met a POW Polish Doctor who helped him with his wounds and probably saved his life. The left side of his face was permanently scarred but he was so personable that people quickly forgot the scars and injuries.

They took him to another prison camp and interrogated him for days without any medical help. He escaped from the camp but was quickly captured. Undeterred he again attempted to escape and again was quickly captured. They threatened him with the firing squad for escaping.

He was transferred to another POW camp. They marched the prisoners of war to the north to the new camp. They marched for miles and miles in the d eep snow and cold. They had to sleep in the snow banks.

He attempted his third escape. They said he would face the firing squad but at that point it was near the end of the war and the German guards left the camp. Bob said that the movie Stalag 17 was a good portrayal of what life was like in the German Prisoner of War Camp.

After the war he came back to the States to a VA hospital in Miam
i and had 13 plastic surgeries. His left eyelid was partially burned off. Bob showed me his medals and the map that he drew of his escape route and the pencil with which he drew the map.

His mother Helen Jones was an amazing lady. Bob’s Dad died when he was thirteen of kidney failure. His mother turned their home into a boarding house. She made enough money to send Bob to VMI.

I brought my family to Washington and we stopped in to see Mrs. Jones. At that time we had 4 children and Mrs. Jones entertained the children as it they were her own grandchildren. I was fortunate enough to meet her when she came to visit Bob in Atlanta several times.

Bob went to work for Stockley-Van Camp in 1949 and rose to the position of District Manager. I saw a advertisement in the Chattanooga Newspaper for a retail salesman job and interviewed with Bob for the job. We hit it off immediately and Bob hired me as a retail salesman.

I worked for Bob for many years and everywhere he was promoted he made sure
that I went along. I first worked for him first as a retail supervisor and later as a manager.

Bob was a great manager and motivator.
He was known to have a steel trap mind.

He went on to become the National Sales Manager for the Corporation. It was a desk job and Bob hated it. He told them he was going to resign, so they gave him his old job back as the Southern Division Manager in Atlanta. I served as a regional manager in Charlotte, NC and SC. Where ever Bob was sent he included me. Near the end of his life he arranged for me to get his job as the Southern District Division Manager.

I traveled with Bob on a number of sales meetings and we sometimes shared a ho tel room. I remember that sometimes when he was sleeping his injured eyelid was open and it looked like he was awake and watching but he was asleep.

Bob could not get rid of the demons from World War II, but he never complained about it. He died of heart failure when he was 55 years old.

Bob through hard work saved enough money to send his three children through college and to allow his wife Barbara to have a good life into her nineties. World War II made his short life hard but memorable. Our prayers and praise for Bob.

I never will forget when they were burying him. This was not planned, but three fighters flew over head. Bob was the bravest most courageous man I eve
r knew.
Bob, you were a great man and we miss you.

Written by: Dick Sawyer, personal friend and coworker

Bob Jones on the right


Background Information

National Archives
"A Fighter Pilot's Story" by Quentin C. Aanensen

Subject: National Archives and other information about Robert B. Jones

Dear Dad and Rob:

I received some information about Robert B. Jones from several searches the requests I made from the National Archives and other WWII POW websites that I thought I would pass on to you. I researched him because I always wanted to know more about where he was and so what he did in WWII. Hopefully most of the information is correct.

Robert B. Jones was born in Culpeper. He enlisted in the Air Corps as a Private on February 9, 1943. He enlisted for the duration to the discretion of the president (as opposed to a limited time enlistment) and was assigned Serial number 13062956. At some point after basic pilot training he was assigned to the 366th Fighter Group flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. The 366th FG was activated at the Richmond, VA Army Base on June 10, 1943 and later transferred to the Bluenthenthal Air Field, NC where the pilots trained on the P-47.

In December 1943 the 366th FG embarked for England. In January, 1944, the 366th arrived in England and was assigned to RAF Membury, where for the next several weeks they received training from veteran pilots from the air war over Germany. On March 1, 1944 the 366th was moved to RAF Thruxton as part of USAAC Ninth AIr Force, 7lst Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command and comprised three squadrons: the 389th, 390th and 391st Fighter Squadrons (haven't determined what squadron he was in yet).

Prior to the 366th FG arrival, RAF Thruxton was transferred from RAF Cooperation Command, No, 225 Squadron (which flew Westland Lysanders dropping spies into France) and RAF Bomber Command No. 297 Squadron (flying Whitley Bombers) to the USAAC on January 3, 1944. RAF Thruxton had three concrete runways but before it could be use, YS Army engineers installed Marsden matting and concrete reinforcements on the taxiways to handle the heavier US planes.

On March 14, 1944 the 366th engaged in its first combat sortie conducting a fighter sweep over the Normandy Coast in France in preparation for D-Day, On April 12, 1944, the CO of the 366th, Colonel Dyke Meyer, shot down two German planes, but the most successful day for the 366th was June 12, 1944 when they shot down ten enemy aircraft. The 366th FG lost 27 P-47's on missions from RAF Thruxton and shot down 23 German planes. On D-Day itself, the 366th FG flew ground attack missions attacking gun emplacements and German convoys.

On June 9, 1994, the 366th FG conducted ground support to allied forces during the famous allied breakout in the hedgerow country at St. Lo, France. On June 17, 1944 the 366th moved to its Advanced Landing Ground (ALG A-I) at St. Pierre du Mont, France right behind the coastline from Omaha Beach, The 366th FG continued its ground attack and fighter sweeps throughout the war and moved to several more ALGs keeping up with the advancing allied troops. The 366th FG participated in the Battle of the Bulge conducting ground attack and armed reconnaissance missions.

The 366th flew its last mission on May 3, 1945 against harbors at Kiel and Flensburg, Germany from its last ALG at Munster/Handorf Aerodrome, (ALG7-94. The 366th FG was inactivated at Fritzlar, Germany on August 20,1946.

Records indicate that Robert B. Jones was reported shotdown on July 28th, 1944, and reported officially interned as a POW (#0&816114) by the Germans on September 6, 1944. He was reported later as being assigned to Stalag Luft III at Sagan-Silesia, Bavaria but was later moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser.

The following information was obtained from the website for the book

"A Fighter Pilot's Story" by Quentin C. Aanensen.

Twenty Days in Normandy July 15, 1944 through August 3, 1944. This was the first of several intense periods of war we had throughout the last six months of 1944 and the end of the war in Europe in May 1945. For the pilots of the 366th Fighter Group, it was an especially brutal time. We had moved from England to Normandy on D+12 about a month earlier, and living conditions were still rather Spartan. Our food primarily consisted of K­rations with an occasional pot of dehydrated stew. But at least we were now under cover with about six men to a pyramidal tent, sleeping on standard mail army canvas cots. We even had a jerry-rigged shower made by mounting two wing tanks on a wooden stand.

But Allied forces were stalled in Normandy. The Germans had pinned us into the hedgerow country, and daily Allied gains on the ground were measured in hundreds of yards, if any. Right behind our tent area in an apple orchard was an American 90mm anti-aircraft battery, and almost every night a couple of German planes would fly over. These 90mm guns and a thousand others spread across Normandy would open fire, and the sky would be filled with tracers and falling shrapnel. Uninterrupted sleep was uncommon.

Here is a brief report of some of my missions during this time frame:

July 15, 1944: Dive bombed the railroad bridge on the Seine River at Rouen, France. Halfway through the 60 degree dive from 8,000 feet, I took a direct hit in my right wing from a 40mm flak shell, leaving a large hole completely through the wing. I am sure I was praying as I pulled out of that dive, expecting the wing to collapse any second. If it had, I would have had no chance to bail out - the G-forces would have pinned me in the cockpit. Thirty minutes later I was safely on the ground at our airstrip in Normandy.

July 17, 1944: Coutances, France. Dive bombed bridge. ME-109s and FW-190s attacked us in our dive. Our top cover flight of four P-47s engaged them.

July 24. 1944: Attacked along front lines. Dive bombed and strafed German troop concentrations. Heavy flak.

July 27, 1944: Morning mission, armed reconnaissance. We destroyed two tanks and several trucks. My element leader, 2nd Lt. Paul Bade, was killed within 40 feet of me.

July 27, 1944: Afternoon mission, armed reconnaissance along front lines. Strafed anything that moved behind German front lines. Intense flak. Battle damage.

July 29, 1944: Gavrey, France. Dive bombed bridge and tanks. Intense flak. My bombs hung up, so I had to carry them back and land with them still attached to my wings. Fuel warning light had been on for 20 minutes. Because of weight of the bombs I had to land at high speed. Plane in front of me was slow in clearing the runway. He had not heard my repeated calls, "I'm landing hot. Clear the runway." I overran him near end of the runway. The photograph of the plane that didn't clear the runway shows that two pilots were very lucky that day.

August 1, 1944: Tours, France. Armed reconnaissance. Strafed train and vehicles. Hit by flak. All pilots very tired from stress of continuing combat.

August 3, 1944: Scrambled in a hurry to dive bomb German tanks counter-attacking near Mortain. Over Vire I took several 20mm flak hits. Fire in the cockpit and supercharger. Tried to bail out but canopy was jammed from flak hit. Crash landed at our base. Knocked unconscious, dislocated shoulder in crash landing. After this mission I was given several days leave in London to recover. I was back flying missions on August 10, 1944. (Note: current x­ rays still show damage to shoulder and three ribs broken by shoulder harness).

366th Fighter Group Casualties - July 24, 1944 through August 2, 1944:

July 24: Captain Vernon Taylor shot down by flak.

July 26: 1st Lt. Robert Ackerly. Hit by flak. Bailed out - plane was on fire.

July 26: 1st Lt. John Englehart. Hit by flak. Bailed out.

July 27: 1st Lt. Charles Ray. Strafing with bombs on. Hit by flak - crashed and burned. KIA.

July 27: Capt. Jack Engman. Hit by flak. Plane was on fire. Bailed out at 8,000 feet, but chute did not open. KIA.

July 27: 2nd Lt. Paul Bade. Hit by flak at low altitude. Tried to bailout, but was too low. KIA. Waved to wingman an instant before he crashed. I was that wingman.

July 28: 2nd Lt. Robert Jones. Shot down by flak. Injured in bailout.

July 28: 2nd Lt. Clinton Mendenhall. Hit by flak in his dive. Crashed in flames. KIA.

August 2: 1st Lt. Kenneth Roberts. Hit by flak over Vireo Crashed on edge of town. KIA.

The picture above is from Annensen's book "A Fighter Pilot's Story" and I couldn't believe it when I saw it .. has a picture of Robert Jones! He was one of Annensen's best friends and the following caption goes with the picture. I have emailed Mr. Aanensen for more info about Robert Jones and am waiting a response:

The caption below goes with the picture.

This is what happened to my buddies: (L to R):
Quentin Aanensen
Lt. Paul Bade Killed in Action July 27, 1944
Lt. Paul Stryker Killed in Action December 1, 1944
Lt. Robert Jones Missing in Action July 28, 1944

A story from Herb Stachler, another pilot of the 366th and friend of Quentin Annensen (and probably Robert Jones):

On June 11, 1944, five days after D-Day, we were flying top cover along
Normand Beach at about 4,000 feet, when there was a loud crack and pieces of shrapnel flew back into my cockpit One piece went through my pants leg. I looked out and saw damage to the wing. Just then my element leader shouted on the radio. 'Herbie, there's a German on your tail!' At the moment I was flying “tail-end Charlie” and enjoying the scenery, when this FW·190 sneaked up behind and tried to pick me off.

If that guy is alive today, he is probably wondering why I didn’t go down –he had a perfect shot at me. There was no evasive action on my part, since I did not know that I was being attacked. In an instant he had disappeared, and then I noticed that my oil pressure was dropping and that I was losing hydraulic pressure as well. Next, I noticed there was fluid on the floor. My first thought was gasoline, since my main 300 gallon tank was right below me. It proved to be hydraulic fluid though, but I knew I couldn't make it back to England.

There was an allied air base under construction atop the cliffs, inland from the beach. I told my element leader that without oil and hydraulics I would have to land now, so I set down on this runway. This got pretty tricky, because without hydraulic fluid I had no brakes and no flaps. Fortunately - even without hydraulic pressure - the landing gear fell down and locked into place, but without flaps I had to land at 180 mph. It took a little 'bump' of the plane to make sure the gear locked, but this was standard procedure. The base was a 'chicken-wire' airstrip, our pet name for wire landing mesh that looked like large hardware cloth. After I landed and parked, I got out of my plane and looked it over carefully. When I saw all the damage, I started to shake, and I shook uncontrollably. I had been that close to 'buying the farm.'

The engine is attached to the fuselage with four tubular frame motor mounts, one of which was shot through. The ground crew at the landing strip was unable to repair it, but they did fix the oil lines and the hydraulic lines. They also patched up the fuselage where the 20mm explosive projectile came through. The holes in the wings could wait until I got back to England. When I was finally able to return to our base at Thruxton a few days later, I found that the outfit was in the process of moving to Normandy, Landing Strip A-1, the runway where I had made my forced landing"

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