CAPTAIN CHARLES H. JONES

(466 Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, C Battery)

 

Charles H. Jones of Hamilton, Ohio died in November 2011, at the age of 92. He was the youngest of eight children and was survived by his wife of 73 years and his five children. After graduating from Ohio State he was commissioned an officer from ROTC training. He volunteered for active duty in 1942, had advanced artillery training at Fort Sill and volunteering for Army Airborne in 1943 at Fort Benning.

 

He served as a Battery Commander and Assistant S-3 of the 466th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion in the European Theater. In late 1944 his Division entered the Ardennes Campaign and engaged in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944/January 1945.

 

Captain Jones’ unit endured the largest losses of any battalion in Operation Varsity, Rhine Crossing Operation of March 21, 1945 - suffering 35% casualties. His unit received the Presidential Citation for Valor. He returned to the US having received the Bronze Star with “V” device, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster and was awarded the Silver Star, which was only two awards below the Medal Of Honor!

 

During his career he also received the American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with Hourglass.

 

Through the GI bill, he obtained a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. He continued his service through the Army Reserves before switching to the Ohio National Guard. At only 31, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and completed a year of active duty during the Korean Conflict. Through continued achievements and leadership, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Ohio Army National Guard, becoming a Major General before retiring in 1979. He also received two additional peace-time decorations; the Meritorious Service Medal and the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1982, a new National Guard Armory in Fairfield, Ohio was named in his honor, a rare distinction for a living person. In 1992 he was a selection for the Ohio National Guard Hall of Fame.

 

He served his hometown and county in leadership and participation capacities with many local, worthy organizations. In addition, he was twice elected State Representative in Ohio and once to the State Senate before leaving elected public office in 1966. During his term, his fellow legislators elected him as one of the ten most outstanding representatives.

 

Charles H. Jones had a celebrated life as a father, an attorney, a local statesman and as a dedicated American through continued devoted military and civil service to Ohio and his country.

 

At his death, he had a well-deserved, full military service where his son, Charlie Jones, spoke, emphasizing his Silver Star award as a life defining moment any veteran would understand and any patriotic citizen would appreciate.

 

In his son's words:

 

"My Dad, Charles H. Jones, a twenty-six year old captain at the time, had a bone-chilling encounter with the Germans in January 1945, which led to him being awarded the Silver Star. Verification sources for his ordeal was The Stars and Stripes (the military’s newspaper), Bill Smith at Headquarters, the actual battlefield citation, and of course, Dad himself.

 

I had occasion to be alone with Dad in the dining room following dinner one evening in 2000. He had never been one to talk much about situations that occurred during the war. His incident had been given a title, 'Fire On Me'. I wanted to know, in detail, what took place. He began by saying that he never said, 'fire on me'. He said,

'I actually said zero on me'.

 

He was in Belgium, near the German border when he and his jeep driver spotted two forward observers about two hundred yards off the road. They were waving for someone to come and see what they had spotted in the heavy fog. He and Sergeant Carr, his driver and communications man, made their way to meet with these observers, on foot, through snow that was up to their knees. From their remote, shallow foxhole position, the observers pointed to the area they thought contained two large tanks a little over a hundred yards further out.

 

The fog was lifting and Dad recognized them as Nazi tanks. He instructed Carr to radio field artillery headquarters of the observance of the German tanks in the area. No sooner had this been done, when he realized the four of them had been spotted and that the two tanks were in full throttle coming straight at them.

 

With nowhere to go, the four dove into the two-man foxhole. And as luck would have it, dad was wearing a snow cape. Between the shifting fog, the deep snow, and the snow cape, the Germans appeared to have lost sight of my dad and his companions. But because their foxhole had been made on a small rise, the tanks came to a stop for observation – on both sides of them.

 

As the seconds turned into minutes, the tanks sat there, within arms length of their foxhole. Did the tank commander know they were there in the foxhole, with the intention of spinning around and grinding the four of them to death when they decided to move on? Headquarters and the other observers were ill equipped to defend themselves against these tanks.

 

After several minutes of pure horror crept by, Dad radioed headquarters with a short, somber command, 'Zero on me', and followed with, 'commence firing'. Stars and Stripes reported that the two German tanks were the new Royal Tigers; Germany’s new generation of super tanks that housed a five-man crew and weighed 70 tons.

 

Along with my brothers, Rick and Bruce, we took dad to the last 17th Airborne Division reunion in the fall of 2007 in Hampton, Virginia. At the closing banquet dinner, I introduced myself to the people at my table. Seated next to me was Bill Smith, of the 466th Parachute Field Artillery, the soldier who handled the phone call when the request came in to aim and shoot the howitzers at Dad’s position. He said, 'we couldn’t believe what he was requesting and we asked for confirmation. It was chaotic at headquarters. Because of his willingness to sacrifice his life, your dad is a legend!' I asked dad about his state of mind at the time. He said, 'I was sure I was going to die'. He paused for a few seconds then continued, 'but a complete sense of calm came over me and I was at total peace'.

 

He said that the howitzers began firing at him, missing any direct hits. To avoid being hit, the two tanks immediately went into reverse with full retreat. I asked how long the incident took and he told me about fifteen minutes. I’ve thought of that many times. Fifteen minutes or fifteen seconds, that would be enough to panic any person. We all have events in our life that we deal with and move on or use them to build on, but that only a few people have situations that present themselves as a defining moment in their life. I believe it set the course for a future political and military leader, a dedicated American, yet a quiet, unassuming man that so many grew to love and respect.”

Official website of the veterans and descendants of the 17th Airborne Division.  World War II US Army paratroopers

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This website, and the Scions organization, is dedicated to all the veterans who served with the 17th Airborne Division at any time during its period of activation. The site is administered by the "Scions of the 17th Airborne Division, Inc.", an organization chartered by 17th veterans to honor the service of all its veterans and to insure that the story of the 17th Airborne is told. The website will be updated to add information and documents related to the 17th Airborne.

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