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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

‘Dodging bullets’
Veteran recalls best, worst experiences of WWII
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Courtesy Photo: Walter Jones recently celebrated his 90th birthday with a surprise party at his family’s farm in Sydnorsville. Seated is Jones, holding Logan Jones. Standing, from left, are Rachel Jones, Matthew Jones, Trevor Jones, Nancy Jones, Roger Jones, Kathy Palmieri, Shawn Thibodeau and Mitzi Kendrick.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

By LEIGH PROM - Special to the News-Post

"I wouldn't mind doing it again if I knew I wouldn't get killed," World War II Veteran Walter Jones of Rocky Mount said of his service in the military.

Jones, who celebrated his 90th birthday recently, said he wasn't certain when he was overseas if he would live to see his 24th birthday.

Jones was drafted into the U.S. Army on Dec. 30, 1942. He first served with the U.S. 99th Division in Fort Dix, N.J. and trained at Camp Van Dorn, Miss.

Jones was later assigned to the 85th Infantry Division, 337th Infantry Regiment, Second Infantry Battalion, Company G, under Maj. Gen. John B. Coulter.

Jones left the U.S. on Jan. 1, 1944. He arrived at North Africa on Jan. 9, 1944, where his division received amphibious and mountain training.

When the 85th moved into Italy, Jones earned a Bronze Star "for heroic achievement in action on 24 May 1944 in Italy."

When the fire of an enemy antitank gun halted the advance of their platoon, Jones and two other soldiers voluntarily went forward 75 yards under heavy enemy artillery and automatic weapons fire and destroyed the gun crew with rifle fire, killing two and wounding one of the enemy, according to documentation.

"It was me or them," Jones said of the incident.

As an infantryman on the front line, Jones carried the Browning Automatic Rifle (weighing 21 pounds without ammunition) through Italy to the German border. He was wounded in Minturno, Italy, when he was hit by shrapnel in the neck. The medic removed the shrapnel and Jones kept going.

The 85th entered Rome on June 4, 1944, and eventually took over the defense of the Arno River Line. The division attacked the mountain defenses of the Gothic Line on Sept. 13, 1944.

That September, Jones and several others overtook a German observation point, killing two German soldiers and destroying the German radio equipment, Jones said. Company G's first sergeant witnessed the attack and commended the soldiers on their actions.

Several days later, Jones was wounded in the foot. He was taken by ambulance to Rome. From Rome, he was taken by plane to a hospital in Naples for treatment. Upon release from the hospital, Jones was sent to Caserta, Italy, to work in the motor pool. He was responsible for driving a wrecker between Rome and Caserta to pick up disabled trucks and deliver them to the motor pool for repair or parts.

Jones was honorably discharged on Dec. 6, 1945. He entered the Army as a private, making $70 a month, and finished his service as a private first class, making $110-$115 a month.

Jones said his best experience in the Army was receiving his discharge papers. The worst was "dodging all them shells and all."

He also recalled being so tired and hungry over a two to three-day period when the soldiers didn't have any food. They were given pills that "killed hunger and kept us going," Jones said.

After his discharge from the Army, Jones married the former Iva Ross. The couple was married 62 years and had two children, Roger Jones and Kathy Palmieri. Jones also has three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Jones bought a 202-acre tobacco farm after he was married, but his wife did not like it. So they sold the farm and moved to Rocky Mount.

Over the years, Jones operated a sawmill and owned a service station. He retired from the sawmill, but returned to work as a foreman for Ferguson Land and Lumber until he retired for good.

Jones still lives alone in the house he bought in 1948.

"Family is in and out and keeps me active," he said, adding that he is grateful for all the support he gets from his friends, family and the community.

Jones stays busy with the American Legion, where he was recently honored for 66 years of service.

Jones also visits the family farm several times a week with his brother, Herbert Jones, 82. He enjoys going to antique car shows with Herbert and loves to ride in Herbert's 1940 Ford Coup.

"I've had a good life," Jones said. "I've had a lot of fun."

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