On February 1st of this year, the 506th Fighter Group Association helped celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones, who was a ground crew member (mechanic and armorer) with the 457th Fighter Squadron. Staff Sergeant Jones was assigned to 541 “Kwitcherbitchin”, flown by Captains William B. Lawrence and Alan J. Kinvig.
Burton’s family was hoping that he would receive at least 100 birthday cards from family, friends and well wishers. Burton actually received over 300 birthday cards!
On October 25, 2021, we were informed by Priscilla Hepburn-Jones that Burton had passed away. Like other members of his generation, Burton returned from the war and became active in his community serving in many civic organizations.
On October 24, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation. Burton’s obituary can be found here: https://www.uticaod.com/obituaries/k0030474. Our prayers are with Burton’s family during this time of loss.
Albert Arthur Sharke was born on March 13, 1921, in New York City. He entered into Columbia University as a first generation college student. Like many others of his generation, his post-secondary education was put on hold during the time he served his country in World War II.
The 457th Squadron Unit History indicates that 2nd Lt. Albert A. Sharke was assigned to the squadron on December 18, 1944, as Armament Officer, replacing 2nd Lt. McCallick who was transferred out of the squadron. 2nd Lieutenant Sharke, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron, took a troop train from Lakeland Army Air Field to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.
It appears that Lt. Sharke may have been the armorer for the P-51D Mustang flown by 1st Lieutenant Larry Grennan, although that cannot be confirmed. Squadron histories just do not go into that amount of detail, and we do not have any good photos of Lt. Grennan’s P-51D to see if Lt. Sharke’s name appears on the plane. Without either the pilot(s) or ground crew providing that information, that piece of information is lost forever.
Albert Sharke was promoted to 1st Lieutenant while on Iwo Jima. After being honorably discharged after the war, Albert graduated in 1947 from Columbia University with a degree in metallurgical engineering. After working briefly at Air Reduction Laboratories, he spent the duration of his career in chemical and refinery operations at Standard Oil of New Jersey.
The 506th Fighter Group lost another fighter pilot when Jack H. Folsom went west on January 16, 2021. Jack Folsom was born on December 7, 1922 in Des Moines, Iowa. He showed an affinity for airplanes and flying at an early age winning several awards at the Iowa State Fair for model building and distance flying as a teenager.
He graduated from Des Moines Lincoln High School in January of 1941, and enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jack was awarded his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission at Luke Field in Phoenix, Arizona as part of Class 43-D.
Like many 506th FG fighter pilots, Jack was a pilot instructor at Page Field in Fort Meyers, Florida, when he was assigned to the 457th FS shortly after the 506th FG was organized in October of 1944 at Lakeland Army Air Field. At Lakeland, the 506th FG pilots were trained specifically to fly very long range missions, and Jack flew over 10 VLR missions to Japan and back from Iwo Jima. During his tour on Iwo Jima, Jack was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of Jack while he was on Iwo Jima flying VLR missions. During his return to the United States after the cessation of hostilities, the contents of Jack’s foot locker were stolen depriving us all of a glimpse of that part of his life.
Upon his discharge after the end of World War II, Jack enrolled in Iowa State’s Aeronautical Engineering program and graduated in three and one half years. Jack worked for Boeing for 36 years, and retired in 1985 as the Chief Engineer at Boeing’s Renton plant.
After his retirement, Jack, and his wife Dorothy, built homes in Port Townsend, Green Valley, Arizona, and in Buhl, Idaho, where their home overlooked the Snake River and Kanaka Rapids. Jack was a very accomplished wood worker in his retirement; a craft which he shared with others.
Jack’s obituary stated that “[h]is life of integrity, honesty, a strong handshake, his commitment to Jesus Christ, and love for his family were his hallmarks.” On January 16, 2021, we lost another member of the Greatest Generation.
Exito is a Polish company which was started in 2008 as an internet hobby shop, and expanded in 2010 by establishing a brick and mortar store in 2010 in Cracow, Poland. In November of 2018, they launched their own line of high quality decals in 1/72nd, 1/48th and 1/32nd scales.
They recently released their 11th decal sheet entitled “Pacific Warriors” vol. 1, which includes decals for “501”, a 457th FS/506th FG P-51D-25-NA (44-72640) flown by Captain Evelyn Neff.
Their decal sheets appear to very well researched. The decal sheet comes with a separate decal placement guide for each plane. On one side is the decal placement guide with photos, aircraft profiles showing decal placements, and color call-outs.
On the other side are larger aircraft profiles. All of the aircraft profiles are the work of Polish aircraft illustrator, Janusz Swaitlon. They are printed on thick glossy paper suitable for framing. Very nice touch on the part of Exito.
The decals are in register and printed by Cartograf in Italy.
Exito gives you the option of two different markings for Captain Neff’s Mustang. The first option is the early 457th FS paint scheme with the green striped tail shortly after the 506th FG arrived on Iwo Jima as shown in the picture below. The nose art below the front of the canopy shows the half nude without a background.
The 506th Fighter Group Mustangs went to solid tails beginning in June of 1945 after the 7th Fighter Command ordered the three Mustang groups on Iwo Jima to adopt more simplified markings. The second option is 501 with a solid tail and the half nude nose art with a dark background as shown in the photo below. Again, nice touch on Exito’s part.
Kudos to Exito for releasing this decal sheet. Because they have labeled this decal sheet “vol. 1”, we can assume the future release of at least another “Pacific Warriors” decal sheet. Hopefully, volume 2 will include decals for another Iwo Jima VLR Mustang.
Brian Walter, one of the 506th Fighter Group’s historians, was a contributor on the decal sheet for Captain Neff’s VLR Mustang.
It is not often that a family gets to celebrate the 100th birthday of a loved one. Very few ever make it to that age, and that fact makes it all the more reason to celebrate that accomplishment. On February 1st, the Jones’ family and the 506th Fighter Group family get to celebrate the 100th birthday of Staff Sergeant Burton W. Jones (USAAF ret), who was a ground crew member in the 457th Fighter Squadron.
Burt was born on February 1, 1921, Whitesboro, New York, to Arthur and Mary (Briggs) Jones. He graduated from Whiteboro High School on June 26, 1939, was ordered to report on August 24, 1942, for his pre-induction physical, and then on September 8, 1942, to begin his basic training.
Because of a mechanical aptitude, and work experience in a garage and the Savage Arms Company, Burt was transferred to the United States Army Air Corps and began training as a armorer, and would later also be trained as an aircraft mechanic.
His first squadron assignment was the 24th Anti-Submarine Squadron working on North American B-25 Mitchells at Westover Army Air Field. From there, Burt was transferred to the 843rd Bombardment Squadron (H) working on the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. With the 843rd, he spent time at the Kearney Army Air Base in Kearney, Nebraska, then at MacDill Army Air Field near Tampa, Florida.
In May, 1944, then Sergeant Jones was informed that he had been transferred to the 457th Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group which had recently been formed and was in the process of organizing at Lakeland Army Airfield. At Lakeland, he was trained on how to service and repair the North American P-51D Mustang, and its in-line, liquid cooled Packard built Rolls-Royce Merlin engine.
Sergeant Jones, and the rest of the ground echelon of the 457th Fighter Squadron took a troop train from Lakeland to Seattle, Washington. They arrived on Iwo Jima onboard the H.M.S Bloemfontein, a converted Swedish hospital ship. The long overseas journey started in Seattle with stops at Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and finally Iwo Jima.
Burt began writing his memoirs at the age of 73. The following is what he wrote about his first night on Iwo Jima:
“Whether it was by providence or whatever, it was just our luck to hear some night fighters, Black Widow P-61 night fighting aircraft warming up on their strip. They were at the foot of Mount Suribachi on Motoyama air strip number one [South Field]. We soon got the word that the Japanese were coming in from Japan to bomb the island. You could hear the P-61s taking off. It wasn’t more than twenty minutes later when it looked like the 4th of July. Incendiary and tracer bullets were whizzing across the sky in every direction! I was going through our first of many bombing raids on Iwo Jima.”
After the war in the Pacific ended, Burt accumulated enough points to leave Iwo Jima by mid-October, 1945. He transitioned to Saipan, and during his short stint on the island, was assigned to the 882nd Bombardment Squadron (H) working on Boeing B-29s. Burt arrived back in the United States on December 3, 1945, returned home on December 13, 1945, and was honorably discharged from the United States Army Air Force on the same day.
Happy 100th Birthday Burton!
Special thanks to Burton’s daughter, Priscilla (Jones) Heburn, and his nephew, Evan Jones, for providing information and photos for this post.