Happy 100th Birthday Burton W. Jones!

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.

Private Burton W. Jones (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

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.

843rd BG(H) Ground Crew (Burton W. Jones via Priscilla Heburn/Evan Jones)

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.

Sergeant Burton W. Jones on Iwo Jima (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

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.

Burton W. Jones at World War II Memorial (via Priscilla Heburn & Evan Jones)

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.

In Memory of William G. Ebersole; September 30, 1924 – December 27, 2020

William Glenn Ebersole was born on September 30, 1924, in Arcadia, Florida. Upon graduation from high school, he entered the University of Florida in Gainesville, as a freshman in September, 1942. Wanting to control his entry into active service in the armed forces, he enlisted in the Air Corps Reserve on October 31, 1942, shortly after turning 18. The thought that he might have two years of college before being called up was short lived as he was ordered to report for active duty on February 24, 1943, in Miami Beach, Florida. On his way to earning his wings, Bill flew in Stearman PT-17s, BT-13s, and AT-6s. He received his wings and a 2nd Lieutenant’s commission on April 15, 1944, at Craig Field in Selma, Alabama, as part of class 44-D. During his training as a fighter pilot, Bill flew the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, and the A, B, C and D models of the North American P-51 Mustang.

Loomis Dean/USAAF/National Archives via Fold3

Bill was assigned to the 462nd Fighter Squadron of the 506th Fighter Group in early January of 1945. When deployed to Iwo Jima, half of the squadron’s fighter pilots ferried their brand new P-51D Mustangs to San Francisco, where they were loaded on the escort carrier Kalinin Bay and set out for Tinian. The other half of the pilots, which included 2nd Lieutenant Ebersole, took a troop train to Seattle, and then boarded the converted Swedish hospital ship, the Bloemfontein. They sailed from Seattle to Hawaii, Eniwetok Atoll, Tinian, and then finally to Iwo Jima.

William G. Ebersole via Brian Walter

Bill was the youngest pilot in the 462nd Squadron at the ripe old age of 20 years while on Iwo Jima, and flew a total of 10 VLR missions, the first being on June 7, 1945 to Osaka, and the last being on August 5, 1945, to Tachikawa. He was assigned to fly 619 “Hon. Mistake”, a North American P-51D-20-NA Mustang (Serial # 44-72587) with 2nd Lt. James Bercaw. While on Iwo Jima, he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and was credited with destroying a twin engine bomber on the ground during a strafing mission. Bill took his last flight in a P-51D Mustang on December 4, 1945, when he led a flight of 4 planes from Guam to Isley Field on Saipan. From there, he took a ship for the long trip back to the United States.

Bill Ebersole re-enrolled at the University of Florida, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. At the pinnacle of his career, he was the publisher of The Gainesville Sun.

Bill was scheduled to take a return trip to Iwo Jima with his wife Anna in March of 2020 as part of veterans’ flight, but never took that trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brad McClenny/Gainesville Sun

Bill was a frequent attendee at 506th Fighter Group reunions. I first met Bill at the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in 2012. Bill graciously spent several hours answering all of my questions, and I was fortunate to get to know Bill during several 506th Fighter Group reunions. His daughter, Glenda Ebersole Potts, said “I never met a man as good as my father . . . they don’t make’em like that anymore.” Anybody who knew Bill would heartily concur.

Bill Ebersole with the author during the Iwo Jima VLR Symposium at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Chino California (July 7, 2012)

Bill passed away on December 27, 2020 at the age of 96 after a bad fall and subsequent hospitalization. The newspaper article in The Gainesville Sun regarding Bill’s passing can be found here: https://www.gainesville.com/story/obituaries/2020/12/29/arcadia-man-wwii-pilot-and-sun-publisher-bill-ebersole-dies-96/4062253001/