Company D, 511th PIR
January 11, 1926 - January 24, 2012 (age 86) - gravesite
Citations: Presidential Unit Citation, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Badge, Philippine Liberation Medal with service star, the American Defense Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Battle Star and one Arrowhead
Unit Nickname(s): "Johnnie"
I arrived on this earth January 11, 1926, and spent my young life in the little valley town of Morgan Hill, California. We were farmers, and our family attended church regularly. I had one younger brother.
My future wife, Kay, and I were baptized together as babies in the “Little White Church By the Side of the Road”. We attended High School together, and I was drafted into the Army in my senior year. Fortunately, the Draft Board gave me a deferment so I could graduate with my class in June of 1944.
In August, 1944, I reported for duty in San Francisco, California, and was sent to the Presidio in Monterey for Orientation. I received lots of shots, and was given the rank of Buck Private. From there my outfit was loaded onto a train bound for Camp Hood, Texas. We arrived in Camp Hood at about 4 a.m. and it was like stepping into a blast furnace! After sixteen weeks of tough basic training, I was sent back to the Bay area. We boarded the Liberty ship S.S. Stinson Victory and sailed quietly under the Golden Gate Bridge under darkness, for destination unknown. For thirty days we zigzagged back and forth on the Pacific Ocean to avoid enemy submarines. At last, we were unloaded onto the bug-infested island of Leyte, in the Phillipines.
The 11th Airborne had suffered heavy casualties, and so all of us who were single and under 21 “volunteered” to join the paratroops. We were taken down to Batangas Bay, where we joined up with Company D.
D Company was preparing to patrol up into the mountains and carry supplies through the jungle to the G.I.s camped in outposts who were almost out of food. My job at this point was an ammunition bearer on a machine gun squad with young Philippino carriers. At one point they took a wrong turn and I sensed something wrong, so had them turn back about half a mile. Had we kept going, we would have ended up in a Japanese stronghold that was gathering down in the valley. God was guiding us!
After a major air strike, my “volunteer” group was told that we were now going to become paratroopers, and jump school was at Lipa Air Strip. After one week of training we started jumping from C-47 Cargo planes rigged for jumpers. I had never been in an airplane before, and had to take off 6 times before I got to land once! This was a two-week crash course (it usually takes a lot longer), because they needed us in such a hurry!
We flew up to the Northern part of Luzon to where the rest of the troops had jumped, and dropped supplies to them.
Later, after the Atomic Bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, our 11th Airborne Division secured Yokohama Airport and Tokyo Bay. We were there for the signing of the Peace Documents to end World War II.
I stayed in the Army for Occupation, and made rank of Staff Sergeant and was released from the Army in August 1946.
I returned home to Morgan Hill, California, where my family and Kay were waiting for me. My dear wife and I recently celebrated our 56th Wedding Anniversary.
Typed by Jane Carrico Sept 2004
Published in WINDS ALOFT Issue 78 Winter 2007
Johnnie was born to Wilbert and Dora Lenfest Jones. He grew up on a ranch in Morgan Hill, CA. He was baptized with his future wife, Kay, on Easter Sunday in 1927. They were always friends and fell in love on a Senior High School trip to Yosemite in 1944. Two months later, he was off to the Army where he served as a paratrooper in World War II. He and Kay later married. He went on to work for Petrolane and he also had his own Heating and Air Conditioning business. He went on to become Facilities Director of the Stonebridge Shopping Center in Pleasanton for 20 years. He could fix almost anything and greatly served his church doing all sorts of tasks.
If you would like to learn more about John's exploits within and the history of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II, please consider purchasing a copy of the book WHEN ANGEL'S FALL: FROM TOCCOA TO TOKYO, THE 511TH PARACHUTE INFANTRY REGIMENT IN WORLD WAR II, available in the regimental online store, on Amazon or wherever military history books are sold.