World War II Experiences
"Timeless Voices" Oral History Project

Interview with

Edward Jones, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force

Interviewer: Randy Stange

Interview conducted at the
398th Bomb Group Annual Reunion
The Radisson Hotel, Covington, KY., September 11, 2003


The 398th has been interviewing its members as part of the Timeless Voices of Aviation project. More information about the project and a current list of video interviews can be found at 398th Timeless Voices Interviews. In addition to the video interviews, some of the interviews have been transcribed to text.


Interview with

Edward Jones, 398th Bomb Group Pilot
603rd Squadron, Eighth Air Force

Q: Interviewer, Randy Stange
EJ: 398th Pilot, Edward Jones

Q: Where are you currently living?
EJ: Big Hills Lake near Wild Rose, Wisconsin

Q: Where did you grow up? In Wisconsin?
EJ: I went to high school in Wisconsin and then went on to the University of Wisconsin after high school

Q: Do you have any siblings?
EJ: I have a sister.

Q: She didn’t serve in the war I assume?
EJ: She was in the USO.

Q: Where did she end up going?
EJ: Sparta, Wisconsin

Q: What did your parents do for a living?
EJ: My father was a farmer, but then the Depression hit, we lost the farm, and he went into selling fertilizer and so on.

Q: Do you remember where you were when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
EJ: Oh yeah. I was at the University, and six of us on the Wisconsin baseball team went down and signed up for the Air Corps. We were told a little later on that we had to wait; they didn’t have enough bases ready yet, so we had to go back to school.

Q: You were going to college at that time?
EJ: Yes, I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Q: Any reason you chose the Army Air Corps?
EJ: Well I thought I’d rather do that than get in the infantry

Q: When did they call you up for service?
EJ: Well actually, we were called up in 43.

Q: Where did they send you for your basic training?
EJ: For basic we went to Ballinger, Texas, then on to Angelo, Texas, and then we took our advanced up in Lubbock, Texas. We were then assigned to the 398th bomb group.

Q: Was that in Rapid City [South Dakota]?
EJ: Right. Five of us were assigned to Rapid City.

Q: How long were you in Rapid City and do you recall when you went over?
EJ: We got to Rapid City in January. They were having severe snowstorms. We got very little time actually flying the B17. We were put in with lead pilots, fortunately. We got our transition training under combat conditions. I’ll tell you, you learn fast when your neck’s at stake!

Q: How did you get over to England? Did you take a plane or were you shipped over on a transport?

EJ: We flew our own plane over. On the way, we were about halfway across the ocean Axis Sally came on the phone and said “We welcome the 398th Bomb Group to England. We know half of you are at your base at Nuthampstead and the rest of you are on the way”. Boy we were quite amazed. We thought “What in Thunder is going on here!”
Q: Good intelligence!

Q: How many combat missions did you fly?
EJ: 33

Q: Were there casualties in your crew?
EJ: No, fortunately there wasn’t. We were on that mission where Judson Gray was killed. That’s where Jerry went down. They were leading the group that day, we were flying deputy lead. I can still see Judson’s face. They pulled out of formation, he pulled off his oxygen mask.. I can see his face just as plain as I can see yours..and he waved “so long”. Our boys watched; they said they went down about 5,000 feet and blew up. We thought everybody was dead, including Jerry. I didn’t find out differently about that till almost a year later. When I got back from overseas, I stopped in to Chicago to see Jerry’s folks. They came out the door and hugged me. I couldn’t understand why they were so happy. I asked if they had heard from Jerry and they said sure, he’s a prisoner of war. That was the first time we found out about that.

Q: Any other memorable experiences or missions that you can think of?
EJ: We lost our CO, he was one heck of a fine man. We lost him on that Berlin trip. He was leading the formation that day. We were deputy lead, flying right underneath him. As they bailed out, he peeled over on the right side and kinda waved so long. That was the last we saw of them.

Q: Did you keep any good luck charms or anything of that nature while you were flying combat missions?
EJ: No, I can’t say that I did

Q: Did you ever see any of the USO shows at the base?
EJ: I never saw a USO show any place. Of all the shows they put on, I never saw one of them!

Q: What did you guys do on leave or what pranks did you pull at the base
EJ: I used to go into Cambridge, I went into London at first, but then I decided to go into Cambridge and went in there most of the time.

Q: What did you think of the officers of the group after Colonel Hunter was killed?
EJ: Well we had good officers after that. I’ll be very frank, we weren’t too keen on Colonel Hunter. We came back one day, all shot to hell, on one engine, and the plane was almost a total wreck. He came out to the plane; he got out and walked all around the plane, looking at it. He didn’t come and say one word to us.. not one single word! So right then that told us what kind of individual he was.

Q: Were you awarded any medals or citations?
EJ: Oh yeah, got the Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, several ??

Q: Did you keep in touch with your family while you were overseas?
EJ: Oh yeah, I kept them abreast of what was going on, well as much as we could tell.

Q: When did your service end with the Army Air Corps?
EJ: I got out in ’44. I think it was in September of ’44 if I remember correctly. I went back to the University to finish my education.

Q: So you were at the University when they dropped the atomic bomb.
EJ: Yes.

Q: How did you feel about it?
EJ: Well I was darned happy that it happened.

Q: Because it ended the war?
EJ: Yes.

Q: What did you do after the war?
EJ: I took graduate work and got my Ph.D. in plant pathology. I was on the Cornell University faculty for 20 something years.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
EJ: I can’t think of anything really.

Q: Is the 398th the only veteran organization you are a member of?
EJ: Yes that’s right, it is.

Q: Thank you very much Ed.


See also:
  1. Lassegard's Crew - 603rd Squadron - April 1944
  2. Return to 398th Timeless Voices Interviews to view and listen to the interview.


  1. Lt. Edward Jones was initially a Co-pilot with Leroy Lassegard's 603rd Crew and later Pilot of his own 603rd Squadron crew.
  2. The above transcription was provided by Amy Goll, daughter of Frank Henning, 600th Squadron in March 2008.
  3. The transcription was obtained from a video file.
  4. Punctuation, grammar and minor word changes may have been made to improve readability.
  5. Additional information may be shown in brackets [ ].