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thedrifter
09-02-09, 08:52 AM
September 2, 2009
Vets: End of WWII underplayed

Pearl Harbor survivor says atomic bomb controversy to blame

Brian Indrelunas
The Desert Sun

Many Americans remember when the U.S. entered World War II, but few can recall exactly when it ended. That's what veterans such as Cathedral City resident Don S. Jones want to change.

Jones is the local chapter president and regional district director for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

He was stationed in Nagasaki, Japan, in the final days of World War II.

“I was a part of the beginning and the end,” he said.

More attention should be paid to the events that ended the war, he said.

“They always announce (the anniversary of) D-Day in Europe, but they never announce the end of World War II.”

The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945. Japan agreed to surrender on Aug. 14, but the documents weren't signed until Sept. 2.

Jones joined the Marine Corps in 1938 and was sent to Pearl Harbor in spring 1940.

“At Pearl Harbor, I was a corporal and I was in supply. My job was to pick up Marine Corps freight at the docks.”

By 1941, he turned his attention to his native Kansas.

“I had been in the service almost four years, and I was looking forward to getting out,” he said. “I was going to go back to Kansas and be a farmer.”

Still, Jones knew war was coming. The day before the attack, he bet another service member that war with Japan would start within a month. “He paid me my dollar,” he said.

Even when he joined the Marines at age 18, Jones said he knew conflict was on the way.

“One reason that we joined the service in those days is we knew a war was coming,” he said. “We thought if we joined the service, then we'd be better trained, and that's probably why I am here today.”

On Dec. 7, 1941, Jones was in the Navy hospital at Pearl Harbor recovering from minor surgery.

“I was reading the Sunday paper and, all of a sudden, we started hearing all these explosions and we thought, well, they're working on a dry dock they've been building,” he said. “Somebody ran into the barracks and said, ‘We're being attacked by the Japanese.'”

Jones quickly ran outside behind the hospital.

“Almost immediately, a plane flew over real low, and dirt kicked up beside us,” he said. “Somebody said, ‘What's that?' and somebody else said, ‘By God, we're being shot at.'”

Jones found a 2- to 3-foot ditch and decided to jump in if any enemy aircraft returned.

“It probably wasn't but another few minutes that somebody hollered, ‘Here he comes again,'” he said. “Here was a plane coming right at us.”

Jones jumped down as the plane crashed and slid over the ditch where he sought refuge.

“A lot of people think that this was the first plane that was shot down in World War II, but we don't know for sure,” he said.

Jones retrieved a piece of a parachute from the downed plane that he donated to the Palm Springs Air Museum.

After the attack, he spent another year in Pearl Harbor, which changed a great deal.

“They had barbed wire on all the beaches,” he said. “Everybody wore gas masks.”

He spent 1943 at the Marine base in San Diego, where he met wife Doris, an airplane manufacturing plant worker.

The next year, Jones was sent to the Pacific island of Saipan and also served briefly on Okinawa. But he had returned to Saipan by the time he was sent to Japan in the fall of 1945.

Nagasaki, 1945

Jones said he's one of only a handful of veterans who saw the attack on Pearl Harbor and the final days of the war in Japan.

“There's only about four of us in the world that we know of,” Jones said, adding that two of those men passed away.

Arthur G. Herriford, national president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, said the association doesn't keep track of how many Pearl Harbor survivors later deployed to Japan in 1945.

“I know there had to be some on other ships, but I can't say (how many),” he said. “We have no such record in our organization.”

Jones said that as he set out for Japan, he didn't know exactly where he would land.

“We just knew we were going to Japan. We didn't know what to expect when we got there.”

Jones, by that time a supply sergeant in the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Marines, was sent to Nagasaki, which had been hit by an atomic bomb less than a month before.

“I landed in Nagasaki about the same time the surrender documents were signed. There were hundreds of dead bodies floating in the harbor.”

Jones said he found an almost completely deserted city, which had a population of about 100,000 before the bomb blast.

“After the bomb, everything was gone, like a giant took a broom and swept everything away,” he said.

End date: Sept. 2

Jones said he thinks people are slow to mark the end of World War II in the Pacific because of the United States' use of atomic bombs in Japan.

“I think there's kind of a feeling that we didn't play fair,” he said. “But it stopped a tremendous, catastrophic war dead in its tracks.”

The American military was prepared to invade Japan, he said. “There were hundreds of ships headed toward Japan with troops on them,” he said. “(After the surrender) they all turned around in the middle of the ocean and went home.”

Jones said the use of nuclear weapons ultimately saved the lives of many people on both sides of the war.

“Dropping the atomic bomb saved the lives of at least a million American servicemen and many more millions of Japanese lives, which people don't seem to realize,” he said.

Herriford, the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association president, said Jones isn't alone in wanting more recognition of the events that ended World War II.

“I think I can speak for nearly all the veterans (in saying) the surrender in Tokyo Bay on the second of September ending World War II was far greater than defeating Germany. I read the invasion plans for Japan and, in my mind, people are not nearly aware of the enormity of that surrender.”

Jerry Newberry, communications director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said VFW posts mark the final days of World War II along with other milestones from U.S. wars and conflicts. “Those are days that we certainly make note of.”

The national organization also marked Victory in Japan Day last month by sending out a modern-day telegraph. On Aug. 14, the VFW posted a note on the social networking Web sites Twitter and Facebook that read, “History Recap: 64 years ago today, Japan surrendered, ending WWII.”

Newberry said the organization often hears from veterans who'd like to see greater recognition of one day or another, even as a national holiday.

He said the observance of Veterans Day each November is important because it honors all veterans — not just those who fought in World War I, which ended Nov. 11, 1918.

“But if the 11th day of the 11th month ... wasn't changed to Veterans Day, how many people realistically speaking would celebrate the end of World War I?” he added.

Ellie