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Jonesy: For God, Country, and Something to Eat

George Oliver Jones and Stephen Leal Jackson

Pages: 276
ISBN: 978-145752-484-4
List Price: 17.95
Available: January 2014
Edition: Perfectbound

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How did a sixteen year old Arkansas plowboy with an eighth-grade education find his way into the United States submarine service and onto the frontline of America’s naval war against Imperial Japan? For George Jones that path lay through the hardships of the Great Depression, around some of the rules and restrictions of enlistment, and into a Navy unprepared for the battles that lay ahead. During his service on a supply ship in the Asiatic Fleet, he watched the Japanese war machine grind across the Chinese mainland. Hard work, brains, and savvy helped George transfer to the submarine service where he made three war patrols on antique “S” boats and four more on the USS Pogy, a modern fleet-type sub. Firsthand accounts of the seldom told pre-war Navy, of life on a World War I era submarine, and of the terror and triumph of undersea battle are detailed in this autobiographic tale. No “S” boats remain so all we know about the experience of living and fighting on these technologically obsolete vessels comes to us from those who served onboard them. When war began in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, it was the job of ships like the old “S” boats to defend our shores against a numerically superior foe as the nation’s military and industrial forces came together to design and build warships up to the task of defeating the Japanese Navy. Though these boats could travel great distances and inflict damage on enemy ships they were never designed for the extended war patrols that were required in the vast Pacific Ocean. George relates how just surviving the patrol was sometimes a challenge, even when not being attacked. As challenging as a patrol was on these boats and on the fleet-boats that followed, a depth charge attack was a nightmarish experience. Since propulsion generated noise, fleeing the scene was often the very thing a submarine crew could not do. As George describes, many hours were spent on the bottom or inching slowly along while depth charges rained down on the defenseless sub below. The hulls of these tiny craft strained and popped at the concussion of the exploding charge that sought out that weakened joint, valve, or fitting that would allow in the killing pressure of the sea. George’s experiences are not confined to the submarine service alone. His accounts of the Japanese occupation of the coastal Chinese cities like Shanghai, Tsingtao, and Chinwangtao, and of the sinking of the river gunboat USS Panay (PR-5), recall the onset of the war in the Pacific that few have experienced. Both the tensions of a nation at war and the feelings of being surround by death but not touched by it are clearly presented. Exclusive of the war, many aspects of war-era life are brought to life in this book. The need for and use of gasoline ration cards, the scarcity of everyday goods, the difficultly of domestic travel, and the challenges on the home front are all clearly related by a man who actually experienced them.

George Jones spent his youth in Arkansas working on his family’s hardscrabble farm and searching for opportunities made scarce by the Great Depression. Deliverance came in the form of an enlistment into the Navy. He first served in the Asiatic Fleet near war-torn China. Later, George joined the Submarine Service and sailed on two of the “S” boats, riveted WWI antiques that were called on to meet the challenges of modern warfare as America’s Navy rebuilt after Pearl Harbor. George’s story is one of excitement and danger, comradeship and loss, struggle and victory. Also a Navy veteran, Stephen Leal Jackson spent eight years in the submarine force. Jackson has published books and articles on the cultural and military history of submarines in the twentieth-century. His unique perspective as both a submariner and historian allows Jackson to provide the reader access to the gripping trials and terrors of the undersea battles of World War II. Jones grew up during the Great Depression on an Arkansas cotton farm. Though opportunities were few, he managed to secure an enlistment in the U. S. Navy which provided a road to a brighter future and an immediate steady paycheck. He first served on a supply ship, the USS Bridge (AF-1), in the Asiatic Fleet. He volunteered for submarines and after school in Groton, Connecticut, was assigned to the USS S-45 (SS-156), stationed out of Coco Solo, Panama, C. Z. At the beginning of the war the S-45 changed homeport to Brisbane, Australia from which George made his first war patrol. He later transferred to and made two more patrols on the USS S-38 (SS-143), another old “S” boat. Me made a final wartime transfer to the USS Pogy (SS-266), a modern fleet-type submarine, where he went on another four war patrols. Jones experiences don’t end with his submarine service. He was in San Francisco Bay at the time of the Port Chicago disaster, retired as a Chief Petty Officer and became a supervisor in the Nuclear Design Department at Electric Boat, and made his home in Connecticut, far from his origins in Arkansas. His humble style and homespun humor provide a pleasing narrative to this information-packed yarn. Jackson joined the Navy in October 1975 and trained as a Nuclear Machinist’s Mate. After completing Naval Nuclear Power School he reported to the USS Los Angeles, the lead ship of the 688-Class attack submarines where he qualified on submarines in 1979. He transferred to a new construction assignment in 1980 and became a plankowner of the USS Florida (SSBN-728). After leaving the Navy in 1983, Jackson began a career in the commercial electric utility industry. He received an NRC Senior Reactor Operator license in 1987 and has worked at several utilities in a number of different capacities. A lifelong student of history, Jackson received a Masters of History in American and Modern European History from Providence College in 2005 and is currently completing his dissertation for a PhD from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. His first book, The Men: American Enlisted Submariners in World War II, was published in 2010 and addressed many of the issues surrounding selection of the submarine service by the common man. Jackson has also written articles on the use of submarines by Imperial Germany and on the new role of women in the submarine force both which appeared in The Submarine Review.