WWII Snapshots by Heather Rikoric - 2008

C. Clyde Jones, Naval Reserves

On the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941, Americans learned that airplanes belonging to the Japanese empire had attacked the U.S. Navy. But earlier that day, war was one of the furthest things from Clifton Clyde Jones' mind for he was in [his hometown of] Huntington, W.V., visiting a girlfriend. But when he heard the news, he knew things would change. The draft law had just recently been put into effect and would certainly be enforced. At age 19, even though a full-time college student, he went with a close friend to enlist.

"I am surprised that we didn't choose to go in the same branch of service as each other," Jones said. "But he wanted the Army and I wanted no part of the infantry. My vision of being a private in the Army was being sent off to war in Europe and being in the middle of the trenches. I didn't want any part in that."

Jones decided to enlist in the Naval Reserves rather than being drafted in the Army. He said at the time he joined, he had a somewhat idealistic view of what being aboard a ship and sailing the oceans would be like.

Jones signed up for a program called V7. It was for college students that gave them the opportunity to complete their civilian studies. As a bonus, if they graduated, they were sent off to officers' training school.

Jones, however, received a bit of a surprise. While he was set to graduate in June 1944, he was called up into service one year earlier. The V7 program was merged with V12, a program for students just entering school. All were immediately placed in ROTC training programs on college campuses. Jones was one of the dozen or so upperclassmen in the program.

"My two roommates were both freshman. Absolutely green kids without knowledge of anything," he said. "Here I am, ready for my senior year in college - the old man in the group."

His first duty was to continue his schooling. He was a student at Bethany College for one term and then in November 1943 was sent to Northwestern University in Chicago. In March 1944, he received his officer's commission and reported for duty overseas.

"You had to be a good student. You couldn't goof off," he said.

While being in the service was not much fun, not everything about it was bad. One of the good things was meeting his wife, Margaret [Scheldrup], who is called "Midge."

"I met my current wife of 60 years at school," Jones said.

She was a worker at the U.S. Treasury Department and her office was across the street from the school. They met at a social event that the girls put together for service men. Jones said it was a wonderful occasion.

"Feb. 5, 1944 was the day I met her and goes down as the defining moment," he said.

His first overseas assignment was for three weeks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu at the main naval base that the Japanese had attacked. He was assigned different security duties for which he had received no training.

"In other words, here's a problem, you go on duty and keep the peace," Jones said.

One of the most difficult assignments had nothing to do with the enemy. It was a racial riot following a boxing match between an African American Marine and a Caucasian sailor. The crowd didn't like the final decision and fights broke out outside the arena. A number of people were put in prison because of it and Jones was sent to be a guard. He was barely 21 and felt he had never really fired a gun in earnest. Four or five others like him were also on the detail and none of them had a clue as to what they were doing either. To make matters worse, it was at night.

"I never have actually fired a gun, but I am handed a 45 revolver and told, 'OK, go keep the peace at that prison camp.'"

But that assignment turned out to be easier than his next one - adjusting to the ship when they put out to sea. Jones compared the size of the ship to two football fields.

"We are accustomed to having lots of room to move around and even in my temporary duty in Hawaii, I had freedom to move around the island," he said.

Jones was aboard two ships. One was the USS Foreman (644), a destroyer escort, and the other was a station tanker, the IX 114 Gazelle. On board the latter was a seaman who desperately wanted to go home. One day they heard a shotgun go off. The seaman had shot his toe off, hoping it would get him sent home. Instead, he ended up in prison.

Humorous events happened, too, such as the time someone stole a case of canned turkey.

"[The] Captain had everyone lined up out on deck and had a group of people searching all of the enlisted men's lockers and quarters trying to find the turkey," Jones said.

Two seamen eventually confessed. At the time, Jones was a junior officer on the ship. His job was to report the crime to the court-martial board.

"All of that was hilariously funny to me � going through all of that. Are we really making this much of a deal over somebody taking some turkey?" Jones asked.

But they soon had more than stolen turkey to worry about. One early morning, Jones was awakened at 4.

"I heard this horrible explosion and jumped out of my bunker, looked out my little port hole and saw this huge bellowing flame go up beside me," he said.

A Japanese submarine had torpedoed the tanker beside them. They ran to their battle stations as the tanker sunk, assuming there were more subs in the harbor and there would be more torpedoes.

"That was my first awareness of the fact that I was here today and could be gone tomorrow," Jones said.

On another occasion, they experienced an attack by Japanese pilots who were trying to crash their planes into the ships.

"They would get into the harbors from time to time," Jones said.

They shot one plane down that crashed less than 150 yards from the ship.

"I could actually see the planes coming right towards us. The Japanese were using the planes as bombs themselves," he said.

After the war, Jones went back to school at Northwestern University and in 1954, received his PhD in history. Before coming to K-State in 1960, Clyde was at Northwestern, Georgia State University and the University of Illinois, teaching both business and economic history classes.

At K-State, one of Jones' many accomplishments was separating the College of Business Administration from the College of Arts and Sciences and becoming the first dean of the [business] college. Jones also became vice president for university development in 1966 and was responsible for campus planning. He also worked with the Alumni Association, athletic department and KSU Foundation. Jones retired from teaching in 1986.

The Jones had three children. Their younger daughter resides in Columbus, Ohio and their son lives in Topeka. Their oldest daughter died from breast cancer in April 2004. Jones also has 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. The couple will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary on June 14.

Despite being retired, Jones keeps busy. He was the interim director of the United Way of Riley County until a permanent director was recently hired, and he has helped many non-profit organizations. Jones is the chairman of the board of Project Restoration, a Johnson County program created to help children in Belarus suffering from the after-effects of the 1986 explosion of a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. He is also a member of the Manhattan Rotary Club, a trustee of the Manhattan Community Foundation, and is an active member of the First United Methodist Church.

As for being a part of the Navy, Jones said, "I don't have any strong feelings about likes and dislikes, but what I did like about it was maturing. I valued the experience and I wouldn't give it up for anything." Then he added, "But I wouldn't want to do it again."

C. Clyde Jones

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