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Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry) (Read 11913 times)
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Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry)
Oct 03rd, 2010, 8:53pm
 
Forwarded by Mike Houlahan

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http://www.tampabay.com/news/obituaries/war-hero-col-thomas-s-jones-promoted-elv...

SAFETY HARBOR — Col. Thomas S. Jones might have been beheaded, as were the other members of his unit in the Philippines during World War II. Instead, his Japanese captors deemed Mr. Jones too weak to bother executing and he survived.

His company of guerilla fighters had been surrounded in the jungles of Luzon, unable to rejoin the 26th Cavalry. Rather than surrendering, the men in Company C built a primitive radio station, from which they broadcast information about Japanese troop movements to Allied forces.

After the war, then-Maj. Jones, a mild-mannered man who once studied classics at the University of Oxford, became a colonel and then a civilian adviser to the U.S. Army in Vietnam.

While in Germany, he promoted his Jeep driver — Pvt. Elvis Presley — to sergeant.

"I don't know how good a musician Elvis was," Mr. Jones wrote in a published letter to the St. Petersburg Times in 1977, a week after Presley died, "but as his battalion commander I can testify that he was a top-notch soldier, a credit to his parents, to his outfit, to his country."

For his own role in helping the Allies win in the Philippines, the Army presented Mr. Jones with the Distinguished Service Cross, its second-highest honor (after the Medal of Honor). He also was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Legion of Merit.

Mr. Jones, a scholar on military history whose own life rivaled those of the heroes he read about, died Tuesday. He was 95 and had lived in Pinellas County since 1973.

U.S. and Philippine troops suffered great losses in Luzon, the main Philippine island, including members of the 26th Cavalry, who in 1942 conducted what would prove to be the last mounted cavalry charge in U.S. history. At the time, Mr. Jones' Company C had been sent to cover Japanese landings on the northern coasts.

After invading Japanese troops cut off their ability to return, Gen. Douglas MacArthur radioed instructions to retreat through mountain trails. Two dozen men remained in the jungles for 20 months until they were captured in August 1943. They spent 18 months in a prison camp, during which time Mr. Jones' weight withered to 80 pounds.

At the time of his scheduled execution, a Japanese doctor told captors that Mr. Jones would not likely survive the trip, according to the book The Intrepid Guerillas of Northern Luzon.

Allied forces liberated the camp in February 1945. A commanding officer presented Mr. Jones with the sword used to behead his colleagues. He kept the sword until he lost it in a burglary about 10 years ago.

He stayed in the Army, serving in France and Germany. In the late 1950s he supervised Presley, who he said had "earned his promotion the old-fashioned way, as a member of a combat unit, not with some sort of army entertainment group."

Mr. Jones retired in 1962 as a full colonel. He served in Vietnam for another decade as an adviser for the Agency for International Development. He married his Vietnamese teacher, Minh. They spoke French, their only common language. They had two daughters and moved to Dunedin in 1973.

He grew up in Albany, N.Y. His father died when Mr. Jones was 3. He remembered the horses that pulled a carriage with his father's body to the cemetery.

By the time his mother died two years later, around 1919, the funeral home had replaced horses with cars — a change for the worse, he thought.

An uncle, the editor-in-chief of the Albany Times-Union, raised Mr. Jones and exposed him to horseback riding. The boy also loved reading, and would study history and classics at Union College in New York and at Oxford.

His Safety Harbor home, where he moved eight years ago, was filled with books.

In the 1990s, he contacted the St. Petersburg Times and asked that the paper review more books about military matters. Times book editor Margo Hammond hired him to do just that.

His reviews showed a thorough grasp of history, weaponry and military intelligence. He often contrasted a book he was reviewing with others he had read, and he could level tough criticism if an author omitted aspects of a character or issue he thought they should have included.

"He wasn't just interested in recent history," Hammond said. "He really was interested in the whole development of military strategies and philosophies."

Though he was an active member of the Democratic Party, Mr. Jones resisted urgings to run for public office. Nor did he write his memoirs, apart from some incomplete beginnings and a novel he never submitted for publication.

As a father, he offered authoritative guidance that stopped short of being forceful. "He didn't see things in black and white," said daughter Lynn Johnston, "but he definitely thought some things were right. Once he sees something a certain way, you couldn't change his mind."

Mr. Jones died of complications from a stroke.

A team of horses will pull a caisson containing his flag-draped casket to his grave at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Re: Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry)
Reply #1 - Jul 16th, 2011, 9:05am
 
Eulogy given by Ralph B. Praeger, Jr.
At The Funeral Service For
Colonel Thomas S. Jones, USA (Ret.)
April 8, 2011
Arlington National Cemetery

Tom and my Father served together in the Philippines during WWII.  It is because of their relationship that I was privileged to know him.  But before commenting on my friendship with Tom, it is important to spend a few moments recognizing what my Father and Tom accomplished during their time together.

As the war clouds gathered around them in 1940, they were the US leaders of Troop C, 26 Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, stationed at Fort Stotensburg north of Manila.  Life was good.  Mornings were consumed with military affairs and training.  The afternoons were basically free and the evenings were filled with social activities -- a life style similar to that of a Colonial army unit.  

All of that changed abruptly on the morning of December 8, 1941.  My Father received his orders to return to the United States early that morning, commenting to Tom that the orders were not worth the paper upon which they were written.  A short time later, they learned that the Japanese had attack Pearl Harbor.  Soon the bombs began falling around them at Clark Air Base and Ft. Stotsenburg.  War had come and their lives were about to change drastically – challenging both to the absolute limits of human survival.  They were just 27 years old.  

As the Army began preparing for the certain invasion of the Philippines by the Japanese, Troop C was dispatched to protect Baguio, the summer capital of the Philippines.  Baguio is located high in the mountains about 90 miles north of Ft. Stotsenburg.
On December 18, Troop C departed its home base with a strength of about 100 men.  For about two weeks, they prepared to defend Baguio.  However, the Japanese Army decided to bypass Baguio staying in the lowlands between Manila and Baguio. Troop C and the other US forces in Baguio were now cut off from the rest of the US and Philippine forces.  

Disgusted with the leadership in Baguio – particularly a decision to destroy all of the available supplies instead of hiding them for potential future use – and anxious to carry out operations against the enemy – Tom and my Dad requested permission to strike out on their own.  Keep in mind, by making this decision; they were going to be operating entirely upon their own without logistical support or potential for reinforcement.  They would be solely dependent upon the equipment and food they could carry or obtain from the land and its people.  

During the next two weeks, they walked over 115 miles north to the Cagayan Province where on January 12, 1942 they attack the Japanese Army Garrison near Tuguegarao.  While the attack was a success and inflicted heavy casualties upon the Japanese, in retrospect, it was a near disaster which caused much soul searching and resulted in the development of an entirely new set of rules for engagement.  

(cont'd)
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Re: Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry)
Reply #2 - Jul 16th, 2011, 9:08am
 
Troop C at this point ceased being a cavalry unit and became a guerrilla force.  Tom told me that he believed that the attack on Tuguegarao was the first offensive operation against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.

During the next few months, Tom and my Father organized their forces, set up headquarters high in the unmapped and rugged mountains at Kabugao, collaborated with the Provence governor, Mr. Adduru, and established contact by radio with Corregidor, Gen McArthur’s headquarters.  Troop C then became known as the Cagayan/Apayao Force – CAF for short.  Their primary mission was to collect intelligence.   At the same time, they were working with Gov. Adduru to gain control of the northern part of Luzon.   To accomplish this, they established a working government complete with a judicial system and a monetary system which operated until mid1943.
In early May of 1942, Bataan fell and the US surrendered its forces in the Philippines.  My Father and Tom chose not to surrender justifying their decision on a technicality -- the order they received was not specifically addressed to either of them.  

Now they were truly on their own. Hope was fleeting. Despair was always present.  Good health was constantly difficult to maintain. The future was quite uncertain.

But these two young men were not common -- certainly not by today’s standards.  Duty, Honor, Country were part of their very core.  
They chose to continue the fight and to continue to serve their country.  This was their duty.  They were not about to abandon it or the Filipino people.  

Writing in 1946, Tom wrote the following profound words which, to me, sum the emotions they must have been having at the time:  

Quoting Tom.

“Defeat is a terrible thing.  Its full significance cannot be grasped merely through the material losses which are part of it.  It brings down with it the whole structure about which a nation or an army has been built.  It subjects men to the most severe of moral tests at a time when they are physically least able to meet them.  Defeat brings to light weaknesses heretofore unsuspected or ignored so that everyone sees them.  Respect is replaced by contempt.  Loyalty disintegrates.  On the battlefield fear is accepted as natural and passed over, but the failings in character which defeat exposes cannot be passed over.”

Tom continues.

“Leadership, in part, may properly be regarded as an acquired technique under normal circumstances, but it must be rooted in character if it is to survive a major disaster.  For it is only the man of character who has the courage to stand fast when everything is crashing around him.  He alone possesses the spirit of self sacrifice which is necessary to keep alive the loyalty of his men when disloyalty becomes an everyday occurrence.  He alone has the impelling sense of devotion which causes him to discharge his duty as he understands when the chain of command has been destroyed, in a situation without precedents, or when others counsel him to the contrary of what he believes is right.  Under normal circumstances, it is difficult to discern the true character of a man, but in the midst of defeat character cannot be concealed.”

Close quote.
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Re: Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry)
Reply #3 - Jul 16th, 2011, 9:13am
 
During the next 15 months Tom and my Dad maintained their operation. In September 1942 they were able to rebuild their radio and establish contact with Australia and the US.  This was the only radio in the Philippines which was able to contact the outside world.  
They continued to maintain the government operations they had established with Gov Adduru, collected intelligence, and conducted minor operations against the enemy.  

In the meantime, guerrilla leaders throughout the Philippines were being captured. In May of 1943 Gov Adduru was caught.  The end of the operation was near -- lasting only until August 30th for my Dad and September 8th for Tom.  With their capture, radio contact with the Philippines was lost for many months.  

Both men then endured the harsh treatment in various Japanese internment camps -- lasting for more than a year for my Dad and nearly two years for Tom.  My Dad was executed in late 1944.  

Tom credits his survival to the fact that my Father convinced the Japanese to place him in the infirmary because he was very near death.  Tom’s character and determination carried him through until he was liberated in 1945.  Tom was the sole American survivor of the CAF.
Some historians have called the CAF the most successful guerrilla operation in the Philippines.  While it did not survive the occupation, it did provide the Filipino people in their area of operation with hope and a functioning government for the majority of the WWII.  For their heroic acts, Gen. Mc Arthur awarded Tom and my Dad the Distinguished Service Cross, the Nations second highest award for valor.

Now, turning to my personal relationship with Tom.  As a prelude, you need to know that I was born on November 25, 1941 – just 12 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  My mother was evacuated from the Philippines in June 1941 while pregnant with me.  My mother was able to get word to my Father that I had arrived before the war started.  However, neither my Father nor I ever met.

I first met Tom during an awards ceremony at Ft. Riley, KS in 1946 when I was only 5.  We did not meet face to face again until the middle 1990s.  Since Tom and I never lived near one another, we maintained a correspondent relationship for nearly 40 years.

Tom was my primary source of information about my Father.  While my family educated me about him, Tom provided the most significant information about his character, actions and accomplishments.  

Tom wrote a touching and detailed letter to my mother in 1945 outlining what happened in the Philippines.  I have read this letter dozens of times over my life.  This letter, an article in Kansas City Star written about the same time, and the letters written to my mother before the war, were the prime sources of information I had about Dad for the majority of my life. Over the years, Tom added bits of information which he would recall as he prepared his letters.  Ironically, though a full generation apart, we corresponded as we each grew our respective families.

In the 1980s, Tom shared his monograph about Troop C and the CAF which he had written in 1946.  This document was the first comprehensive account of their role in the Philippines that I had ever received.  The monograph formed the basis for the book “The Intrepid Guerrillas of North Luzon”, by Bernard Norling.  Tom collaborated with Norling during the preparation of the book and shared with me considerably more information about my Father with each encounter.  I am deeply and forever indebted to Tom because he made my Father a real person to me.  Without his sharing, I would have known much less.  

Tom was the epitome of what Tom Brokow labeled the “greatest generation.”  Like nearly all people who have done heroic things, Tom did not consider himself a hero.  Rather he considered what he had done as just doing his duty.

As so many others, he could not fully understand why he had survived while others he considered more worthy perished.  

During our visit to his home in Clearwater, FL, he told me that it was very difficult for him to have been the survivor and not my Father.  He explained that he had nothing to return to.  He was not married.  His parents were no longer alive.  He had no children.  At that time, he felt he had little to live for.  

On the contrary, he believed that my Father had many reasons to survive.  This was a very difficult burden he felt he had to carry for his entire life.  

(cont'd)

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Re: Col. Thomas Jones (26th Cavalry)
Reply #4 - Jul 16th, 2011, 9:14am
 
At this same meeting, as we were about to walk out of the door, Tom said to me, “Ralph, if there is anything in this house that you would like to have, please take it with you.”  This stunningly generous offer was a total surprise.  I do not know to this day how I would have responded.  Fortunately, my wonderful wife, Sherry, was much quicker on her feet than I.  She said to Tom, “There is only one thing we would like from you.  Would Ralph Senior have approved of me as Ralph Jr’s wife?”  Tom, taking Sherry’s hand into his and patting it, responded, “About that, my dear, I have no doubt.”

Tom was a miraculous person whom I admired greatly.  I considered him a dear friend and much more.  During his life, he encountered challenges and suffered hardships that few will ever face.  He met these challenges with great humility, honor, strong character and determination.  Tom succeeded where most others would have failed.
Tom is a true American hero.  

My Father would have been so proud of him, as am I and all of you.  

We will miss him dearly.


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