ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – While the Fourth of July means fireworks and barbecues for many, one North Texas veteran says the day is forever tied to the time he spent serving his country during World War II.
Ken Jones joined the Navy during WWII on his seventeenth birthday. His mother had to sign the papers allowing him into the military.
He was assigned to the USS Colorado battleship –– he remembers the first time he laid eyes on her.
“I was standing there on the dock and I looked up at her and thought that was the most glorious thing I’d ever seen in my life,” he said. “Those huge 16 inch guns; that graceful clipper bow; those menacing five inch broadside batteries and those anti-aircraft guns bristling everywhere. She actually exuded an atmosphere of power.”
Youthful visions of glory were soon dashed in the South Pacific by the realities of war.
“Not too long after that we suffered our first casualties,” he said.
They were in a battle to capture the island of Tinian, southwest of Saipan. That’s where the “Enola Gay” would be based, which dropped the first atomic bomb.
The enemy spotted the USS Colorado and opened fire on it.
“The Japanese pulled some 17-inch shore batteries out of somewhere and they opened fire on us. They hit us 22 times,” Jones said. “We got hit another time in the Leyti Gulf in the Philippines. It was by a Kamikaze. A suicide plane.”
He says he’ll never forget it.
“The smell of burning paint, gun powder, cloth material, human flesh. All mingled together,” he said.
“I began to realize, there’s no glory in war,” he said.
There is, however, his firm belief in the fight for freedom.
“I happen to believe that God raised this nation up with the intent for us working to spread the concept of democracy, freedom, liberty throughout the world,” he said.
Ken and his wife Dorothy live in Arlington. Both are in their 80s. They’ve been married 61 years.
Both spent more than 30 years teaching in Forth Worth schools. Ken was a history teacher who witnessed WWII first hand and passed his experience to generations after his.
He pointed to a picture of one of his pictures of the USS Colorado from WWII and said, “Guys getting hit and killed all around me. And, I didn’t get a scratch. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?”
The USS Colorado was scrapped in the late fifties. But the Navy just named one of its ‘next generation’ submarines after it.
Jones was at the naming ceremony in Colorado last month. The Secretary of the Navy and the Governor of Colorado were there.
Jones was one of the honorary speakers. After he spoke, everyone in the room gave him a standing ovation.
He was also given honorary coins from the Governor and the National Guard.