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Interview with Jesse H. Jones [2/23/2016]

Rebecca Blair:

We are interviewing Jesse Sam Jones, former sheriff of Harris County. His -- he was in the army. And Sue Wofford is doing the camera, Sheila is helping with the interviews. My name is Becky Blair. And let's -- okay. His highest -- his rank in service was staff sergeant. Okay. Were you drafted or did you enlist?

Jesse H. Jones:

Drafted.

Rebecca Blair:

You were drafted. Where were you living at the time?

Jesse H. Jones:

Here in Harris County, in the country about 3 miles from Hamilton.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Were you able to pick the branch of service you went in or did they?

Jesse H. Jones:

No. No.

Rebecca Blair:

They sent you automatically to the army.

Jesse H. Jones:

Right.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Do you recall your first days in the service?

Jesse H. Jones:

Yeah, I remember I went to Camp Grant, Illinois. That's where we had our basic training. Stayed there 9 weeks, I believe it was, after, I think that's what they used to have to do. Then they sent me from there to Camp Livingston, Louisiana, and that's where I stayed until I left there and got on a troop ship, I mean, troop train to go to New York to catch a ship overseas. And went to Brussels, Belgium, and that's mostly where we got our training and before we went and made the invasion.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Do you remember any of your instructors?

Jesse H. Jones:

No. I just don't know. I don't remember, I'll be fair with you. I didn't keep up with them. I wanted to get out so bad.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. And you served during World War II; is that correct?

Jesse H. Jones:

Right. That's correct. I made the invasion on Omaha Beach. Climbed that, when we got off on them LST boats. We had 12 people left in my company, rest of them drowned or got killed. We had more people to get drowned than got killed otherwise.

Sheila Burkes:

How many was originally in your --

Jesse H. Jones:

126. That was a platoon, now. I'm not company, platoon -- platoon is a smaller than a company.

Rebecca Blair:

So there was a lot of casualties, obviously in your unit.

Jesse H. Jones:

Yeah, that's for -- I don't really know how we got alive, 'cause the water's so rough. About 12 foot to 20 foot high --

Sheila Burkes:

Oh, goodness.

Jesse H. Jones:

Waves. You know. And I threw off my pack, my backpack off, and when I landed on the beach, wasn't nobody but me and my clothes, I done got just, rid of everything. 'Cause it's heavy, it'd make you drown. 'Course, I was a good swimmer, and raised in the farm and I was in good health, and I contribute that to a part of it.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Okay. You said you were -- you landed in Omaha Beach, and where did you go from Omaha Beach?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, we -- we all the way through that area through there. We just, we landed on a beach and went in inland, and moved, our company did, a little at the time till we got to where we was going.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Can you tell me about where you were going and how the things -- and where you ended up at, and how that was?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, I really can't tell you a whole lot about the area I went in. We went all the way through where they, and see they -- what they would do is they would keep us in certain areas. Now, sometimes we slept in the school house, or something like that, or next time I'd be in a tent, and they would move us it up as we could, 50 miles a day, or whatever they could and feed us and they'd move us further. And that's about the extent of what I can tell you where I went. I know I went through, made the cross of the Rhine River, and the Loue River, I remember going across that. And like I say, we went on through, and I was 12 miles from Berlin when the war was over.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. How did you keep in touch with your family during this time?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, we just, we'd write them, and, as best we could and that's about the best I could do. You couldn't call nobody or nothing like that, never did call home, 'cause we didn't have a phone back in the country then.

Rebecca Blair:

What was the food like?

Jesse H. Jones:

Good food.

Rebecca Blair:

So you had plenty of supplies?

Jesse H. Jones:

Yeah, plenty of that.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Did you feel a lot of pressure or stress during this time?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, I did. I was -- taken it pretty good, I reckon, but I did have. There was enough pressure, I didn't want to go back.

Rebecca Blair:

Was there anything that you did for good luck?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, well, always I just always felt like I was going to come back. I was my own good luck, you know.

Rebecca Blair:

During the time that you were not moving forward or in battle, how did you entertain yourselves?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, talking to other soldiers and stuff like that. We try to keep each other uplifted, you know.

Sheila Burkes:

Did y'all play cards or anything like that?

Jesse H. Jones:

Oh, yeah, cards. I never was much of a card player, but I play a little bit, and just anything to entertain yourself.

Rebecca Blair:

Were you able to go on leave any during that time?

Jesse H. Jones:

Yeah, we went to -- we was in Belgium, not when, after we made the invasion. We was in Belgium, I mean, right out of Brussels, we got a couple of leaves, a few days to go down to Brussels, Belgium to see that part of the country.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Do you remember any particular humorous or unusual events?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, I wasn't, I don't -- tell you the truth, I don't. I remember, no. So many things happened. Nothing sticks out in my mind, you know, as one event, as one separate from another.

Sheila Burkes:

Did y'all have any entertainers that came in during that time?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, we had some entertainers that come in two different times, singers and actors, you know, skits, you know, stuff like that. But that's all that I saw.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you ever think of any of your fellow soldiers or the officers that you were under?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, yeah, I thought about the captain I was under, he was a good man. Down in Louisiana, Avid Company. I kept in touch with him several years. I think he came back, went back to Baton Rouge to practice law, I mean, he was a doctor too. And he got back, he practiced several years and he got in bad health and he retired, and I think he dead now. So I heard he was.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Do you recall the day that your service ended?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, I don't. I remember where we was camped. We came back, went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, because they had so many troops in Fort Benning, they couldn't get rid of us. They told us we'd go, they'd put us on a train, carry us to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and we could get out quicker. And that date I can't remember. But I remember getting out and they asked us when we got out, did we want to go home. We stayed up there three days, and they give us what we call muster night pay. You know, it wasn't money we had coming to us left, and they give us that, and they told us we could go home. And me and two other boys caught a cab from Camp Jackson, Fort Jackson, South Carolina to Atlanta.

Sheila Burkes:

I bet that cost a lot.

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, back in them days, it wasn't too much. $75 apiece, it cost $75 apiece. We got in Atlanta, and there was a bus schedule was leaving out from Atlanta coming home right here. And I got back home about 2 o'clock in the morning. And of course, they wasn't looking for me. And my mother -- my father was sick in bed. He'd been sick in bed for three years before I left. In fact, we tried to get out, one of us, me and my brother one. He got drafted two -- months after I did. And they didn't let us. You know, they used to sometime defer you. We tried to get a deferment, but we couldn't get one. But we both went, and both got back, and I got back, and my daddy had passed away three -- two or three weeks after I got back. My brother didn't get back. He was dead when he got back, and buried.

Rebecca Blair:

After you got out of the service, did you go back to school, or did you go to school after you got out of the service?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, I went to, yeah. We had a -- I'd taken a course up in LaGrange, two years I went. It was a just regular learn how to type, stuff like that. Just regular course. 'Cause I had finished high school, but I needed to learn something else. It helped me later in my life, I think, 'cause I learned how to do it, type, and stuff like that, which I didn't have in high school here.

Rebecca Blair:

Was the education supported by the G. I. Bill?

Jesse H. Jones:

Yeah. On the G. I. Bill, right.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. You said you don't -- you don't keep in touch with any of the men you were in service with?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, I did, but they all have gone. They've passed. I tried, we tried to -- we did have one reunion but it was about 14 of us there. But the rest of them had passed away and that's all they could get in touch with. Since then, I think they have all died.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you go up to see the memorial in Washington yet?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, I'm going. I haven't -- I'm going to see it. They say it's really something to see. It really is.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you belong to any veterans' organizations?

Jesse H. Jones:

No, I've been a member of the American Legion for years, and VFW Club for years, but I'm not active in them anymore.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. What did you go on to do as a career after the war?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, my parents had to sold the farm by the time I got back home, had to, to pay some bills, and I went to Columbus and went to work for a company down there, as I say, for a packing company, and I worked there about four years. And then I heard about this job as a police officer. See, we used to have county police in Harris County. Before the sheriff didn't have no deputies at all. So, they asked me one day. One of -- they was hired by the commissioners, Harris County commissioner. And they was having some trouble. We had four police officers, and that's all they had for the county. And they was having trouble with the chief, they had a chief, and they wanted to get rid of him. And they asked me would I take the job, due to the fact that they didn't want to be left stranded. So, I told them I would consider it, and they called me back two weeks later, and asked me if I still wanted it. And I told them I would try it. So they got rid of him and hired me. And that's how I got in police business. I worked four years there as a county police, same thing as a deputy sheriff.

Rebecca Blair:

Did your military experiences influence your thinking about war and about the military in general?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, I try not to think about it no more than I had to, when I got back, truth about it. And -- but I wouldn't take nothing for going, and I'm glad I went due to the fact that I've been able to keep my health pretty good, you know, since I've gotten back.

Rebecca Blair:

How did your service influence your life and your life experiences?

Jesse H. Jones:

Well, it's helped me. I've been, I don't know how. I feel like it's helped me in the past, you know. I think it has, but other than that, I don't know. I just got a job and went to work and I was sheriff for all this time. See, I was an MP part of that time I was in the army. And I had a little experience there, and I came back and that's how -- and the sheriff died here after I started. See, I was still policing here when the old sheriff, he had died, Hadley. And I decided I'd run, and I got the job and I just kept it until I retired, 20 years.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Is there anything that you'd like to add to the interview that I've not covered?

Jesse H. Jones:

I don't think so, and I just appreciate you asking me to come, and hope I can contribute something in my (balanced) life.

Rebecca Blair:

Well, we really appreciate your service to the country and you taking your time for to do this interview for us.

Jesse H. Jones:

Thank you.

Rebecca Blair:

Thank you.

Jesse H. Jones:

You're welcome.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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