The National Air and Space Museum in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. has an interest in Whitley County native William E. Jones. In fact, $42,000 worth of interest.
Jones has compiled a scrapbook of photos and memorabilia from his career as an Army Air Corps aerial photographer/gunner from World War II.
On Monday, he and three other members of the Hoosier Warbirds, Inc., operators of the Hoosier Air Museum in Auburn will deliver the book to the Smithsonian that has appraised the value at $42,000.
Jones grew up in Columbia City and attended Columbia City High School where he, with classmate John North, earned the title Gold Dust Twins from long-time principal Max Gandy.
“It was because we were always getting in trouble,” Jones said.
After high school, Jones signed up for the service as World War II wound down. He attended Army Air Corps photography school for six months in 1944 and learned aerial photography and gunnery for B-17s and B-24s, respectively.
One of his claims to fame was his photographic survey of Hiroshima and Nagasaki five months after the atomic bombs were dropped and showed the devastation.
The value of some of this series of photos is enhanced by the signatures Jones acquired on them: Col. Paul Tibbets, pilot, Maj. Tom Ferebee, bombardier and Capt. Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, navigator, all of the B-29 bomber Enola Gay. This was the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.
The signed photo is one of the hypocenter, or point under which the bomb was exploded at Hiroshima, five months after the fact.
Other items included in the thick book include:
— A picture of President Truman taken by Jones;
— Postage stamps saying “Atomic Bomb ends WWII” that were never sold because it might be offensive to the Japanese;
— Vectographs, or early 3-D pictures used to aid the pilots in locating their targets;
— many photos of planes damaged in accidents during service. (It was Jones’ job to photograph them);
— Photos of Japanese people during the occupation;
— Jones’ autobiography of his military service;
— Photos of the officers club opening in Fukuoka;
— Many more items of historical significance.
Jones has traveled around the country giving more than 275 presentations about his service and the compilation of “souvenirs.”
“It took a couple of years to sort out how to put it together,” Jones said, and another year to put it together.
He was waiting for the bomb pictures to be declassified before showing them and asked Enola Gay pilot Tibbets, who was serving on the board of the Motts Military Museum in Ohio if he should show the pictures in his scrapbook.
Jones said Tibbets’ response was, “It’s been 45 years. What the hell are they going to do to you?”
Jones owned and operated Jones Photos in Columbia City for 40 years and is now the curator of the Hoosier Air Museum located at the DeKalb County Airport in Auburn.