Private William N. Jones, Jr. (1919–1944)

William N. Jones, Jr. (Courtesy of the Delaware Public Archives)
Home StateCivilian Occupation
DelawareBarber
BranchService Number
U.S. Army32754954
TheaterUnit
MediterraneanCompany “E,” 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
AwardsCampaigns/Battles
Purple Heart (presumed)Anzio

Early Life & Family

William Nolan Jones, Jr. was born on October 9, 1919 in Smyrna, Delaware.  He was the son of William N. Jones, Sr. and Blanche Jones (née Lewis).  He had two older sisters and two younger brothers.  His father changed jobs several times during William’s youth; census records recorded the elder Jones as a farmer in 1920, as a salesman at a lunch stand in 1930, and as a truck driver for a fruit dealer in 1940.  The Jones family was recorded on the census in January 1920 living at Raymond Neck Road in Smyrna but had moved to Main Street in Smyrna by the next census on April 3, 1930. 

According to census records, Jones dropped out of school after completing 5th grade.  He was working as a barber by the time he married Priscilla May Collins at St. Johns Methodist Episcopal Church in Seaford, Delaware on March 5, 1939.  The couple was recorded on the census in April 1940 living with William’s parents and two brothers on Main Street in Smyrna.  By the time William registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, the couple had moved to 15 Choate Street in Newark.  He was described as standing five feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 163 lbs., with black hair and brown eyes.

According to an April 22, 1944 article in the Wilmington Morning News, Jones “operated a barber shop in Newark.” 


M4 medium tanks arriving at the Anzio beachhead on April 27, 1944 (Official U.S. Army Signal Corps photo, National Archives via Naval History and Heritage Command)

Military Career & Anzio

Jones was drafted several months after Pearl Harbor.  The Wilmington Morning News article stated that “Jones entered the Army March 29, 1942, at Fort Dix, and received his basic training in Georgia and South Carolina”.  The State of Delaware Individual Military Service Record filled out by his sister Sarah Kemp for the Public Archives Commission gave slightly different information, stating that he joined the U.S. Army at Fort Dix on March 29, 1943 and trained at Camp Robinson, Arkansas and Fort Benning, Georgia before going overseas.

Available evidence indicates that Private Jones joined Company “E,” 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, as a replacement at the Anzio beachhead, probably sometime in February 1944.  The April 22, 1944 Wilmington Morning News article stated that Jones “left for overseas duty less than three months ago.”  That indicates that he went overseas after January 22, 1944.  Coincidentally, January 22, 1944 was the day that his future unit landed at Anzio.  Anzio was an amphibious operation intended to bypass strong German defensive lines to the south.  However, German reinforcements quickly bottled up the invasion force.

Anzio was an unforgiving place to enter combat for the first time.  Allied forces managed to hold despite a series of fierce German counterattacks during the month of February.  Even when the front lines were quiet, the entire beachhead was subjected to constant German artillery fire as well as air raids.

The Germans launched yet another counterattack early on February 29, 1944.  In his book Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome, Lieutenant Colonel Carlo D’Este (U.S. Army, retired) wrote that German commander Albert Kesselring’s

decision to attack the Allied right flank at Cisterna was tantamount to an open admission that the Allies were not to be driven back into the sea.  Kesselring’s postwar comments suggest that though he had little faith in this operation, he undertook it in the knowledge that Hitler would not have accepted a decision to go over to the defensive without a second counteroffensive.

According to the book History Of The Third Infantry Division In World War II:

At first light the enemy attacked in the area of Fosso Carano, against the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, and south of Cisterna against the 15th Infantry, and in the center of the Division sector against the 7th Infantry.  […] The morning was miserable, wet, and cold.  Shivering soldiers stood in water-filled holes and forced themselves to hold rifles steady enough to shoot.

The division history described actions for Private Jones’s battalion during the battle:

About noon, fourteen enemy tanks supported by a company of infantry attacked Isola Bella and drove a platoon of Company G, 15th Infantry, out of position north of the crossroad, but other positions were held.  Company F, 15th Infantry, moved up and relieved Company G at Isola Bella, digging in immediately south of the crossroad, astride the road.  Company G moved a short distance south on the Conca-Cisterna road and took up position. 

It’s possible that one of the Company “G” events mentioned above was supposed to refer to Private Jones’s Company “E.”

The History Of The Third Infantry Division In World War II also quoted Jones’s battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jack Toffey:

A German company, with machine guns and tank support, assaulted our outposts near Ponte Rotto. Control of this tiny settlement was essential to our operations and the machine gunners and riflemen lodged in the houses around it were ordered, although outnumbered, to hold at all costs….

During the first day of the German counterattack, February 29, 1944, Private Jones went missing in action and was subsequently determined to have been killed in the vicinity of Isola Bella.  Despite heavy losses, the American positions held and the German counterattack petered out on March 3, 1944.

In 1948, Private Jones’s body was returned to the United States.  After services at Faries Funeral Home on November 18, 1948, his body was buried at the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery in Smyrna.

Jones’s widow, Priscilla (c. 1918–2007) joined the U.S. Army herself on December 9, 1944, reaching technician 5th grade in the Women’s Army Corps before her discharge on July 27, 1946.  She remarried to Francis M. Grate (1915–1994) in Smyrna on June 11, 1946.


Notes

Enlistment Date and Status

Private Jones’s enlistment data card was one of approximately 15% that National Archives staff were unable to digitize successfully.  That’s particularly unfortunate given the discrepancy between whether he joined the U.S. Army in 1942 or 1943.  The official casualty list compiled in 1946 gave Private Jones’s status as finding of death (F.O.D.), indicating that he was officially declared dead but that no body had been recovered.  This could not have been done any sooner than one year after he went missing in action.  However, it appears he must have subsequently been identified since a body was returned to his family in 1948.  Further details are currently unknown.  It’s possible that if I can eventually obtain Private Jones’s Individual Deceased Personnel File (I.D.P.F.) that I will be able to clear up these mysteries.

Wife’s Date of Birth

Various records give dates of birth for his wife Priscilla as March 4, 1918 (Social Security Death Index, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs B.I.R.L.S. Death File) or March 4, 1920 (Social Security Applications and Claims Index).  The 1930 census, and first marriage certificate implied a year of birth of 1920 and the second 1918; her headstone and enlistment data also listed 1918.  A possible explanation is that her parents were not married until August 30, 1918.  My first thought was that her parents gave a false date of birth to conceal that she was born out of wedlock and the truth eventually emerged, possibly when she joined the U.S. Army. 

However, it seems that she may have been adopted, though it’s unclear if that played a role in the discrepancy.  William and Florence had no children listed on the census on January 5, 1920 and Priscilla appeared to be an only child on the 1930 census.  However, I found a puzzling obituary in Journal-Every Evening on June 20, 1949 for Mrs. Ruth Morgan which listed six children including “Mrs. Priscilla Grate, Mt. Vernon, Ill”.  Priscilla’s second husband was from Mt. Vernon, Illinois, so it would seem to be her.  Brothers listed in the obituary had the last name David.  Indeed, a Prscilla [sic] M. David appeared on the census in late January 1920.  She was living with Ruth David and several others had her grandfather’s house in Smyrna, and was listed as being 22 months old, placing her birthdate in March 1918.


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for the use of their photograph of Private Jones.


Bibliography

Applications for Headstones, compiled 01/01/1925 – 06/30/1970, documenting the period ca. 1776 – 1970.  Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774 –1985.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2375/images/40050_2421406259_0384-00223

Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (B.I.R.L.S.) Death File. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, D.C.  https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/9220266:2441?_phsrc=OJf12&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&indiv=1&gsfn=Priscilla&gsln=Grate&gsln_x=1&new=1&rank=1&uidh=ie1&redir=false&msT=1&gss=angs-d&pcat=39&fh=0&recoff=&ml_rpos=1&queryId=c7b0bfd39c4506442b71f23a943781d9

D’Este, Carlo.  Fatal Decision: Anzio and the Battle for Rome.  HarperCollins Publishers, 1991.

Kemp, Sarah J.  William Nolan Jones, Jr. Individual Military Service Record, circa 1946.  Record Group 1325-003-053, Record of Delawareans Who Died in World War II.  Delaware Public Archives, Dover, Delaware. https://cdm16397.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15323coll6/id/19452/rec/5

Marriage RecordsDelaware Marriages. Bureau of Vital Statistics, Hall of Records, Dover, Delaware.  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61368/images/TH-266-12439-4034-57, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/61368/images/TH-266-12417-51767-25

“Mrs. Ruth Morgan.”  Wilmington Morning News, June 21, 1949.  Pg. 10.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67771207/ruth-david-morgan-obituary/

“Private W. N. Jones, Jr.”  Wilmington Morning News, November 18, 1948.  Pg. 4. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67749330/william-n-jones-jr-obituary/

“Pvt. W. N. Jones, Jr., Missing in Italy.”  Wilmington Morning News, April 22, 1944.  Pg. 1.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67749467/william-n-jones-mia/

Taggart, Donald G. (Ed.).  History Of The Third Infantry Division In World War II.  Infantry Journal Press, Washington, D.C., 1947.  https://archive.org/details/HistoryOfTheThirdID/mode/2up

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295768-00029, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6061/images/4295770-00410

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00014, https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/6224/images/4531890_00015

United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940.  National Archives at Washington, D.C. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2442/images/m-t0627-00544-00056

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.  Ancestry.com.  https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/30512734:60901?indiv=1&tid=&pid=&queryId=99e2847f6fbd32ae18da837b873b6a1c&usePUB=true&_phsrc=OJf7&_phstart=successSource

WWII Draft Registration Cards for Delaware, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947.  Record Group 147, Records of the Selective Service System.  National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/2238/images/44003_05_00004-01301


Last updated on May 31, 2021

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