Dennis Boyd interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Al Jones, who is from British Colombia and served in the Royal Air Force, eventually joining the U.S. Air Force. He was born in 1919 and was inspired to become a pilot at age 8 by Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight.
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Now back to answers for elders as we honor our military veterans. Careage is the proud sponsor of our veterans segment hosted by former Seattle Seahawk Dennis Boyd. All right, this is Dennis. We’re here with Answers for Elders and we’re again we’re down at Patriots Landing and Dupont Washington and here talking to Al Jones. Al comes to us from the Air Force and originally from British Columbia and then from the Royal Air Force and then eventually into the United States Air Force. I’ll thank you for joining us. Well, thank you for inviting me. I’ll do you mind telling us a little bit about kind of where you started? It says that you learned or had the desire to fly at an early age. That’s right. Well, when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic Ocean in nineteen twenty seven, I was about eight years old then. I was born in Nineteen nineteen and I got enthused about airplanes and my mother encouraged me and she bottom a books and I built model airplanes and from then on my goal in life was to be a pilot. So when I graduated from High School and Seattle Queen Anne High School in Nineteen thirty eight. I enrolled at the University of Washington, but then I thought really, what I want to do is fly airplanes, and so I changed my direction and I enrolled in a classic, you know, pilots license at Bedingfield, and that’s what come we started. I bought a interest in a Piper Cub. That’s a little single engine the airplane. Start building my flying time up so that I could qualify for a job with the United Airlines. United was the premier airline at that time and I was in the midst of building up my time to be a candidate at about a hundred and fifty hours when there was a outfit. They came to the Seattle area called the Clayton Night Committee and they were really looking at airports for young guys like myself twenty years old. I was nineteen then and added some flying time, took over to England to fly for the Royal Air Force. So I listened and I thought, see, that sounds like a good way to do it. But then I thought I’m kind of a low on flying experience. That climbing a spitfire so I thought that’s not the right thing to do if I want to live the war. So he suggested that I go up to Canada and go through their training program which I did. So I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force with the idea then I’d go over and fly Spitfires. But when I got through with the training up there, which was in nineteen forty one, they decided I’d be a good instructor, so they made me an advanced pilot instructor on the Harvard, which is the equivalent of the the US are are force eighty six, and I flew as an instructor for about a year, which was probably the best thing that could have happened to me because by the time I instructed for about a year I had a pretty good idea of how to fly on our plane. And then I went over to England and that’s how I got into the combat are am. So how did you go from the Spitfire to a bomber? Well, I never went to the Spitfire call. I’m I went when I got over to England. They said were building up their bomber force, which was by that time, it was nineteen forty two, and they were looking for experienced twin engine pilots. Well, I had quite a bit of twin each in time on an ever aero Anson, which was a trainer, and so I was selected to go on a Wellington bomber with a bomber command and it was kind of an interesting tour. We started off with the they put a bunch of us in a big hangar, like twenty pilots, twenty two navigators and twenty bombing airs and will the especially of the airplane, and it was like going to a dancing prom and you picked out your own crew. It was very democratic and I picked out a navigator because I’d heard it. It was a navigation instructor and and I thought, well, you must know something about navigating. And then there was another guy there who was an American. We went, all of us Americans that were a passion our shoulder that said U-S-A, and I saw that patch and I asked him to be my bombed here we she said okay, and then the three of US picked up our our wireless operator and our gunner, tail gunner, and we flew together for forty missions on the Wellington Bomber and head they were great guys. We got along very well together, so I thought it was a pretty good way for the British to do. I think if you didn’t like who you picked out, it was your own fault. So tell me. What was the what was that like? On Your first mission? Well, my very first mission, I never even got off the ground. They put you in a the Wellington didn’t have a CO pilot. We flew as a single pilot. They put us in a jump seat next to it into the pot where a CO pilot said and weird I flew with this all Australian and we were it was dark night and we’re running down the runway and another airplane taxiing under the ruin way. My mistake and we hit him. So we had a crash right on the first takeoff. That was my my start and I thought, well, this is a good sign. Get it over with. So the next one I flew, I what they call it. They were at a second Dickie ride with a British sergeant pilot and that was really a while mission and he was a great pilot. He did a good job and was the target. Was a every defended target and and he hanging on there through all the flak and the searchlights and everything that goes with it, and I just hung on and when we had all through, he leaned over to me and I was sitting there just not doing anything but hoping I could get through it, and he said he’s surgery. You were. You were pretty good on that mission. You didn’t say a word. I said I was so damn scared I couldn’t talk. So anyway, we landed back at our base and from then on I flew with my own crew and we flew forty missions together and it managed to have one crash landing. We got shot up over a target and knocked out of fuel. Tanks all around out of fuel, but I landed at night in the forest and in North Africa. We we were bombing a target and Italy and I know I was going to run out of fuel but I didn’t want a dish in the Mediterranean. So we made it to North Africa and landed in the forest there. So no landing strip or whatever. You just know they all wheels up and and the air plane was a total loss. But we didn’t have any problem ourselves. What’s is a little bit for your skills as well as the airplane, and no sttudio was and a lot of luck. So you flew forty missions for the Royal Air Force and then forty eight for the US Air Force. Yes, well, when I’ve we finished our our tour of operations, we called them ops, or is it over force called the missions, and my nary are my combat here, who was also American that I mentioned earlier, and I both decided we’d apply for a transferred to the United States air force and that they were very well in to transfer. So we were in Italy, but this time, say, we went in front of a transfer board and took about, well, maybe two months to get all the paperwork done and physical and make sure we were who we were. And then I’ve transferred into our air force and and General Dul wasn’t command at that time, like his little tenants don’t, and I was assigned an Air Headquarters to wait for an assignment to be seventeens because I’d been classified as a bomber pilot. My old commanding officer, who’s a group captain, which is like a full colonel, was now on General Duel Little Staff and when he saw me an American uniform me, asked me what I was going to do and I said well, I’m going to do fly Bo on be seventeens. Now he said you really want to do that, because that was a bad time to go and be seventeens. They were losing them like crazy at that time. Fact, there was one raid about that time called the Swineford raid, where they lost sixty airplanes on one raid. So I thought I didn’t really want to do that. He said, well, what would you like to do? As I like to on night fighters. I like to be a shooter than a shootee, and so he said I’ll talk to the general, so he did. Two or three days later my orders were changed. I went to night fighters. So it came to me at that time and it’s has it since that. It’s knowing the right people at the right time makes a big difference in your life. So I’ve been kind of secretly informed that you are a member of a kind of a quiet elite group called the quiet burden, and that’s right, QB’s GUB’s. Yeah, tell me about what what that group is? Well, and it’s a secret organization for secret off they let me know that. Yeah, it’s a it’s a man only to deal it’s made up of pilots that are a lot of military but a lot of commercial airline pilots, and it was started after World War One by pilots that were in the LAFAYETTE ESCO drawl. That’s the French deal, and they started in New York at a tavern there with just a small group, and now it’s spread all over the United States. They call them hangars. That are I belong to the one here in Olympia, although I joined in which it all and it’s a great group of guys and we just have a good time, try to do a good thing. Don’t have any real good cause, but it’s you guys have got a unique bond. Yeah, and so that’s that’s very important. Yeah, one last question for I also hear there might be a DB cooper story in your history, or say that again, Cooper Story. Oh Yeah, well, I was somewhat involved on the fringe of the DAB Cooper Story. After I left the air force. I went to work for boy and as a test pilot and I was the chief of Testpott at that time and I had a phone call. I was in my office that about five o’clock. Most everybody had gun home and phone writing. I answer and so this is the FBI calling from Boyne field. It said, we’ve got a guy out here’s going to jump out of a SEO seven and we need to get some information on the speeds. So I’ll try to help you. What are your name to know? I said, well, you want to go out the back door of the hundred and seven, and we didn’t want to know what kind of speed he should get down to get that door open. So I said well, just off the top of my head, I’d say about hundred and forty knots. So they’re all open and he can get out. All that was my part, small part. Right. Well, I want to thank you very much for your time today. It’s a pleasure getting a chance to meet you, being here at Patriots Landing and meeting some of the unique and absolutely wonderful people here and a chance to for the secure your stories and a chance to carry them on and so that my generation, as well as my kids, can learn what it is that the sacrifice is that you made so that we can have the life that we have today, and I appreciate that. Well, thank you. I’m glad to be are. This is a great place. Thank you. Okay, this has been a special honoring veterans, presentation of Answers for Elders, brought to you by Careage. For more information about Careage, the website is CareAge.com.
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Originally published May 27, 2017